Friday February 10, 2017

A Grand Adventure

By Karen Spina

Eric is especially busy these days, so he gave me his blogging pen and encouraged me to use it. I was happy to pick it up to offer a few words from *my* perspective on our life move to Dayton and the University that we now both call home.

As Teri Rizvi wrote a couple months ago, I knew I was ready for a change in my professional and personal lives, but I’m honestly surprised how quickly I felt comfortable and at home here.

Before Eric accepted the presidency, we talked at length about what it would mean to uproot our lives in Central New York, where we had lived for more than 25 years, for a blank slate in an unfamiliar city. While we were about to become empty nesters with both children away at college for the first time, change is rarely easy for anyone, so it was helpful to be able to talk about our hopes, fears and anxieties and to ultimately make the decision together.

For me, the timing was perfect. I had spent my career as a software engineer with side pursuits that centered on secondary education, including as a math teacher, tutor and trustee of an independent school, but was ready to take a break and try something totally new. A funny thing can happen on the way to quitting your job. You can find a new life, and there's no one I'd rather embark on this grand adventure with than Eric, of whom I am just a little fond ;). Despite the demands of his job, we've both remarked how much quality time we've been able to spend together on campus, in the community and at the president’s residence, where we've hosted events.

The last seven whirlwind months have taken us across the country — from Chicago to LA — to meet alumni and hear their vision for the University of Dayton's future. Both with Eric and on my own, I have ventured into the Dayton community and met a wide variety of contributors to the life of the region. With the president's emissaries, we've paddled kayaks down the Great Miami River on a brilliant fall day. We've shared home-cooked meals and deep conversations with Marianists and students in their homes in the student neighborhood. We’ve joined hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni for moments of grace and prayer at the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass in the Immaculate Conception Chapel, and we have attended student performances, art openings and athletic events.  

As a result of this deep immersion, I feel that this is not just “Eric’s job,” but also my own as I work to support his work with all of you and make my own contributions to the University and parts of the community that are in partnership with UD.  My hope is to continue to explore both the University and community for the remainder of the year, and then select a few things to which I want to dedicate my time on and off campus in the hope of supporting our wonderful students, faculty and staff as well as our community partners.

One thing I know will be a central part of my life — welcoming members of the University and Dayton communities to the residence. We have tried to make the house a comfortable and inviting home away from home for students; a place of celebration for faculty and staff; and a venue for meaningful discussion about issues facing the University and community. UD students remind me of my own children, filled with passion for the future and thoughtful about how they can chart their own course to make a meaningful contribution to society. Spending time with them in just about any venue has been a real highlight of my time at UD.

I also have been so impressed and, indeed, humbled by the Marianists and their mission of building community on campus and in the world. Starting this weekend, my new life takes me on a nearly 8,000-mile trek to Kenya, where the Marianists bring education, skills training programs — as well as faith in the future — to some of the world’s poorest children. I'll see firsthand the difference the Marianists are making in children’s lives in East Africa through Our Lady of Nazareth Primary School and programs that help the jobless learn vocations such as carpentry, tailoring and food preparation. It's a personal trip, so I'll fit in a safari, too. (And I am excited to go someplace that Eric has not been yet!)

We took a leap of faith in our lives and, like Mary, said "yes" when the University of Dayton called. It's been a joy to discover the warmth and special spirit of this place, which is now truly our home. It's been a blessing to have the opportunity to reinvent my own life and be a contributing member of a University we’ve grown quickly to love.

Every day is a grand adventure.

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