Making Meaning provides outlet for spirituality

Claire DiChiaro, Staff Writer

The question of whether I wanted to do a pre-orientation trip, lingering on my computer screen during the Workday onboarding module in mid-April, wasn’t a question at all. 

I wanted to experience of adjusting to campus while delving deep into an interesting topic with interesting people, so I joined the 75% of Washington & Lee freshmen who sign up for a pre-O trip. 

Making Meaning was a completely new trip this year, organized by Jake Reeves, the assistant director of inclusion and and engagement for LGBTQ+ support, and Tamara Futrell, the dean for diversity, inclusion and student engagement. Making Meaning explored religion, spirituality and quality of life through an objective lens. 

It was the third-most popular trip this year, trailing only behind Appalachian Adventure and Volunteer Venture. I appreciated all of the resources we were introduced to, such as the sacred space in Commons and meeting Pastor Willis, the campus pastor. 

Each day we would discuss various topics, which would range from talking to local religious leaders to determining the difference between religion and spirituality. This led to us debating whether one could be religious without being spiritual. I still don’t know the answer. 

One aspect I would have liked to explore more of was non-Western religions. There is a Bodhi Path Buddhist center near the Natural Bridge State Park, which would have made for a great day trip. This trip was really about contextualizing fun: doing yoga and seeing a Nationals game was fun, but we looked at it from the angle of why these things were so fun: the deeper significance activities like these have for certain people. 

On a broader scale, word from the administration is that pre-O trips will be mandatory for all freshmen next year. While I believe this decision is a good one, there are several technicalities we have to address first. I know several student athletes on my hall who didn’t take pre-O due to preseason training. I don’t think it’s fair to ask them to take on both and I would want to see their preseason count as their pre-O trip. 

I also know several people who did not register for because there was not enough context to what it would entail. While reading the online trip descriptions on the Washington and Lee website, I noticed that many of them drastically differed. Some, like Making Meaning, included an fairly detailed outline of their plans, while others only had a brief paragraph. The workload also differed from trip to trip: for example, trips like Freedom Ride required two writing assignments, while other trips required no work at all. These discrepancies likely dissuaded some people from pre-O. Information should be clarified in communications to incoming freshmen next year. 

I’m also worried that the significance of actual O-week might be diminished. Imagine the irony of being welcomed to campus when every single student was already here for a week. I would want to have the big O-week events to happen before the pre-O trips so we could all have a proper welcome before we separate into our pre-O groups. 

Finally, I’m all for extending the number of days we’re all on campus without being in class. I loved telling my friends that I was on day ten of college and haven’t read a single syllabus. Prolong free time at all costs.