Written by Kelly J Nelson ’10
Four years ago, an inspiration for enriching the Gustavus community arose.
A Gustavus professor was inspired after attending a workshop lead by the Center for Vocational Reflection (CVR). Aaron Banks, associate professor of health and exercise science, had a vision to join people together to provide a campus-wide opportunity for leisure and reflection. The medium: build Adirondack deck chairs for the campus.
Currently, more than 100 Gustavus students, faculty, and staff have been involved in the building, sanding, staining, and plaque encrusting of these chairs. The project has and will continue to provide bonding and reflection time for those involved in the construction, as well as for those who simply sit in the 45 chairs scattered throughout the campus lawns.
The sturdy, handmade, wooden chairs are not only an inviting sight, but a main component of a First Term Seminar class called “Leisure Quest” taught by Banks. Banks teams with Amy (Gerber) Pehrson ’91 of the CVR to offer this unique experience for first-year students.
Early in the semester, the current class members meet and have a pizza party with the former students of the class and, together, they work on the chairs. This “gives the students a chance to meet others similar to them so they know a familiar face on campus . . . it brings that feeling of community for them, ” Banks says. The students do hands-on work with the chairs and they also spend time exploring the deeper meaning of leisure.
Gustavus students can become extremely busy, trying to fit athletics/varsity or intramural practices and games, clubs, advisory boards, work, friends, and family into the small cracks of an already packed academic schedule. In this situation, it can be easy for anyone to feel a little disconnected with themselves and in need of some peace.
“When you can find a good chair to sit in and clear all the busy voices in your head, you are finally able to listen to and reconnect with yourself,” Says Pehrson of the value of the community chairs.
The Leisure Quest class theme is “take back your time,” which is also a theme for the CVR. Leisure includes reflection, which Amy Pehrson says, “helps [the student] to meaningfully choose to be involved in what they are passionate about,” making the precious time in a student’s day purposeful.
The chairs represent the importance of reflection time, and what better way to experience it than in a chair that symbolizes hard work, a united community, and meaningful leisure.
To learn more about the CVR’s mission and place in the Gustavus community, visit gustavus.edu/vocation/.