As my first year as an assistant professor of medical anthropology in the Department of Cultural and Social Studies comes to an end under such unusual circumstances, I feel compelled to publicly acknowledge that I am in awe about the resilience and selfless dedication of our students. They turned this public health crisis into an opportunity to better themselves and to engage with the world around them in ways that truly speak about Creighton’s distinctive education. One of the anthropology courses that I taught during the spring semester of 2020, Healthcare, Society and Culture, had an academic service-learning designation. With the help of Creighton’s Academic Service-Learning Office, and notably of its senior program administrator, Dan Walsh, BA’09, students were paired with community partners, with the idea to integrate community service into academic learning. Most students had to discontinue their actual engagement with the community partners once the pandemic started. However, looking forward, our students found ways to stay engaged with the community, as proven by their final service-learning reflections. Here are several fragments from graduating seniors’ essays — proving that, with Creighton-educated students out to set the world on fire, the future is bright.
Being of service to others around me has been integral to my life journey. My father, an immigrant that moved to New York City in the 90s, struggled greatly in the pursuit of the American Dream. While my father’s struggles are not my own, I can enjoy a life of privilege because of his perseverance. That is why I have attempted to stay strongly involved with serving others. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, we have resorted to turning inwards, spending more time with our families and loved ones under a safe roof. However, it is important to understand that that is a privilege. My service throughout the years has focused on low income communities. Now, more than ever, these communities deserve a helping hand. Currently, I work as an essential worker. I provide support to those that have struggled with mental health and drug abuse. This position has allowed me to gain a direct understanding of people’s struggles. This is where the importance of my ability to provide support is highlighted. In the absence of family during these troubling times, I can fill that void partially. Where a father may help with homework, a mother may prepare dinner, or a sibling can give life advice, a service worker like myself can fill those gaps temporarily. COVID-19 has helped me understand the weight of my privilege.
- Arsal Akhtar
I recognize and understand the power and privilege I have been given through my family and education. I feel an obligation to help others who have not been awarded these same things. Going through this pandemic has only confirmed my responsibility to address social inequality and stratification. My education at Creighton over the last four years has taught me invaluable lessons focused on justice and caring for all people. These lessons have only heightened my drive to create a life built around fighting for justice and using the privileges I have been awarded to help others. I hope that this pandemic shines a light on issues of inequality and makes us understand the privileges we can use to lift others up in the community.
- Anne Archer
Our duties to others, especially in times like these, include acting for the greater good. By following the rules that prevent harm I acknowledge the humanity of others, and I also recognize that others may not be as fortunate as me. It is our duty to acknowledge our privilege, and act in a way that acknowledges that many others do not have those privileges. Experiencing this pandemic has reaffirmed my beliefs in acting for the greater good and in acknowledging the humanity of others at all times.
- Abbie DeVoe
I am not worried about getting my next meal, or my next income check, or if I would have support after I graduate. I am privileged to not have to worry about this pandemic. But instead of abusing this privilege, I should extend it to others. I do this by following the guidelines. I stay inside, support small businesses, and do my part so that this pain will eventually end for others. This parallels many lessons I have learned in college. I have not had to struggle much in my life, so I can use that position to serve others within my community.
- Mary Raitt
COVID-19 has challenged us with a renewal of responsibility. This virus has asked us how we respond when our actions have consequences on others rather than ourselves. Our ability to have choices during this time is a privilege, and with this privilege comes responsibility. We are responsible for protecting not only ourselves and our loved ones, but even those in the community that we have never encountered. Yes, we are responsible for the health of complete strangers. Why? Because there are pregnant mothers who need to go to their prenatal visits. There are cancer patients who are immunocompromised and must leave the house for treatment. There are elderly people who can no longer receive visits from their families. Likely, you are not one of these people. So why should any of this matter to us? Every life matters, and we should feel discomfort by being complacent to the suffering of others. We should see a life less fortunate equal in value and human dignity to our own. It is a privilege to stay home, it is a privilege to have a home, and it is a privilege to be able to make a difference.
- Andrea Laudi