Theme 2: Perseverance in Building Community
This sense of community was also tied to a greater understanding of the necessity for perseverance in building community. Many participants reflected that their most important outcome from the experience was expanded “patience,” “openness,” “perseverance,” and “grit.” Trusting community and following through with community building processes was part of this theme.
This finding suggests that participants viewed the work of community building as relying heavily on skills that sustain commitment and keep collaborators involved through setbacks. Several identified specific relational skills including the use of humor to break down barriers across difference and new skills they acquired in inspiring hope in the face of persistent challenges. One student talked about learning “patience with setbacks and learning to see them as lessons and ‘fail fast, fail forward,’ which is a huge engineering thing and I think it is hard for engineers to actually learn how to do that.” Another student talked about failure as motivating, while a third referenced the importance of learning that “you only fail when you quit.”
The student who also grew up in the Dayton community and described having a sense of identification with the community indicated that she was skeptical at first, because “sometimes people have just come here and tried to do something and then they just drop it; I don’t believe in them.” However, she described becoming less skeptical after seeing the continuous engagement and iterative approach to problem solving.
This continuous engagement also seemed to affirm the deep connection of community and the common good embedded in University of Dayton’s overall mission. Several of the students who were heavily involved with Marianist initiatives spoke about how closely this perseverance in building community mapped to their understanding of the
Marianist charism. The IACT staff member described this connection in the following way, linking the common good to a focus on people rather than product: “Notice how nobody is talking about product here. It is all about people ... In the end we don’t innovate product; we are working to innovate people.”
Community partners also reflected this insight. One of the community partners talked about how valuable it was to have this community that was engaged in trying to solve really difficult problems with their organization: “Each night that I came and presented the problems we were having, all of the students and the engineering students were like ‘we can do this,’ ‘we could do that,’ and ‘what about this and what about that.’” He contrasted that with a sense of hitting a brick wall with some of their other initiatives in response to these challenges. Therefore, the ability to persevere in building community was a salient feature of Freedom Enterprise.