If you’re reading this, I want you to know you are valued, loved and belong here.
College can be a challenging life transition as you leave your family, childhood friends and home to begin the next journey of your life. There can be great pressure to fit in and seek acceptance and validation from others. It often feels like everyone else has figured out what still eludes you, or are smarter, more confident and self-assured.
When I headed off to college in 1978, my father had just died of a sudden heart attack three days before my high school graduation. I was with him in our yard in his final moments, and I recall feeling great pressure to display strength to my mother and sister now that I was the “man of the family,” blocking the grief that should have come naturally. It was not until well into my first year of college that I finally began to process what I had lost, which was brought home when I heard other young men on the dormitory hall payphone talking with their fathers about how college was going. I was fortunate to have several older students in my fraternity who recognized my pain and sought to help me come to terms with it, often simply by sitting down and asking how I was doing when I came back from my frequent weekend road trips home to check on my mother. The genuine care of our peers can make a great difference.
I also struggled in accepting my sexual orientation. During my college years, this was often viewed as a sign of mental illness or a temporary choice, and narrow stereotypes were quite prominent in the culture. I was fortunate the first few people I ultimately came out to in my 20s were exceptionally supportive and loving. I will always be profoundly grateful those difficult first few conversations went so well, and I was not rejected by anyone. I know there are others who are not so fortunate. You can make such a positive difference by warmly supporting each other and accepting individuals as they are, for who they are. You should also walk confidently in the path you have chosen.
Excellent support options are out there. Our counselors in CAPS are available 24/7, as are counselors in the Women’s Center. Your RA in the residence hall and our student Peer Health Educators are well-trained and stand ready to assist you. Of course, our staff in the Office of the Dean of Students, located in Peabody Hall, Newcomb Hall, and Gibbons Hall (where our Housing and Residence Life unit has offices) are always eager to sit with you and help you navigate this exciting, and occasionally challenging, period of your life. Asking for help is a sign of great strength and self-awareness.
I’m very glad you are at “the University” and I appreciate what you bring to our shared community.
Allen Groves, University Dean of Students