By Dr. Gretchen Mullin-Sawicki, President, NHTI
As a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S., July has special meaning for me with the celebrations of both Canada Day on July 1 and Independence Day on July 4. These holidays are about nationhood, but they have also become reflection days as I consider my identity as both a Canadian and an American.
Both countries have sculpted my identity in unique ways, from my early education in Ontario to working in educational institutions throughout the U.S. This year, I am reminded how it truly is the responsibility of our colleges to afford students opportunities to nurture their own identities thoughtfully and often.
We need to be the safe spaces where knowledge exploration, cultural awakenings, and careers grow. I remember my first foray into gender politics and the excitement of talking with students and faculty about language, experience, and power. My personality, my character, and my personhood came into being through this passion of connection and the enriching engagement with others. Colleges are playgrounds of discovery and building these identities. The books our students read, the faculty they listen to, the projects they engage – these allow our students the opportunity to explore their multiplicity.
The work is not easy. Topics of race, gender, sexual orientation, economic disparity, and even ugly “isms” are part and parcel of forging cultural and self awareness. So as I wave my two flags this week, and think of these two great nations, I will be imagining new ways that our college can invite and welcome students’ self-reflection, allowing them the opportunity to really get to know themselves in safe and profound ways.