I was recently following a contentious dialogue on social media and found a student sharing (perhaps in exasperation), “but we are all Husky’s!”. Being a Husky is something that I find students often carry as a badge of honor. We all seem to carry this Husky identity with pride. It is earned through admission to UConn and renewed in every action that we take to better ourselves through the experiences that UConn provides.
Recently, I feel this has taken on greater meaning on our campus. Being a Husky has meant not just accepting a new identity but struggling with what that identity means. What happens when Huskies disagree? Are we disavowed of this identity because we do not share a common view? Hardly. UConn insists on establishing a local and global sense of being a Husky that, in turn, insists we understand the issues, discover our position, and contribute to something greater that ourselves.
I had the pleasure of speaking to students who recently went on a Community Outreach sponsored Alternative Break trip to Birmingham earlier this year. During their time there, these students had a transformative experience that involved living the history of civil rights in the South, helping those in need, and understanding the complexity of their classmates and their beliefs. They were, as I learned, “woke”.
If UConn is to achieve its goal of providing a transformative education, then we must all seek to be “woke”. Not because our privilege is a burden but because our privilege has brought us to UConn – an opportunity that few have but many desire – to become a Husky. This is precisely what enables us to engage in opportunities that enlighten and awaken our sense of self in a world that is ever-changing and always seeking new leaders and new perspective.
We should all be part of something greater than ourselves and I can’t imagine a better place than UConn. I find my time at UConn is often spent being provoked to think about and do things that may have seemed impossible before. This includes everything from spontaneously joining everyone in song during our recent MLK celebration, (badly) dancing at HuskyThon, taking an introductory Spanish class with other UConn students, and even testifying to our legislature on issues relevant to student success.
This is what it must mean to be a Husky: to be an active part of something greater than yourself. Know the difference that your words, ears, and actions can make in the lives of others. You will decided what that will be: join Community Outreach for their next Alternative Break, sign up for HuskyThon (by 2/3!) and see the children who benefit from your efforts, visit a cultural center, take a class where it’s possible you might not get an A, and try something new even if it means your will risk failure.
All of these things can and should be done at UConn. All of these things contribute to what it means to be a Husky. It’s up to you now.
Eleanor JB Daugherty
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students