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Lee Capristo
Director of Publications
Anne Arundel 100

OpEd From the Dean of Students

Written by Laura A. Bayless

BaylessThe theme of this issue of the River Gazette is overcoming adversity, a timely topic in so many ways. One might be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn't been touched by adversity in some form: consequences of the economic downturn, family and friends involved with fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the more typical but no less devastating personal challenges such as special needs children, abuse, and loss of loved ones. The challenges in our future will only become more complex, needing solutions that span fields of expertise and world views.

A liberal arts education is just the foundation a person needs to be ready to solve the challenges of tomorrow. St. Mary's College's Core Curriculum emphasizes the four critical skills: oral communication, written communication, information literacy, and critical thinking. Students must gain a breadth of knowledge in multiple areas of study, which allows graduates to look at situations from multiple perspectives, while at the same time gain a depth of knowledge in one subject area. One key element that pervades the College is our focus on sustainability. And I believe that incorporating the concept of sustainability into one's life will help the individual and the community address our challenges.

The most visible aspect of sustainability is, of course, environmental. But, at its most basic, the World Commission on Environment and Development defi nes the concept of sustainability as the ability to provide for the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Considered this way, sustainability must include other elements in addition to the environment. Many consider true sustainability as having three equally important elements: environmentally healthy, socially responsible, and economically strong.

Each fall at our opening convocation, I present a challenge to the incoming class. This year, that challenge centered on sustainability. I challenged each student (and faculty and staff member) to live her or his life sustainably while taking advantage of all the opportunities at St. Mary's:
  • Create sustainable relationships:

          - Foster relationships based on mutual respect, honesty, integrity, and trust
          - Seek out those who are different from you, and treat others with respect
            for both their similarities and their differences
          - Live the values of social responsibility and civic mindedness, thinking of
            others in addition to yourself, improving the community where you
            can, and asking for help when you need it
          - Value and recognize the contributions of each member of the community,
            whether it be students, faculty,  staff, alumni, or guests

  • Learn, and become skilled at sustaining the learning to become a lifelong learner
  • Seek out discomfort that will expand your world view, develop empathy, and enhance learning
  • Care for our place physically and environmentally
  • Decide to use your resources (time, money, expertise) in ways that enhance your own life with an eye to the future rather than simply the present
  • Develop change-agent skills to help us move toward being environmentally healthy, socially responsible, and economically strong

We all experience adversity in our lives at varying degrees over time. Historian and writer Lewis Mumford provides us inspiration about how to tackle it: "Nothing is unthinkable, nothing impossible to the balanced person, provided it arises out of the needs of life and is dedicated to life's further developments." Incorporating a philosophy of living sustainably to enhance the world's, the community's, and our own healthy environment, social responsibility, and strong economics will position us well for the future.