Gabby Deutsch and Lindsey Mandell
The Santa Clara
May 17, 2018
Four years ago we sat in your class as first-year Broncos. We both hesitantly and excitedly shuffled into O’Connor Hall not knowing what to expect of our Critical Thinking & Writing course.
The class you designed was titled “The Making of a Public Figure.” From the first day of class, you made it clear that we were in a space where we would all grow and learn together. Knowing each other’s names, collaboration and active participation were non-negotiable. And for those of us who didn’t live on the sixth floor of Swig Residence Hall with the rest of our classmates, we deeply appreciated how important it was to you that we build a community within the classroom.
We won’t lie, your intensity was intimidating at first. You told us that if we couldn’t attend an event—one that was at 6 p.m. on a Friday evening—we had to drop the class. Ironic, perhaps, because this was the one class we couldn’t drop. Cornel West’s words and message were undeniably important to the content of our course, but equally important was your commitment to bringing us to events like this one. That kind of commitment reflected how much you care about your teaching and our learning.
From the start, you were invested in our education as people—not just students. You were committed to expanding our horizons and providing us with the perspectives of important figures that we might not have otherwise been exposed to.
And while CTW is a required course, your class was a place of open conversation. Your class is what college should always be: a community of mutual respect and genuine interest rooted in the students rather than the professor. You broke down our misconceptions about what an English class looks like. You helped tailor everything to us in ways that asked us to push ourselves, think critically and care about worlds and experiences beyond our own.
But your reach extended beyond the classroom. You kept us accountable, comforted us when we burst into tears in your office and insisted that we must always strive to be greater. In a tumultuous and confusing year, you were a constant.
While we spent the bulk of the two quarters closely studying Malcolm X and cultural memory, we were also learning far more than we realized at the time about our own abilities to act as public figures within the realms we were passionate about.
Our very own Jack Herstam went on to become ASG president. Elena Radding interned for the Panetta Institute for Public Policy in Washington, D.C. Kieran Doherty served as Vice President of Ruff Riders. Bailey McQuain is off to UCLA’s Law School. Indy Hickman was a Global Social Benefit Fellow.
As for us, our experiences in your CTW were the reason we changed our majors to English. Your encouragement of our writing from the start and your willingness to help us push our ideas further critically redefined how we understood the potential of English as a discipline. And after the two quarters of CTW, you’ve been there for us as we honed and deepened our interests. You’ve supported our wildest dreams and, when necessary, given us much-needed doses of reality.
All of our seemingly separate endeavours are connected to the foundation you established in our CTW. Regardless of the path we were on, your unrelenting support allowed us the opportunity to pursue what really mattered to us—what was going to make us fulfilled and grounded during these four years and beyond.
Every single one of us looked forward to your class every week. And while our accomplishments are driven by our passions, our persistence and our hard work, you set the foundation for us to do so. You taught us that public figures come in all forms and each person has something valuable to share. You taught us that we all leave memories and imprints of ourselves behind and those memories are powerful and lasting.
People like you are why we love Santa Clara—and why graduating is so bittersweet. You’ve done much more than teach us critical thinking and writing skills. You’ve shown us the importance of listening to ourselves and the importance of listening to others. You’ve helped us to unapologetically take risks and chase our goals. Above all we want to say thank you, Dr. Griffin—for being the best professor and mentor we could have asked for.
Gabby Deutsch is a senior English and ethnic studies major. Lindsey Mandell is a senior English major.