Bad Vibes

A personal review of Stetson's Vibrancy office.

Kaitlyn Kocsis, Section Editor - The Reporter

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Reflecting on the final months of my time at Stetson, I realized something. More than the time I spent living in Chaudoin or my sorority house, my home on campus has been the upstairs of the CUB. It is the hub for Vibrancy, better known by the ridiculously long title: “Office of Student Development and Campus Vibrancy” or SD&CV (because that acronym somehow makes saying it any easier.) I vividly remember walking upstairs my freshman year, wide-eyed with curiosity about the buzzing glow that seemed to always follow its inhabitants. I knew I wanted in.

By the end of my freshman year, I was enamored with people like Erica Eddy and Nick Fuller. Leaders in every way. Their kingdom was the Vibrancy office. I started to linger around, admittedly being a bit of a weirdo, wondering what made it all so special. It was Greek life. It was Homecoming. It was FOCUS week. It was Varsity. It was LEAD Team. Everything that appealed to me about Stetson was collected into one long hallway of success. Their mission statement spoke to my innermost desire to be part of something diverse and engaging, a place where everyone belonged and had the chance to take ownership of their journey. Its wording is enchanting:

The shared vision of the Office of Student Development and Campus Vibrancy (SD&CV) is to provide every student with opportunities to channel their passions into a meaningful purpose. Student Development and Campus Vibrancy serves as the core of student involvement and engagement at Stetson University. We are committed to providing opportunities to build a dynamic and pervasive sense of student community, while facilitating a culture of belonging and promoting an intrinsic sense of campus vibrancy. We strive to empower students through collaborative approaches to their learning experience, both in and out of the classroom, and work to deepen their pursuit of significance while taking ownership of their Stetson journey. Our goal is to continue empowering students as leaders and global learners to follow their passions, allow spaces to succeed and fail, and guide them through integral parts of their education.

With the mission statement as my catalyst, I soon found myself a part of it all. Joining First Year Leadership Experience as a participant and soon after as a facilitator launched me into their world. I signed contracts saying I would uphold their standards. Wore t-shirts with their logos. Shared post after post on my social media. I was in.

And this is where my perfect image of vibrancy began to crack. I knew my rose-colored glasses were a permanent accessory carried over from my youth, but the pride I felt in being a part of this world, this upstairs office of glory, gave me hope.

LEAD Team was in its third year when I joined. A time of reshaping and growth, as all third-year things seem to be. Our team was cliquey from the start, from top to bottom. Planning meetings grew disorganized. Marketing strategies lacked passion. Team dynamics were ridden with relationship problems and power struggles. I felt jipped. Where was my “culture of belonging”? Where was space to “succeed and fail”? I wrote all of this off for about eight months. Facilitating leadership training for other students was wonderful, don’t get me wrong. But the mission never quite seemed to take shape. Even still, I didn’t blame the Vibrancy office. It was a hiccup, a mix of individuals that didn’t represent the whole. I left the team, but the Vibrancy office stayed pure and strong in my heart.

The Vibrancy office entered my life in full force once again, just as I began to feel my grasp lighten. My sophomore year, I joined Greek life. The reestablishment of Kappa Alpha Theta and my membership on its inaugural executive board had me upstairs in the CUB every night for weeks. I loved working with Ryan Manning, the former advisor for Fraternity and Sorority involvement, but even in the midst of his support and sarcasm, something felt off. The glow of passionate and dynamic change that I felt in my days of outsider observation seemed more like a glint, muddled by paperwork and procrastination.

By junior year, things really began to take a turn. Changes in staff were as frequent and jarring as the ever-beeping construction that took over my beloved upstairs. Cliques between staff members became obvious and toxic. I rarely visited the temporary office. It didn’t glow or even glint. The narrative was one of constant complaining. Bickering. Negativity. Anger. My closest friends dreaded their leadership meetings. One cried to me over dinner, calling herself a failure, worthless in the eyes of the Vibrancy office. Something had, suddenly it seemed, gone very very wrong. I distanced myself from Vibrancy for awhile, hoping it would magically return to its glorious form. It did not.

Admittedly, the shiny new office space helps, but the core of the issue is still lurking behind the frosted glass walls. I think we, as the Vibrancy office, the student body, and the staff, have lost the larger vision. There should be no room for petty arguments over keys. No frustration over the finance office. Greek life should be a beacon of togetherness, not the root of dissonance. The home of Stetson pride should be a place of passion, acceptance, and empowerment. Instead, we have allowed it to morph into something darker. That enveloping, enchanting glow must come from more than fluorescent lights.

In explaining the execution of the mission statement, the Office of Student Development and Campus Vibrancy states:

We achieve this mission by

  • committing to collaborative partnerships with students.

  • infusing inclusivity into all aspects of our experiences and affirming the necessity for diversity and equality.

  • educating students on how to transform abilities and skills to prepare for life-long success.

  • supporting the formation of enriching and healthy relationships which offer personal support and professional networking.

  • expecting students to consciously commit to ethical and responsible decision-making.

  • encouraging students to take advantage of learning opportunities discovered through facing challenging situations and recovering from failures.

  • celebrating individual student contributions and a shared pride in our community.

I think it’s time we revisit these points. To create vibrant, diverse, and capable leaders, we must begin within. That hallway, once the place I admired with curiosity, has morphed into something greater: an opportunity. To observe, to be involved, and to admire are all great things. But to truly commit to a mission of collaboration, inclusivity, enrichment, support, ethical decision-making, growth from failure, and a shared sense of pride is far more noble.

I cherish my time with vibrancy, all of the ups and downs, because I grew from them. I am the leader I want to be. I recognize flaws and, instead of waiting for change, I call for it. As my time at Stetson comes to a close, I leave my final hopes for the future of vibrancy. Find once again the glow that inspired my leadership journey. Take the time to refocus and recommit. Do not settle for a glimmer or a glint. Work through the difficulties with strategy and strength. And when it is time, after the walls have come down and the dust has settled, glow, vibrantly.