Who are YOU and what do YOU want?
Hi, I'm Fabrice Felix and I'm a Senior Finance Major at the University of Scranton. What I want is to make a difference. Whether the impact is big or small, I want to know that I was able to stand out in a world where everyone just wants to fit in.
Since my freshman year, I always envisioned myself doing something to help the Scranton community. However, I could never see exactly what it was that I would be doing. Growing up in New York City made me see how run down this town is. Scranton needs something to help it improve. After a good talk with my friend Fr. Rogers, the Executive Director of the Jesuit Center at the University of Scranton, I learned how neighboring schools are stealing potential students away from our schools through various means such as giving more financial aid. Some prospective students were just choosing not to go to "the U". Why? Well, there are a couple factors that have to do with that:
Compared to neighboring schools, The U has the highest tuition by about $10,000 more. On top of that, neighboring schools give out more grants and scholarships to their prospective students.
The U is about in the middle in terms of diversity, leading students of color to prefer to go to the more diverse options in the area. Many townies feel that the lack of diversity makes the school "racist," and they don't feel comfortable being on the campus grounds. Whenever I have a conversation with anyone, regardless of race, they are surprised to hear that I go to the U because I'm a Haitian-American.
Some high school students just want to follow the crowd and go to schools where their classmates are applying to, where their older friends are, or where their younger friends want to go. Some go to other schools because it is family tradition, or because that is the school that their parents choose for them.
Some students want to play D1 or D2 sports. Scranton and most of the neighboring schools are D3. In this case, it is a matter of recruitment efforts and what conference the school plays in. Also, some coaches will offer more playing time to certain athletes and promise bigger roles than expected.
So after a talk with my housemate Brandon Wilson, we tried to figure out how do we combat these factors? I know, let's do something fun!
Brandon and I came up with the idea to do a festival for high school students where they can come see the "fun part" of college. They can play sports with the athletes, enjoy a live performance from the dance teams, indulge in the delicious food, and much more. Originally, it was meant to be a field day, but that seemed to one dimensional. I'm sure young teens want to do more than just play basketball or soccer all day.
- Aside from pricing and getting clearances, I can tell you that this will be a volunteer student-led festival.
- It will give clubs/organizations/teams a chance to display their talents.
- It creates unity because students will get to interact with the youth (future) of this town.
- Consider this a "less boring" open house
- It would allow us to be Men and Women for Others (meaning we live for others as we are selfless)
- It ties in with the Jesuit theme of Cura personalis (Translated, this means “care for the individual person”)
The festival would not only increase the potential applicant rate to the university, but also increase the potential student population. At the same time, it would bring more money to the school. It would also slightly decrease the percentage of young adults who are not in school after high school graduation. This would give the school a chance to demonstrate some of its Jesuit ideals as the school would be helping the community. Yes, the school does give back. However, they are not too interactive in doing so. For example, the back to school drive was something nice to do, but the volunteers were just handing out goodie bags one at a time with no words or smiles being exchanged. That is not what giving back is all about. Even a small game of soccer can bring people together and form relationships, which is what I expect to happen from this festival.
Common Perception on the School by Locals
Some high school students see Scranton as a typical "snotty rich kid" school because the tuition is high and it lacks diversity in the student population.
Relation to Course
In the context of the course "Parables in Pop Culture," which I completed at The University of Scranton, we explored the relationship between storytelling and meaning as these relate to the formation of particular cultures. Marjane Satrapi's “Persepolis” provided insight into Iranian and Western cultures, and the conflicts that arise for personal identity when one is torn between cultures. The government did many things that didn’t please the people. For example, the government forced all girls to wear a veil and classes were separated by gender.
Just as there is a separation between the government and the people, Scranton suffers from a separation between the school and town. The school culture makes students of color or students who didn’t go to Scranton Prep feel as if going to the University is not an option for them
Indeed, we explored various approaches to culture, realizing that we inhabit many micro-cultures that define us and our identities. Satrapi's graphic novel thus became an overarching parable for exploring identity in relation to popular culture, as she too narrates the ways she was enamored with Westernized pop culture, from punk music to Michael Jackson and the way she dressed.
John Dominic Crossan's “The Power of Parable” provided us with a working definition of a parable: metaphoricity + narrativity (p. 8). To this we added the notion that a parable is a story told for the sake of transformation, what, in the Greek New Testament of Christianity calls metanoia. In the dictionary, this means “a change in one's way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion”.
In this picture, St. Ignatius of Loyola is giving up his sword. This is an example of metanoia (the word, and its translations, is etched into the statue). Here he is giving up his lifestyle of chivalry to live a life for Christ.
Popular culture today provides countless parables that guide the lives of those who consume materials from popular culture. It is my conviction that The University of Scranton's Catholic and Jesuit culture changes students and thereby changes the world; the world undergoes its own transformation by way of the initiation into a culture such as one finds here. If we can reunite the sense of playful fun to the educational experience by way of something like a Festival of Students (modeled on the Festival of Nations), then perhaps the Good News of what the University has to offer can spread wider. In what follows I will present my case for how such initiatives will work in relation to Parables in Pop Culture.
The conviction that The University of Scranton can benefit from such initiatives fits well within the framework of wisdom traditions found within Judaism and Christianity. The book, “Seeing the World and Knowing God: Hebrew Wisdom and Christian Doctrine in a Late-Modern Context” by Paul Fiddes provides helpful material on the relevance of biblical wisdom literature for today. Indeed, he refers directly to parables and riddles of the Hebrew Bible to help readers understand how God and wisdom are directly connected. My own experience in Jesuit education attests to this relationship. Fiddes quotes Job 28 to set up the problem of wisdom and its relation to God for readers:
But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Mortals do not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living. The deep says, 'It is not in me', and the sea says, 'It is not with me', It cannot be gotten for gold.... (vv. 12-15)
The riddle sets up the reader to hear from Job that God has counted, weighed, measured, and surveyed all of creation; no other can achieve such wisdom. According to Fiddes, we can now "see the point of the riddle. The question is, 'where shall wisdom be found?' The solution is that, unlike jewels and ores buried in the earth, there is no single place where wisdom is located and no path that can be followed to find it” (233). Also, “Wisdom can only be found in exercising it. God originally exercised it in creating the world, and continues to exercise it in knowing the world" (234). Fiddes thus guides us in understanding the biblical text by noting our need to practice and exercise wisdom in order to attain it. Only by living a wise life can wisdom be attained. And this means listening and learning from wise figures, texts, and stories. Perhaps then we are searching for wisdom in popular culture as we allow it to guide our lives?
A Short Parable by Me to tie into the Course
A man tried to build a house by himself in a week and failed. Meanwhile his neighbor tried the same, but had a team of people. The neighbor managed to finish fast enough because he had enough support. Building a community is like building a house. We can't build it alone, however, when we come together to add our own uniqueness (bricks) together, we build something great (a house).
Just as the NBA cares, Scranton cares. We give back to the community in an attempt to do right and live up to the Jesuit Ideals. Giving back to the community is a common trend in pop culture as it inspires many to go out and help those in need. Many do it out of love, while some do it because celebrities influence them to. Not only are we celebrating with the town, but also looking to form bonds and show love to the community.
Crossan, John Dominic. The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus. HarperCollins, 2013.
Fiddes, Paul S. Seeing the World and Knowing God: Hebrew Wisdom and Christian Doctrine in a Late-Modern Context. Oxford University Press, 2015.
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. Pantheon Books, 2003.