Members of the Catawba community have received yet another unexpected benefit from the Lilly Center for Vocation and Values. That thanks to one of the initiatives of the Center which introduces students to seminaries and graduate schools which will prepare them for vocations in Christian ministry.
After making arrangements to take six ‘Year of Inquiry’ students to the New York City area at semester’s end for these visits, the Lilly Center director, Dr. Ken Clapp, thought about the possibility of using this excursion to provide an opportunity for other Catawba students to experience the City. He sent out an e-mail and seven additional students responded to his invitation to be a part of this trip.
On the morning of December 8, 13 members of the Catawba community, including one who had never been on an airplane, one who had never rode in a taxi cab, several who had never been on a subway, and several who never had visited a major city, departed for the Big Apple. There were two agendas for the trip – one specifically for the ‘Year of Inquiry’ students and another for the seven additional students who wanted to be part of the trip. All of the participants would view the city from the top of the Empire State Building, visit Ground Zero, make an appearance on the "Good Morning America" television show, share a terrific meal at the intimate Portfolio Italian Restaurant, develop an understanding of what life is like in a major city including the contrasts of poverty and wealth, experience its non-stop hustle and bustle devoid of green spaces and trees, and experience a multitude of cultures.
Dr. Clapp took the ‘Year of Inquiry’ students (each of whom had received scholarships of $1,000 per semester to explore the possibility of pursuing a vocation in Christian ministry) on a side trip to New Haven, Connecticut where they visited Yale University and Yale Divinity School. The Catawba group was greeted by Catawba grads Maria Yocum, ’94, who is a student at Yale’s Institute for Sacred Music, and Zack Mabe, ’00, a graduate of Yale Divinity School who is doing further graduate work at Yale. The group’s tour guide was a Jewish student. He shared with the group the perspective of one who is in a small minority at Yale Divinity School, but who has been embraced by his fellow students there. This led to a spontaneous discussion among the Catawba students and Yale students regarding regional, educational and religious background differences and how these actually compliment one another in the university community.
Catawba students were relieved to discover that tuition at the Yale Divinity School is no greater than that of Catawba, and, like Catawba, Yale University works hard to put together financial aid packages that make attendance there possible. The buzz on the return trip was how to get the grades that would make attending possible.
Before catching the train back to New York, there was time for Dr. Clapp to introduce them to some of his favorite spots on the main Yale campus including Sterling Library, the seven- story Payne Whitney Gymnasium (also known as the ‘cathedral of sweat’), Morey’s, the Skull and Bones tomb, and Woolsey Hall, where the students were in awe at the names engraved in marble of all of the Yale students and professors who had lost their lives in service to their country. That awe lead to a discussion of the Yale motto, "For God, For Country, For Yale," and how to establish priorities for living, especially in light of the nation’s current involvement in the war in Iraq.
The next day, the ‘Year of Inquiry’ students got up early to catch the subway to Columbia University and a visit to Union Seminary. As they walked through the buildings where many episodes of the television show "Law and Order" have been filmed, the students engaged in lively conversation with their Union student guide about what it is like to go to school in the City and about the opportunities that such a location provides for involvement in social ministries.
The Catawba group lunched in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall of the Riverside Church which provided an opportunity to discuss how that congregation is engaged in meeting the spiritual needs of the residents of the City, as well as a look at fantastic music programs of that church. Riverside’s famed preacher, James Forbes, was there for lunch as well.
Students participating in the trip who are not a part of the ‘Year of Inquiry’ program had more time to experience the City with shopping, visits to the waterfront areas, and time exploring the Times Square and Rockefeller Center areas. Sophomore Rich Lowe of Johnson City, Tenn., even joined the ice skaters in Rockefeller Center with the big Christmas tree in the background. Sophomore Melissa Kepley of Cary had her picture taken with Diane Sawyer at the conclusion of the "Good Morning America" show. Other Catawba students met former President Jimmy Carter who had been a guest on the show that morning and show co-host Charles Gibson.
Thanks to arrangements made by a former Catawba student, Mich Faulkner, who works as an Account Executive for CBS/Viacom, students were treated to a rare opportunity to visit the CBS studios and see how programs such as "The NFL Today" are put together. Mich also provided pointers for what students need to do while in college if they want to pursue vocations in communications. He also offered to help students locate internships.
Participants in this excursion probably experienced more of the City in two and one half days than most people are able to experience in four or five days. Thus, it was a very weary, but elated group that shared thoughts about the trip as they waited for a delayed flight back to Greensboro. The delay provided time to reflect and share.
One student shared the understanding she had acquired regarding the way that people who profess the same basic beliefs can have very different understanding about the way those beliefs are to be lived. "Year of Inquiry" participant, Sophomore Will Van Wieren of Kannapolis, a sacred music major at Catawba, reflected on the way the visits to the graduate schools had broadened his horizons for vocational opportunities and his excitement about ministry. Another "Year of Inquiry" student commented on how much he had enjoyed getting to know the students who are not a part of the program and said he had been inspired by them to seek to be more involved and more committed to his college work. All of the students expressed appreciation for an increased understanding of how many different cultures exist together in the City and for the complexities of life in such an environment.
For Dr. Clapp, the trip leader and for whom New York City no longer offers excitement, there was another perspective. "I was reminded again of the fine character of Catawba students and their openness to new opportunities and new learnings," he said. "Every participant in this adventure exhibited politeness, courtesy and kindness at all times.
"There was no complaining when things did not work exactly as planned -- well, perhaps just a bit of ribbing about my not being able to count the number of blocks and about walking too fast, but overall a great spirit of cooperation. The way the students conducted themselves on the visits to the graduate schools, the depth of the questions they asked, and their expressions of appreciation to their hosts was most gratifying," Clapp continued.
"People already are asking if there will be another trip next year and I tell them, ‘Give me a couple of weeks to recover,’ and then ask me again."