In a world where people are constantly searching for the next great success story, it is rare to find a place where you are encouraged to fail. This, in large part, is one of the many reasons why I chose Gonzaga University.
Success, as the world has defined it, is making a name for yourself socially, mentally, fiscally or even physically without failure. However, I side with those who believe that we cannot be successful without our failures. While I don’t always look forward to failing, I do look forward to learning. I embrace new challenges. I push myself to live outside of my comfort zone.
In the back of my mind, I had always thought about getting my master’s degree. However, the thought of putting myself in a place where I could be judged for my scholarly achievements was enough to keep me from pursing my degree for some time. If I had to evaluate my success based on society’s definition, I would be socially successful. I was never a poor student, but I seemed to excel in social settings. Then, after speaking with students who had attended Gonzaga, and after conducting some research of my own, I realized that Gonzaga was the perfect place to drive myself academically. The reason being, the school encourages students to push limits, empower others, and gives them a safe environment to fail. In other words, Gonzaga provides students with a suitable place to learn.
I realized then, that Gonzaga represents the same values that I try to uphold. As a whole, the institution is rooted in the Jesuit mission, and passionate about the impact that the staff and students make on their community. When I applied for Gonzaga, I had just completed my year as Miss Washington in the Miss America Organization. Talk about a role which pushes comfort zones. If I had learned nothing else from that year, it was that I was truly capable of anything I put my mind to. Even a master’s degree. As the wise Yoda said, “Do or do not, there is no try,”
Once enrolled in classes, I felt like a student with purpose. No longer did I signify another number on campus. Professors were honest with feedback. Instead of nasty criticism, they gave positive suggestions and pushed for me to think on a deeper level. This was all before ever stepping foot on campus. When first doing so, I was immediately struck with déjà vu. How was it possible that a place I had never been before, felt so familiar? During my immersion, the topic of servant leadership was discussed. Again I was reminded why I chose Gonzaga.
Servant leadership is a form of leadership I have studied for quite some time. Ever since first hearing the term, I was enthralled with the idea that a leader, who wasn’t even in the position of power, could make a difference in the world. These types of leaders are kind, patience, selfless, forgiving, and hopeful.
Nelson Mandela once said, “may your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” At Gonzaga, I am hopeful. Not only do I feel hopeful about my future, but as I walk around campus I feel a commanding sense of hope for other students. Each student I spoke with on campus explained that Gonzaga felt like a home away from home. Even if students didn’t know one another, they appeared accepting and helpful.
Society’s definition of success is flawed in many regards. However, the professors and staff are so open to sharing situations where they have not lived up to expectations, learned from the situation and came out on top. It is this openness and honesty that allows students to realize that like Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, or Oprah, you can hit rock bottom before soaring to success. Gonzaga reminds us that we, as individuals, are the only ones who can define our successes and our failures.
In the words of one of the world’s greatest failures J.K. Rowling, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not lived at all. In which case, you’ve failed by default.”