On a recent walk through the new addition to the Rockefeller Arts Center–something I love doing these days!–I encountered groups of students doing something unusual. In each pair or small group, one person was blindfolded, and others were using descriptions and gentle touches to guide them around the building. What was most evident to me, besides the fun they seemed to be having, was the ways that students were reassuring one another in a disorienting situation.
I overheard students describing the spaces around the blindfolded people, saying things like, “Just to your right is the concrete wall,” or “We are still walking toward the new dance studio.” Guides would let go and coach hesitant people to take steps without touching anything. When they approached a drinking fountain, one guide encouraged the blindfolded person to touch it, even to take a drink by hearing instructions of how close the water was to her lips.
In some ways, seeing the exercise reminded me of how much we rely upon trust at Fredonia. Students entrust their futures to the faculty who develop and deliver the curriculum in their fields and in general education. They trust that faculty are knowledgeable in their disciplines and genuinely interested in their learning. They trust that staff in residence halls, dining halls, Reed Library, the Counseling Center, and many student service areas can and will help them. It’s a big responsibility that we don’t take lightly. We want students to succeed, to overcome their trepidation and fear, and to walk on their own to bright futures.
The strong communities at Fredonia also depend on students trusting and guiding one another. Mentors in academic programs and student organizations set the examples and guide those who are just starting out. Even in social media, I see students offering advice and support to one another. This trust and guidance, this social dynamic of learning together, is one of the hallmarks of learning and living at Fredonia.