Words of Praise

Audrey Joslin, Alumni '06

My experience with the CVR began as a first-year student in the winter of 2002-2003 at Gustavus. My first-term seminar adviser, Deborah Goodwin, recommended that I go on the Big Questions retreat. As many new students do, I was struggling with deciding on a major, which I thought would ultimately condemn me to an occupation. Considering that I wasn't exactly sure what interested me at this point, I felt like I faced quite a daunting task. I went on the retreat hoping for clarity and to search for some answers. I didn't find any. Instead, I discovered a new way of asking life questions- one that focused on vocation rather than occupation. More than anything, I learned that it was OK to pay attention to my values, talents and my inner inclinations and to let those things drive the decisions I was to make. I left without the answers, but gained an openness that dissolved a lot of my anxiety as well as allowed me to look forward to the next few years as a continued time of exploration and an expansion of choices, rather than a reduction. Ultimately, that experience put me in contact with some peers that would be both friends and mentors throughout my time at Gustavus.

For the next couple of years, I had little direct contact with the CVR. My interests led me to a double major in environmental studies and geography, and then I discovered that my electives had qualified me for a minor in peace studies as well. I felt (and still feel) strongly pulled to these areas. During the spring of 2005, I was looking for summer research opportunities in these areas. I found an NSF environmental health project in Mexico that I wanted to work for, but wouldn't be able to make sufficient money to pay for my part of tuition. I was told about the servant-leadership program, applied and was asked to be a peer co-leader for a pod group. I was able to do my work in Mexico, and for the next year I also made incredible gains in leadership growth through the workshops. As I was making plans for post-graduation at this point, it couldn't have come at a better time. Through a process of reflection, I decided to go to graduate school at Michigan State University for an advanced degree in geography with a focus on human-environment relations and social justice. As a part of that, I discovered that I would have the challenging work of teaching an upper-level course 8 hours a week. The confidence and skills I gained in the servant-leadership program came in quite handy, and couple of times now I have caught myself mentoring a few students on the concept of vocation. Although I have some ideas and plans, I don't know exactly where I'll be or what I am going to be doing in a few years, but I am not anxious about it.

This is my story of how the CVR has specifically made a difference in my path thus far. I think the Center is a valuable asset to the college, especially in a era where few people take the time for reflection and a lot of societal noise and pressure may cause severe distractions for young people to identify and develop their own values and talents. The work of the CVR provides students with an opportunity to put those things into focus, which should ultimately allow them, (borrowing some words of Thoreau) to go confidently in the direction of their dreams and live the lives they have imagined.