With Xavier’s freshman class of 2013-2014 came a renewed interest in the wonders and possibilities of a first-year college experience. The students brought with them to campus a diverse range of perspectives, and they were greeted there by a faculty, staff, and administration with a unified commitment to opening space for a transformative college experience, one grounded in the welcoming, sharing, and challenging of perspective. The common reading for this cohort, chosen through open nominations from across campus, was Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks . The book invites discussion of divergent perspectives: how can a woman’s life and death have contributed so much to science and medicine, and have so greatly benefitted industries supported by medical and scientific research, yet today her children and family members cannot afford basic health care? How can phenomena surrounding Henrietta Lacks’s immortal cells be explained by reason, coincidence, or Christian spiritual faith? How can a huge and faceless medical establishment seem to behave immorally and unethically, and yet be comprised of individuals, when examined closely, seemed to act altruistically? These and other questions form the thematic core of the book, and students and teachers in Xavier’s Freshman Seminar course, part of the First Year Experience, investigated these questions through a range of discussions, writings, presentations, and service-learning activities. We here at Pathways took this theme of “perspective” and presented it to first-year students as an essay topic: How has your perspective on education, religion, or family been shaped or changed by a particular experience? As with our first issue, the students again rose to our request and again filled our inbox with essays that delighted the Pathways staff with their depth and insight. I wasn’t certain that this second issue could repeat the success of the first, but here the students proved me wrong, and I am happy to admit as much. It is with great pride that I present the following collection of essays written by Xavier’s first-year students, who prove here once again that it is a remarkable thing to be a Xavierite.
Thanks to the teachers of Freshman Seminar, comprised of faculty and staff who take on this special charge to mentor and teach first-year students, often in addition to their regular courses and duties, and to the program’s director, Dr. Wendy Gaudin. Thanks to Xavier’s Center of Undergraduate Research for its support of Pathways and to its director, Dr. Gary Donaldson. Thanks also to Xavier’s Department of English and African American Studies, and to the Division of Fine Arts and Humanities and its chair, Dr. David Lanoue. This project was funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.