Claire Webster, '19

Claire Webster sits near the St. Ignatius statue

As a first-generation college student, senior Claire Webster was looking for a school where she could continue to be a leader on campus while also staying true to herself.

Early in the college search process, Webster applied to around 10 schools, but was drawn toward the Jesuit mission that schools like Rockhurst, St. Louis University and Regis University have.

“Learning about the commitment to service and the emphasis on community attracted me to them,” Webster said. “They were all Jesuit schools which is funny because I went to public school, and I didn’t even really know what Jesuit was.”

Webster ended up choosing Rockhurst because she felt like staff and faculty were already invested in her, even before she stepped on campus as a student.

“I remember meeting with someone at one of those St. Louis admission days and they had remembered my college essay and brought it up very specifically,” Webster said. “They were very engaged in my overall well-being beyond the classroom.”

After arriving and settling in on campus, she became involved in Voices for Justice, Greek life, student senate, campus ministry and ambassadors. Webster enjoys the fact that being a part of these organizations allows her to channel her different interests.

“At Voices, I can totally just geek out with like-minded people about social justice things, but with ambassadors I’m able to have that social aspect of showing prospective students the place that I call home and the place I love a lot. Greek life, I can have random dance parties and they’re my support system when I have a hard time,” Webster said.

Webster was able to find influences on campus that helped and encouraged her along the way.

“I think everyone is really looking out for me,” Webster said. “I had a lot of upperclassmen that I quickly became friends with and I feel really lucky for that. I was able to learn some of their wisdom, but also had their friendship, and that showed that there is no definitive lines or borders that you can’t cross to be friends here.”

The desire to be a leader combined with the strong community at Rockhurst led Webster to run for, and be elected as, student senate president.

“I’m excited that we are active on our campus, that we’re able to accomplish things, that students view us as their representative body, and faculty and staff look to us for guidance,” Webster said. “We have a lot of good energy, so I think good things are going to happen if we keep listening and seeing each other.”

Taking on this role for the year, Webster has big plans to bring the campus community even closer by making sure each student knows that they belong here.

“I’ve adopted the climate survey tagline of ‘building a home for all’. I think that’s something that we really do want to focus on,” Webster said. “We want to make sure that once students are on our campus they’re feeling welcomed and celebrated and also that this is a place where they can fully and authentically belong, rather than just fit in.”

As student senate president, Webster has also set personal goals for herself. She wants to make sure that she is as open and available as she can be for others, and wants to take the chance to fully hear and see them.

“I want to make sure I’m living up to the ‘for and with others’ statement,” Webster said.

The idea that everyone belongs on campus and that each student can, and is, encouraged to authentically be themselves stems from Webster’s own reflection process that she went through within the past year.

“Something I’m working on this year is being unapologetic about being queer,” Webster said. “I just figured out that I kind of got to this point in my life on autopilot. To really step back and reflect and process why I am who I am, and then realizing that there are parts of me that I hadn’t realized yet is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”

She believes that the skills she has learned while at Rockhurst really helped her in the reflection process and understanding that she is becoming who she is supposed to be.

“I think having that higher level of critical thinking that Rockhurst has taught me definitely helped along with the need to continuously question things and understand why, and weighing the good with the bad, and realizing that sometimes the things the world says are bad actually aren’t,” Webster said.

Feeling that community and closeness at Rockhurst helped her become more comfortable sharing her authentic self.

“I want to share that and be open. Rockhurst encourages me and makes me feel valued and that this is, no mistake, becoming who I’m supposed to be for a reason,” Webster said.

Webster wants to be someone that others going through a similar reflection process can look to.

“I’m learning that representation matters a lot, and in my life, I haven’t had a ton of people that I could look to. If I could be that person that other people look to, I think that would be cool,” Webster said.

In being someone that she hopes others can look to, Webster adds that it is important to continue learning about yourself.

“Don’t invalidate your feelings, and keep learning about yourself. I think everyone should. Investing in yourself is one of the greatest things you can do. Learn about yourself, love yourself,” Webster said.