Grounds for Growth

Tristan Amatruda shares the lessons he has learned over his four years at UVA and the Study Center’s instrumental role in that growth. 

Tristan Amatruda
Photo by Nate Diemer

At UVA, so many things fight for your attention and time. One only has to spend ten minutes at the annual activities fair to observe how many organizations, commitments, and worthwhile initiatives discreetly (and sometimes quite actively) beg for one’s involvement. As a first year still transitioning out of a high-achieving high school mindset bent on bolstering the proverbial resume, this is a dream. Overwhelming, yes, but the possibilities to “get involved” and to “pursue leadership positions” seem endlessly exciting. This is a winning mindset that got me and so many others into UVA, but I sincerely hope this is not how we leave UVA.

Somewhere between my first and second years, I discovered something that hopefully all UVA students stumble upon in one way or another during their time here: college involvements should not be treated like bullet points to add to a resume. Instead, focused commitment is the soil out of which sprouts the oft sought after, life-changing experiences that we hear come from the college years. Of course, one can go down the route of doing it all, but I should note that I know very few fourth years that have maintained this approach. Passionate interests develop, flexibility evaporates, and inevitably the long list of involvements narrows. Why mention this if it happens naturally to everyone? Because the quicker you learn to invest your time fully and wisely sharply correlates with the return, measured in fruitful, character-shaping experiences. Like most fourth years, this is wisdom I wish I had realized much sooner.

One such commitment during my time has been my involvement with the Stud. As a former late-night-studier, resident, and intern, I can truly say that the culture and institution established here have been indispensable priorities. In thinking about what specifically makes the Center for Christian Study so special, I keep circling back to one mainstay: the people who run it. The role models that are the Center’s full-time staff have been a source of inspiration, wisdom, and comfort to all who wander its halls, and certainly to myself as well. 

As I approach graduation, I will always remember the tutelage and guidance of Ethan Hightower. I cherish the lessons in leadership, planning, and coordination from my Hospitality Intern boss, Carly Vanness. Most of all, I will be forever thankful that all the staff have shown me what it means to spread Christ’s love through their daily examples. They always have their doors symbolically or literally open to student drop-ins. This is just one way that they cultivate a culture where getting to know strangers is valued. The staff members’ consistent, genuine interactions with the students is perhaps the greatest way I see the Study Center demonstrating the gospel message. As my time at UVA ends, I wish I had become more invested in this community sooner—to see even further how the gospel can be richly lived out through intentional hospitality and authentic interest in the lives of others.