As I have the pleasure of talking with prospective students and their families who are visiting Whitworth, I am often asked, "What makes Whitworth different?" It's a great question, and it should be a question we are continually asking ourselves. There are many layers of Whitworth's distinctiveness in the landscape of higher education, but when I speak with potential Whitworthians, I most often mention four specific qualities of a Whitworth education that stand out in my mind: mission, community, responsibility and engagement.
Whitworth's mind-and-heart mission is unique. I've never seen a community so devoted both to elevating the life of the mind through rigorous and open intellectual inquiry and to integrating Christian faith and learning. These two objectives are complementary in Whitworth's vernacular, and the intellectual and spiritual tension that is occasionally generated when mind and heart are dually emphasized is a healthy one. By elevating simultaneously ideals that the world often sees as mutually exclusive – such as curiosity and conviction, responsibility and compassion, grace and truth – Whitworth honors our Creator, who so generously blessed us with searching minds to understand his creation and with compassionate hearts to serve it.
Intentional community is at the foundation of the Whitworth experience. Just like the famous 1980s television sitcom, Cheers, Whitworth is a place "where everybody knows your name." But Whitworth's supportive community is much more than just name recognition on the Hello Walk. As students navigate their rigorous academic studies and ask tough questions about the meaning of their lives, Whitworth's staff and faculty are eager to come alongside them through true relationship. We don't simply ask our students to jump into the deep end of confusing intellectual and spiritual issues by themselves, to sink or swim; rather, staff and faculty members are ready to dive in with our students because they are on the same journey. The best learning occurs in the context of meaningful relationships, and Whitworth does relational community very well.
If Whitworth's mission creates minds and hearts ready to be engaged, and if students feel supported and encouraged through relationships, then the next Whitworth distinctive comes naturally: Whitworth emphasizes responsibility and decision-making. We want to create a safe environment where students can flourish, so Whitworth has established some very important guidelines that inform how we protect relationships and the health and welfare of our community. But those guidelines don't determine every choice a student makes, and the university intentionally puts a lot of responsibility for maintaining our community in students' hands. Our students become great decision-makers as a result, and our world needs more of those.
Finally, when mission, community and responsibility come together in harmony, we can be confident that Whitworth's students are ready to engage the world. Whitworth's mission statement concludes by committing that we will "prepare graduates to honor God, follow Christ, and serve humanity." Service and engagement should be among our most important barometers as we measure effectiveness. In this category, Whitworth's students shine. Whether volunteering at community agencies, serving the homeless, helping to write public policy, conducting important research, or participating in substantive internships, our students continually demonstrate that they can faithfully live out Whitworth's noble mission. And in the process, our students push the university to think harder about how we are using its resources to do the same. I've learned much by watching our students in action.
Mission. Community. Responsibility. Engagement. I'm grateful to be part of a university that elevates these important ideals. May God continue to bless our efforts to live them out faithfully.
As always, please keep Whitworth in your prayers,