Your Environment Matters

This story is featured in the Spring 2019 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU’s inspiring environment makes all the difference in student’s lives. 

HPU’s inspiring atmosphere motivates students to reach their fullest potential.

Gabrielle Banks is a self-proclaimed High Point University “hoarder.” Name an HPU item — hats, magazines, brochures, T-shirts, acceptance letter. She’s kept them all.

Why? Because for Banks, each piece represents a step in her transformational HPU experience. Each piece reminds her of how far she has come.

As a high school student in Stafford, Virginia, Banks was ready for an environment where she could grow herself and find an abundance of new opportunities. So she began her search.

That search was short-lived once she visited — and experienced — HPU.

Like all prospective students, Banks’ HPU experience began at the university’s entrance. She was greeted by a wave from a friendly member of HPU’s campus safety team who knew her name and directed her to a parking space distinguished by a personalized sign with this message: “HPU Welcomes Gabrielle Banks.”

Banks understood that the gestures were more than just a “nice touch” or an effort by HPU to display hospitality. Instead, she understood them as the university’s immediate willingness to invest in its students.

If HPU believed in her enough to invest this time and detail during her first visit, what opportunities would they provide over the next four years? Banks was motivated to be worthy of the investment.


The Product of Your Surroundings

Think environment doesn’t make a difference? Ask any professional sports coach if they prefer to play at home or away.

HPU understands that your surroundings shape your behavior.

Banks would have once classified herself as introverted and shy.

Today, you’ll find her confidently mentoring underclassmen as a First Year Navigator, playing drums for and serving as a leader in the Genesis Gospel Choir, and leading campus tours for prospective students as a University Ambassador.

When Banks has time to pause and reflect, you can find her on the Kester International Promenade. Standing amidst sculptures of famed historic leaders, she’ll close her eyes, listen to the classical music that plays softly on campus and simply breathe in the air. And just like that, she’s overwhelmed with gratefulness.

“The environment, the friendships, the sense that I can accomplish so much and transform here — I’ve realized at HPU, nothing is impossible,” Banks says. “This university has inspired me to help everyone who sets foot on this campus to uncover their potential. I want to give back what this environment has given to me, and in that way, the cycle continues.”

During her first weeks on campus, Banks joined her fellow freshmen for the President’s Seminar on Life Skills.

HPU President Nido Qubein spoke on the intentionality of HPU’s campus, making particular note of the important details of campus, such as the mirrors.

“President Qubein drew our attention to the mirrors you’ll find in every stairwell at HPU,” says Banks. “He noted that when climbing a stairwell, you often can’t see what’s around the next turn — like life. With the mirrors, you’re more aware of your surroundings, just as you should be in your life choices. Choose only to place yourself around people and in places that will build you. You can easily see what’s around your next corner by looking at your current environment.”

And when Banks takes inventory of her current surroundings at HPU, she smiles.

“I’m less than two years in, and I can already see how this place has changed me for the better,” she says. “I want to take advantage of everything that’s here. When I graduate, I’m going to have tapped into every opportunity this university provides.” 

As only a sophomore, Banks could write a thousand thank-you notes to people across campus.

“But if I could put it all into one note, I would thank HPU for the very long, jam-packed days that leave me feeling purposeful and fulfilled,” says Banks. “I would thank this university for teaching me things I didn’t even realize I didn’t know. And, I would say thank you for giving me a space to be imperfect. I’m allowed to try, fail and learn without fear or judgment while receiving encouragement to grow.”

And while Banks’ story is unique, her experience is common among all HPU students. Her appreciation is echoed by many when they pause and reflect on their outcomes, like Michael Dreher, who lined up his career six months before graduation.


Extraordinary Outcomes

Each month, HPU honors two highly motivated students with the Extraordinary Leader Award.

“High Point University embraces our students’ purposeful living,” says Gail Tuttle, HPU senior vice president for student life. “It’s what makes our community remarkable. The Extraordinary Leader recognition highlights the excellence and service that our students perform in and out of the classroom and serves as an example of just how impactful our inspiring environment can be for those who live and learn here.”

When you group a year’s worth of Extraordinary Leaders together, their stories couldn’t be more diverse. Yet, each student credits HPU’s environment in some way.

For Dreher, a native of Lake George, New York, HPU provided the opportunity to cement his values.

Dreher has never shied away from the path less taken. After high school, when many of his friends went to college in the Northeast, Dreher went to work. He took a gap year with the intent of gaining real-life experience. It was around that time that he heard of High Point University.

It was the only university he applied to. He liked what he saw — HPU’s entrepreneurial approach, its entrepreneurial spirit and the bedrock values the university espouses. Dreher learned those lessons first from his family, and now, the university he wanted to attend would continue that education.

Soon, he found himself 12 hours away from home not knowing a soul.

Now, as a 2019 graduate with a degree in business administration and a minor in computer science, Dreher has done well for himself. Months ahead of graduation, he secured his career as a data analyst with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

When he looks to his experience at HPU — serving as the president of his fraternity, a member of six honor societies, chief justice of HPU’s Student Government Association, and receiving mentorship from every corner of campus, he realizes how he got there.

“High Point University is a place that challenges you to be aware and personally responsible for who you are, and that is a great gift,” he says. “I know that whatever challenge I face in the future, I can be true to my integrity. I am confident of that.”


Values Modeled 

People rise to the environment in which they live. Whether in class, a residence hall, or one of the library learning common spaces throughout campus, students are consistently surrounded by excellence.

They see a member of HPU’s Campus Enhancement team work with care and diligence to clear every sidewalk of snow. They receive a hug and an open ear from the cafeteria worker with whom they develop a bond. They see HPU President Nido Qubein walking across campus, engaging with students and pausing to pick up a stray piece of trash if spotted.

They live in a setting that calls them to be better. They live in an inspiring environment.

Ask others what inspires them, and they’ll point out a specific campus connection.

For junior Olivia Royce, it’s the quotes inscribed on the Kester International Promenade. Royce liked what she saw when she checked out HPU online. She was reminded of what her family studied together in their Manlius, New York, home every Sunday night — all things God, family, country.

When she came to visit, she found President Qubein’s stance on HPU’s values refreshing. Then came what she discovered on the promenade.

All she had to do was look down.

She saw countless granite slabs of quotes.

“You see the university’s beliefs in the ground, and that’s so inspiring,” she says. “I knew then there were no if, ands or buts. I knew this is where I wanted to go because this is who I want to be. I want to be the kind of person unafraid to share my beliefs. Just like High Point University.”

For Austin Pinelli, it’s the chance to step outside his comfort zone.

He’s a Presidential Scholar, a Millis Scholar, a founding member and treasurer of the Actuarial Science Club, and a member of Alpha Lambda Delta, the honor society for first-year students.

But his claim to HPU fame is most obvious during HPU basketball games when he sports his purple bodysuit and straps on his tuba to lead the pep band’s tuba section.

Pinelli has arranged seven tunes for the HPU pep band and says his creativity has taken off at HPU.

“A lot of my life before High Point was pretty structured,” he says. “It was like, ‘This is how things are, and let’s keep it that way.’ But with High Point, it’s like, ‘Oh, let’s try new things.’ It was something different, and everyone could contribute in a positive way.”

On campus, he finds that the people are what inspires him most.

“I hear how people worry about my generation being ready with what’s going on around us or running this or that industry,” he says. “But with the friends I’ve made here, I’m reassured we’re not going to mess things up. We can make positive change, and it shows me that it’s true what they say about HPU. It does attract extraordinary students.”

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