Life at SSU
School of Contemplation
Central to the SSU Experience is the idea that real growth and personal development rarely take place in isolation; in fact, we believe that the people around us will often shape us. SSU is an intentional community that is journeying together – every day we are learning and growing through shared experiences, conversations, observations and challenges. Community living is the foundation for close relationships that change our lives, day in, day out.
One of the main ways we facilitate these kind of relationships is by sharing daily life in a big old hotel, Park Hall. Whether it’s making meals together, performing a drama presentation, preparing for our annual Folk Fest, or sitting around a campfire, we experience the real life ups and downs of learning to love (and even like) each other.
It can get pretty intense, but our graduates look back at their years of community living in Park Hall as some of the most memorable, formative and fun times of their lives. Below are some of the main values we strive for in our daily life together…
Acceptance & Authenticity
We believe that acceptance and authenticity are the foundation of a healthy community, and we enjoy the beauty of diversity in every individual who contributes to life at SSU. University should be a place where you can explore who you are without being forced into a mould, where you can discover more about what you’re good at and what makes you tick. It should be a place where you can be yourself, whatever that looks like!
A healthy university will draw students that respect the viewpoints and beliefs of others and learn from one another’s perspectives. Everyone’s life journey is unique, and everyone reflects their Creator in some way: the diversity of the human race is a beautiful thing. Learning to appreciate this diversity is an essential part of education and personal development, arguably far more valuable than fact-learning in a classroom. At the end of the day, learning to love others is surely our highest goal.
So when you’re looking for a place to study, take a moment to consider the relational environment you’re about to immerse yourself in. To really be yourself, you’ll want to be known and loved in a caring community that appreciates diversity and embraces the differences in every individual – the little things that make us all unique. Find a place that will love and accept you for you are. And then relax and enjoy the journey.
Humility & Open-Mindedness
At SSU we are aiming to create an environment in which we are always ready to learn, to change, and to become more self-aware. This is what we call humility. We don’t ever want to think that we have all the answers, but prefer to listen, to ponder, and to ask questions, trusting that we don’t need to ‘protect’ our belief systems or worldviews out of fear.
In fact, we welcome scrutiny of each other’s perspectives and believe that it is healthy to hold juxtapositioned ideas in tension. Being open-minded instead of narrow-minded is a pathway for love and compassion, our highest value at SSU.
This is why community living is so important to us: we want to learn to love those who are different from us. This can be a difficult journey, and students can feel uncomfortable with each other in a small community of diverse people. But by sharing daily life together, we aim to celebrate diversity and enjoy the beauty we find in every individual.
It’s also one of the main reasons we travel the world. Immersing ourselves in other cultures can reveal our narrow-mindedness and prejudices, helping us to reach for more inclusive and compassionate perspectives and reminding us that the way we live, our culture, worldview and life choices, are often in desperate need of examination.
Justice & Beauty
At the heart of our mission as a university is a drive to fight injustice and draw out the beauty that’s inherent in people and communities. The purpose of the personal and spiritual development that we pursue is not just for selfish gain; we want our graduates to be able to humbly offer themselves to the world, helping to make it more just and compassionate wherever they end up being.
Some may argue that higher education is about preparation for a career, for learning a profession or increasing knowledge. We would agree, but we find ourselves wanting much more than that for our students as we help them prepare for life. Most of our students are leaving home for the first time, experiencing independent life with a lot of questions and insecurity; it can be a vulnerable time, and it can be an incredibly formative time. The staff and faculty at SSU are totally committed to supporting our students not just academically, but personally and spiritually, as they spend four years with us. We want our students to find their feet, explore their purpose, see the world, face injustice, get to know themselves and feel more confident in who they are. THIS is what we believe will prepare them best for adult life.
We aim to draw out the beauty in each individual student, and help them see the beauty in each other. This is what makes SSU a beautiful place.