by Alysse Schultheis
In 2012, the ReThink Task Force was formed in order to explore student life outside the classroom and study some of the most prevalent issues on campus. After extensively studying several topics concerning the community, such as alcohol on campus, hazing, student activities, Greek life, mentoring, and the relationships that students build with faculty, staff, and fellow students, the Task Force reported their findings to Vice-Chancellor John McCardell in August 2013. One of the key recommendations the Task Force submitted was the creation of the Cornerstone Initiative, a project designed to fulfill many of the report’s goals and recommendations, and to encourage healthy relationships among men, women, and the diverse cultural and ethnic groups on campus.
In order to stress this goal, the ReThink Task Force developed the name “Cornerstone,” since this effort will require many small ideas, like the stones in a wall, in order to build a stronger, unified campus community. Steps were taken right away to implement this idea, and the Cornerstone committee was formed at the beginning of the Advent Semester in 2013, which includes John Shackelford, Professor Lauryl Tucker, Professor Scott Wilson, Dr. Joe Delozier (C’77), Kate Reed (C’08), Robert Black (C’89), Barbara Banks, Katie Bradshaw, Emmie Oliver (C’16), and Tanner Potts (C’15). Shackelford stresses how “the administration has strongly supported this effort by providing funds to be used to create alternative programs for students that build community and foster respectful relationships.”
The Dinner and Dialogue program on Friday, February 7 was the first event this semester supported by funds from the Cornerstone committee. This event was developed in order to bring faculty and students together for dinner and discussion in a relaxed and welcoming environment. In addition to many student events, Shackelford says “the administration is supporting several larger community wide events that bring the entire campus together at once.”
Launching of the New Year was the first event for the 2013-2014 academic year, and was followed by the Christmas Tree lighting in December. In the future, the Committee will also host the second annual Slam Dunk Final Four BBQ on April 5, which will include competitive BBQ cooking by student-faculty teams and a community dinner around the Final Four basketball games.
The Cornerstone committee is also sponsoring a volunteer effort to begin a value-based education program for Greek chapters and leaders. According to Shackelford, this semester a consulting firm called Plaid, which focuses on leadership training and institutional development, will be on campus to work with both the KA and SAE fraternities and the PKE sorority, in addition to a group of sophomore leaders in a program called “Know Thyself.” Shackelford “commends these students and these organizations for being the first two groups to voluntarily step up and complete this program in a trial basis for the University,” and he believes that “through a better understanding of ourselves we gain insight into how we relate to others and how our strengths can be useful to the larger community.”
The Cornerstone committee has already led to many developments and new programs, all in order to build a stronger community that looks out for one another. Students, faculty, or staff with an idea for future events or projects that work toward the Initiatives goals are encouraged to apply for funds from the Cornerstone Committee at cornerstone.sewanee.edu.