By Conor Shea
In an earlier issue of The Buffalo News, Canisius’ very own Dr. Bob Butler wrote an article about how times have changed in Buffalo and the United States in general. Butler wrote about how we as a culture have shifted from a group mentality to a more individualistic one. And for the most part, I can say that he is right. In today’s society, we are looked at with odd looks when we are charitable. We are always encouraged to do it, but can just as easily rationalize why we wouldn’t. When approached by a homeless man, we are taught not to give them money and keep walking. We are taught to be good citizens, but we don’t wish to attract attention on ourselves for something we do not fully believe in. We are taught to worry about ourselves first and then others later.
But then we look at Canisius. The oasis of charity and good nature in the “broken” city of Buffalo. In my opinion, this sense of community, compassion, and belongingness is overlooked much more than we give it credit for. Opportunities to connect and express ourselves in a safe communal environment are always present. Canisius graduates are always proud to be Griffins instead of Purple Eagles, Bulls, or Bengals. We may groan about classes requiring service learning, but at least we have the ability to reach out to those less fortunate than us. We may be privileged for going to a private Catholic college, but we are taught to use our privilege to support those who are not.
Research has demonstrated that smaller schools translate to better-connected students. Plus, better-connected students mean a sense of belongingness. With Canisius averaging 4,000 students total versus Buffalo State’s 10,000 undergrads and UB’s 30,000 undergrads alone, it seems cozier and comfier just by comparison. You’re not just a number to your classmates and professors; you’re a person with emotions and aspirations. “Cura Personalis” is shown vicariously by the people, for the people.
Furthermore, look at how easy it is to get involved at Canisius. We’re told how easy it is to be involved in a club or a sports team, but let’s take a moment to truly appreciate how easy it is to just talk to club leaders besides shooting an email. The clubroom doors are always open with E-board members ready to give you the rundown. They have welcoming atmospheres even if you don’t initially agree with their mission. And once you find what you like to do on campus, a sense of belongingness is not too far off.
When I came to Canisius nearly four years ago, I was torn between Canisius and RIT for my college career. I wanted to be a math teacher, and RIT had a fantastic math program. Easy conclusion, right? I’m glad it wasn’t. I didn’t come to Canisius for its math program or even its education program. I came to Canisius— and stayed there— for the people. As soon as I walked on campus, I wasn’t surrounded by bricks and mortar with people spread thinly across campus. I knew that I could find a place here much faster than I ever could at the school that was best on paper. I knew that this was where I needed to be to grow as a whole person, not just as an academic.
One of the best pieces of advice I was given as a freshman was from my RA: You are in college for an education, not a degree. To this day, I still pass it down to other freshmen in hopes that they find their place here. I can proudly say that Dr. Butler’s call to community can be best seen in the education received here at Canisius. Sure, we have outstanding accounting and ABEC programs, but we should be even more proud of the outstanding students as individuals in an individualistic society. We are truly men and women for others, and that is something that cannot be taught in a class. It must be felt within a community that fosters compassion and humanitarian beliefs.