Today at 4:30 p.m., a harmonious cell-phone ding interrupted my workout. With sweat in my eyes, I glanced up from a plank, greeted by a notification banner that read, "Office of the President: Villanova's Return to Campus". I fumbled around frantically to silence my workout jams, eager to hear the message I'd been anxiously anticipating for so long.
As I watched the video explaining our University's plan to return for in-person instruction in the fall, I couldn't help but imagine the excited faces of my friends- eyes glued to their phone screens as they, too, heard the triumphant news. Fingers flailed across keyboards as every group-chat ignited with messages of joy, saying in a resounding voice, "WE'RE GOING BACK TO CAMPUS!"
Images flashed through my mind's eye of all the most iconic experiences I had missed so much since our premature departure on the Ides of March. A warm afternoon with people strewn about by the Oreo, basking in the sun and snacking on gelato from Cova. The bustle of laughter and conversation amidst Bartley hallways in-between classes. Wildly screaming fans celebrating another win in the Finn. Church pews by the hundreds filled with smiling faces, eager to exchange an Augustinian greeting.
These, and countless other sights, are what many think of when they wonder what it means to be a Villanovan. Events and phenomena such as these are displayed on University posters and commercial advertisements, touting our sense of community through the values of Veritas, Unitas, and Caritas. While there is no denying that this community exists, the upcoming semester brings the unique challenge for each Villanovan to reexamine what exactly this community will entail:
What is our community, really?
What values do we pride ourselves on?
In what spaces can it be found?
Who does it include?
I would argue that Nova Nation is much more than a sea of cheering fans after a basketball victory. It is much more than "V's Up" and "Go Cats".
Villanovans care for one another.
We reach out into the community to help the vulnerable. We travel around the country (and the world) to lift up communities that need help. We engage in dialogue. We seek to learn and truly understand. We do the work- both in and out of the classroom- even when the work is grueling. And we love fiercely, across difference.
But we still have work to do. We can do better.
Villanova has been more than a second home to me. It has assimilated into and intertwined itself with my definition of home; I feel swaddled and welcomed on our campus. Love resides all throughout our campus, especially in the most unlikely spaces. But it resides most strongly in our people, who have been there to lend a helping hand during confusing and even heartbreaking times. I have seen the real Villanova community, as a friend wipes tears from my eyes, gives me a much-needed hug, walks me home at night, performs a random act of kindness, listens to my words, or supports me though I don't always know exactly where I'm going.
However, one does not have to look far to recognize that the experience of every Villanovan has not been this way. Between the aftermath of a terrifying shooting-scare this September, to the brave and vulnerable stories shared on Instagram's @blackvillanova platform, to our friends lost to suicide, it is clear that we must do better.
We must not stop until every Villanovan feels as heard, accepted, and loved as possible.
We are united by so much more than the logo we wear on our sweatshirts and backpacks. What truly unites us is the passionate love that fills each of us as we forge ahead to make our way in the world, with a community behind us every step of the way.
As we return to campus this August, I challenge my fellow Villanovans to be as intentional as ever. We hold the power to turn a frustrating year into one that grows roots of family, unity, and love. We can look inward and heal, so that we may present ourselves to the world as the strong community we really are. And from there, we can live up to our motto and "Ignite Change".
I can't wait.
Excited to hug you all in August,