Charles A. Gillespie, a Sacred Heart University assistant professor in the department of Catholic Studies, is taking on a new role as Pioneer Journey Director this year, with the mission to acknowledge how special experiences are at SHU.
The Pioneer Journey is about expressing what it means to be a Pioneer and appreciating the unique experiences and memories made here. Whether it be learning something new in class, getting lost in a city in Europe while abroad, or simply just not being able to find parking in the morning, Gillespie wants to recognize that it’s all part of the unique Pioneer Journey.
According to Gillespie, his role as the director consists of three main goals. The first dives into the idea of what being a Pioneer means and how to own it. It’s about the idea of discovering new things as a community and recognizing that what SHU is doing is special.
The second goal is to align the community’s words and language to be able to share experiences with one another.
“We’re all doing something special, but we all talk about it in different ways,” said Gillespie. “So my first step is to try to get people to share words and language.”
Gillespie’s third goal is to encourage students to not think about their required courses as a stressful box they need to check off, but rather to see it as the unique education and experience they are getting from this university.
“I want to change those required courses from being a chore to an opportunity, that’s my big goal this spring,” he said.
According to the university’s press release, a description of the Pioneer Journey has been integrated into the freshman orientation program and embedded into SHU’s core classes. A part of the university’s new focus is to ensure that SHU’s specific mission and culture are incorporated into each student’s journey as a Pioneer.
At SHU, Gillespie teaches seminars in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition as well as a class of his own creation, God on Broadway, which discusses how religious, ethical, and cross-cultural themes come into plays and musicals. He is working on a book of the same name, challenging others to raise questions about God and religion within theatre. He also incorporates these missions of the Pioneer Journey within the classroom.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty in our world, and one of the things we always think about is just getting through our to-do list as quickly as possible,” said Gillespie. “We need a culture that every time I’m doing something, it’s about my transformative education and how we can start to support one another in that.”
Gillespie’s dedication and passion for the Pioneer Journey truly reflect his love for this university and its students. He finds importance in making certain that everyone’s experience at SHU is special and enjoyed.
Gillespie’s end goal is to have the SHU community acknowledge its journey together and simply own it. The mission of his new role is to appreciate that the community is doing something special every day, in and outside the classroom.
“My practical end goal is to hear some group of students yell ‘We’re on a Pioneer Journey!’ while going to something,” Gillespie said. “Why? Because that shows that we’re a community doing something special.”