Your Sense of Place in the World

Richard Paige — I felt like Bob Royalty’s REL 290 immersion trip to Israel needed closure, and the podcast and this blog were deemed necessary to finally and properly wrap my arms around all that an immersion experience could be.

I waited 10 days after we returned from Israel to schedule a podcast recording to give those shared experiences a chance to marinate a bit in their mind. The best part is that even 10 days later, the guys were just as engaged and thoughtful as they had been when we were in country.

We were midway through the podcast recording itself when the question hit me, so I scribbled it at the bottom of my notes to make sure that I remembered to ask it: what did trip do for your sense of place in the world?

Your sense of place in the world. Their words are better than mine.

(From left) REL 290 students Jimmy Suess, Aaron Becker, Anthony Douglas, Tim Riley, and Cameron Glaze during the podcast recording.

Anthony Douglas ’17: After this trip, the world for me became a little smaller. I realized that many of the problems we face in our own country aren’t just confined to what happens in America. The things that are happening here are happening everywhere. I saw a lot of the issues that the people of Palestine are facing in my own struggle as an African American. After this trip, I realized that people inherently are not much different from each other. This being my first time out of the country, I expected to meet people that were completely different from me, people who we had not much in common – almost aliens, you know – but I realized that the world is much smaller than we think.

Aaron Becker: ’17: It gave me a perspective of myself as being a very small piece of a much bigger puzzle. Though our time here at Wabash is valuable, though our experiences are fantastic and it is meaningful, in the grand scheme of things, the world’s a lot bigger than all of us. Though we are a very small part of it, we can make a difference. We can still listen to people on both sides. We can still have those conversations and, hopefully, it will help inspire people to make a difference in the lives of others.

Tim Riley ’18: For me it kind of made the world seem a little bit bigger. I’m coming from the same boat that this is my first international trip and I saw a lot more narratives that we need to hear out and a lot more adventures that we need to go on so that we have a broader understanding of everybody’s different backgrounds and stories and how that all comes together to produce the society that we live in today.

Jimmy Suess ’17: (What) I really took away most from this was not to take my freedom for granted. In this, I realize the responsibility that I have to do as much work that I can to promote the most good that I can in my life because there are people who don’t have the same fortune out there to be able to do what they want and help others.

Cameron Glaze ’17: I’d like to compare it to if you are wearing your fraternity letters and you go out and do something bad, you are going to have a negative light shined on you and who you represent. Going to Palestine and hearing what they had to say about our election and our government really made me think that while we are very lucky to be in the country that we are, we still have things to improve upon and before we can help other people, we need to help ourselves first.

In hindsight, it’s kind of disappointing that I didn’t think of the question sooner, as these answers address the essence of what makes immersion trips valuable. They are unique. They are intimate. They are insightful. It took less than four minutes for these five guys to generate these thoughtful responses, but they speak volumes to the sort of impact these trips have.

A Final Thought Before Finals

Steve Bowen '68

Steve Bowen ’68

What do students learn at Wabash College?

Monday marks the beginning of final exams— a time where students are tested on everything presented throughout the fall semester.

It can be exhausting. It can be overwhelming. It can even be intimidating. Most importantly, will these facts, figures, names, and numbers be remembered years down the road?

Steve Bowen ’68, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, learned a lot during his time as an undergrad. As he shared with students during Thursday’s Chapel Talk, Bowen wasn’t tested on the most important things Wabash taught him until years after he graduated.

Bowen, a retired lawyer, worked as a partner at Latham and Watkins, which had offices on several floors of the former Sears Tower in Chicago. After Sept. 11, 2001, workers inside Sears Tower knew that they, as well, were a skyscraping target. Far too often, police had to be called to inspect packages that had been delivered to the building. It was better to be safe than sorry. Everyone in that building knew what sorry could look like.

No exam Bowen had ever taken at Wabash could prepare him for the task at hand: to calmly lead his law firm in those next days and try to subside some of the fears that haunted the people around him.

Instead, it was the Wabash College mission statement that guided his every move: think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely. He didn’t have to pause and try to recall those lessons; they were part of who he was.

“I do not think they can be taught,” Bowen said, “but you will acquire these habits. Not because they are taught, but because they will emerge from close reading of texts, from disciplined research and writing, from active participation in classroom discussions and activities, and from helpful guidance given by many, especially by faculty.”

That’s why, he said, he doesn’t feel like he had any fewer opportunities as a Wabash graduate 48 years ago than the students do now. Sure, there are more programs, a larger alumni network, and state-of-the-art experiences.

Those things don’t make a Wabash man. As hard as it may be to comprehend just a few days before finals begin, Wabash College has far more to teach its students than what they’ll be tested on next week.

“Wabash, at its core, is always Wabash,’ Bowen said. “It is a place where students are drawn into a vast world of ideas; where students are taught in edifying, informative and rigorous ways; and where students acquire not only a love of learning, but the habits of mind and heart essential to a life well lived.”

Think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely.

“If you acquire these habits,” he said, “the success, the fame, and the honors will take care of themselves. Good luck on your finals.”