Words of Wellness: What wellness challenges us to do

By Dr. Kathleen Downey
Assistant Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

If I challenged you to make a list of all the roles you have in your life, would you get them all down on paper without missing any?

What is the first thing that comes to your mind? When you think of that first thing, is that how you describe yourself to others, or just to yourself? Is it the most important one? Or the most time consuming? In any case, it is one of many.

When I think of the students I have had in my classes at GCU, many are searching for their identity as they navigate what they call adulting. They join clubs, switch programs, attend Chapel, make new friends, volunteer and, eventually, hopefully, really find themselves through their activities, interactions and experiences.

But is there ever a final destination of who we are as a person? Is it one role that identifies us or the culmination of all of our roles? Or is it that we simply have different seasons of life?

The first course I taught at GCU was Principles of Sociology, an introduction to sociological concepts and theories. In that course, one of my favorite lessons covered social roles, and my students were able to grasp this very easily since they had just added several new roles to their repertoire by becoming a GCU student.

I challenged them to make a list of all of the roles they have in their life; daughter, sister, student, Havoc, roommate, girlfriend, employee, etc. You get the idea. But do each of these roles stand alone? Or are they intertwined?

I would argue that if we want to continue to grow, we must continue to find ourselves. As a young woman, I described myself as a social worker. But that was just my job, my career. What about my identity as a mother or daughter or sister?

Eventually, I became a student again, then a professor and now an administrator of behavioral health programs. Wellness challenges us to explore and expand our identity throughout our lives, to be lifelong learners.

This July, our first student cohort of the Master of Social Work program will complete all of its courses and graduate. This is a milestone for each of the individuals of that graduating class.

When they finish their last assignment, submit it in Halo and log off for the last time as a GCU social work student, they become MSW graduates and social work professionals. That will be part of their identity, along with the resilience it took to get there.

As lifelong learners, I pray these graduates will continue to find themselves and  continue to expand their identity through what wellness challenges them to do.

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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” 
Romans 8:28