Five panelists sat upon the stage in the Smith Student Center Ballroom on Sep. 2, 2014 at 7:30 p.m., including President Cheryl Norton, assistant professor of history Dr. Aaron Cowan , associate professor of psychology Dr. Catherine Massey, assistant professor of biology Dr. Wayne Forbes, and Heather Strong Moore, a 2011 master’s degree graduate in community counseling from Slippery Rock.
Students and faculty interact and walk among each other almost every day through campus sharing the same space and time, but how did we all get here at Slippery Rock University? How have all our individual paths gotten us here today?
Exercise science major Rebecca Burkart and therapeutic recreation major Brittany Arnold, along with the moderator, Associate Professor of therapeutic recreation Dr. Colleen Cooke made it possible for faculty members, alumni, and even SRU’s President to connect with students on a personal level.
“We who have been here for a little while recognize that especially for those of you that are freshmen, you’re embarking on a journey,” Cooke said.
“We want to make sure that coming into this environment you feel that there’s a safe place for you, that there are people here with whom you can relate, and that you don’t have to take any step of this journey alone.
Each member shared their story of where they are in their career now and what paths they took to get here. Each journey told was individually triumphant in their own unique ways, reminding students that they are on their own paths, but never alone.
President Norton shared her journey of how the choices she made resulted in unexpected and surprising outcomes. These choices pointed her in the right direction, ultimately bringing her here to Slippery Rock University.
She explained how the choices we make will inevitably alter our lives in big and small ways. President Norton encourages students to take advantage of the power of choice, and to take on these choices we make with excellence and passion.
President Norton left the audience with this advice, “Always choose your friends well and always choose a path of excellence, and I think you will find the right place to be and who you are.”
Heather Strong Moore has been a part of The Journey from the beginning. Burkart and Moore both agreed that students on campus could be doing a lot better, if they just had a little support and stronger relationship with the faculty around them.
“Life is too short not to live with an open heart,” Moore said. “You have to let people in, you have to let others care for you, and be honest about who you are and let them be honest with you.”
Moore explained how life can get dark at times, and even stay dark for longer than we ever imagine, but she reminded the students and faculty there that, “There is so much good and beauty in the world that is not covered in darkness.”
After the panelists spoke, students discussed their own personal experiences with the people at their table. Facilitators also helped guide the discussion. This exercise allowed students to feel safe and comfortable opening up to sharing their challenges.
When all was said and done, Burkart and Arnold want studentsto gain encouragement from hearing others’ life experiences and different perspectives. They hope to inspire students to create their own journey and grow from their challenges through their college experience.