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Creighton Pathway provides first milestone for incoming students

With a half-mile walk from St. John’s Church to Morrison Stadium Tuesday morning, Creighton University’s incoming freshmen, along with graduate and professional students, began their academic journeys with the physical and symbolic annual ritual, the Creighton Pathway.

Following that trip, in his Academic Convocation address to new students at the D.J. Sokol Arena, Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, invoked the example of the 16th century Jesuit founder, St. Ignatius, who is known as the “pilgrim saint” for his peregrinations around Europe and the Middle East.

“And as he was a man who journeyed, he was a pilgrim in even other ways,” Fr. Hendrickson said. “The questions he asked, the different way he prayed, and with a global pedagogy that is a method and style of educating in schools the world ’round, this reflects a sense of journey. To be sure, he traveled. But the kind of Jesuit journey we remember of him is about his questions, about his queries, his searching for God, his existential meditations and openness of heart, a hungriness of mind and an ability to make new friends, an incredible capacity to attract followers. Here at Creighton University, here with a Renaissance humanist parlor of higher learning, at an institution in the service of faith and promotion of justice, you, too, are on a journey.”

As the ramble down the hill from St. John’s reached the stadium, the Class of 2021 lined up to take a shot at jumping up to touch the beak on a statue of Creighton mascot Billy Bluejay. Nicole Davis, a freshman from St. Louis in the College of Nursing, made that fateful leap and hit Billy’s beak on the first try.

More importantly, though, Davis said even in her first few days on campus, she knew she’d found her place.

“Being all together today with people you only met a couple of days ago, you already get a good sense of what Creighton is all about,” she said. “You make a connection, and Creighton does a good job of helping you make that connection.”

Kevin Armbruster, a freshman from Council Bluffs, Iowa, in the College of Arts and Sciences, also rapped Billy’s snout and marveled at the throng that accompanied him down the hill.

“There’s a feeling here, you almost can’t describe it,” Armbruster said. “But you know that you’re part of something bigger than yourself. It’s family. It’s community.”

With classes starting Wednesday morning, both Armbruster and Davis said they were eager for the academic journey to commence, anticipating the challenges and rigors of a Creighton education.

“I’m excited to get classes going,” Armbruster said. “It brings a whole new round of meeting new people and starting the process that we’re all here for: to learn and grow.”

Davis said Creighton is where she can begin becoming the nurse she wants to be.

“There are a lot of great nursing programs, but I wanted one that took a holistic approach, that stresses care for the whole person,” Davis said. “That’s the kind of nurse I want to be and I know Creighton is the place that will encourage that in me. I’m ready to begin that process.”

Participating in her fourth Pathway, senior exercise science major and Alpha Gamma Nu Jesuit Honor Society member Emma Munger said the event never fails to stir the soul. She recalls her freshman Pathway, how it ignited her academic and service careers at Creighton, and how it called her to shepherd new students at the University in successive events, be it on the Pathway or during Summer Preview, during which she also served as a leader.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Munger, who was helping direct students to the Academic Convocation. “I’ve been on the Pathway all four years and feel like I’ve seen different perspectives with each one. As a senior, it takes you back to that first day on campus and motivates you as you look forward to Commencement.”

At the Academic Convocation after the Pathway, deans from the College of Nursing, the Graduate School, the College of Professional Studies, the Heider College of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences gave charges to the students, who were reminded that they have been called to be at Creighton and called to do good in the world.

Fr. Hendrickson urged students to journey in two different directions: in one way, an inward, introspective look at what fires their passions and ignites their gifts, and in the other, an outward, compassionate embrace of and curiosity for the wider world.

“Travel into yourself; let philosophy, theology, literature, history, and art take you deep down,” he said. “Dive down. Figure out who you are, what you have, how you think and feel, what you know and don’t know. Dream about who you can become. Let us at Creighton University take you deeply into yourselves and allow us to work with you as you unfold with questions and concerns, in confidence and with great self-awareness.”

From there, Fr. Hendrickson said, the path leads outward, to the nearby and far afield, where challenges and opportunities, relationships and wonder lay waiting for engagement.

“I challenge you to break the boundaries of what’s safe and friendly to you. Actually, I beg you. Go beyond your comfort zones. Go then, into all the corners of this campus, to new friendships, to your professors’ office hours, to libraries and laboratories, to St. John’s Church, the Campus Ministry, to the events and activities of this campus. Through the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice, visit service sites throughout the United States and, with the Global Engagement Office, study and work abroad. Reach out to those other realities, the gritty ones of our world.”

Reminding the gathered freshmen that the Class of 2021, with 1,125 students, is the largest class in the University’s history, Fr. Hendrickson also said the class is diverse, coming from 40 different U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and from 18 different countries around the world.

The journey that brought them, individually, to Creighton is now merged with a journey they take together, Fr. Hendrickson said.

“It’s not just that you are on a journey,” he said. “We together are on a journey and this is the difference. Here at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, it is what makes us more. It is how we stand out and how we stand together. I hope it becomes very clear to you in your own Creighton story how much it will be about the journey. Let’s have a very great journey together. Dive into your hearts and minds. Reach out widely and curiously and compassionately. And as you journey, be blessed.”

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