Josh Connell is a uniquely compassionate individual. He loves connecting with others and helping them in any way he can through being a current Gustie Greeter and Co-President of M-Pact and a former Collegiate Fellow.
Josh initially thought his life was headed towards engineering, but after taking the First Term Other Lives, Other Perspectives, he realized that his calling was in social justice.
“That got me thinking about what role advocating for social justice would play in my life,” Josh said. He decided to major in social studies education and minor in political science so that he could fulfill his dream of helping others.
“He embodies what it means to be a critical thinker—he’s always asking deep questions about the world around us, but he does it in a graceful way that makes those topics less intimidating than they tend to be,” Senior Communication Studies Major Tristan Richards said.
Josh’s influence in other people’s lives stems from his own life experiences.
“I was subject to bullying all through middle and high school and it gave me a desire to help others so they didn’t have to go through the same pain, that I did,” he said. “I feel that it’s what I’m called to do.”
“Josh is great at seeing the light in everyone around him, but what sets him apart from others is that he goes one step
further and helps others see that light in themselves, in their own way,” Richards said.
Josh has certainly been helping others during his time at Gustavus. He served as a Collegiate Fellow (CF) for first-years during his sophomore and junior years. He is grateful for the staff he worked with during those years.
“You get a lot of close interaction with other CFs, who are incredible people who have at their core that they want to be there for others,” he said. “Being around that kind of energy gives you a lot of hope for the person you want to be.”
He also hopes that he was able to influence the residents he worked with.
“I really believe that my role in their lives helped get them on the right course and I appreciated the opportunity to be a resource and a mentor to them to help them get the best start possible,” he said.
His senior year, Josh decided to make the switch from being a CF to a Gustie Greeter. He admits that it was a last-minute decision, but one he is very happy with now.
“Being a CF was probably one of the greatest experiences I’ve had at Gustavus, but it was something I was considering returning to because I was comfortable with it, more than feeling that there was anything to contribute to it or feeling that there was any sense of growth that would come from that, so I decided to be a Greeter,” he said.
He notes that it was a particularly meaningful experience during his senior year.
“A lot of memories come back to you and you realize what the last three years have meant to you,” Josh said.
“I was blessed with the best group possible; I hold all of them in very high regard. We shared in that initial stage of college together—recognizing that we did that together is really cool,” he said of his experience as a Greeter.
Most importantly, he hopes he was able to help his students in their transition to college life.
“I get such a sense of joy thinking that I had any impact on my student’s lives,” he said.
First- Year Danielle Yaste saw first-hand the impact Josh could have.
“When I first came to Gustavus, upperclassmen kept telling me I was really lucky because I was going to have someone really awesome as a Greeter. I had no idea just how lucky I was, and that Josh would become one of the people that I look up to most,” Yaste said.
Being a Greeter isn’t the only way that Josh makes an impact on others. He is also the Co-President of M-Pact, which advocate gender equity from a male perspective.
“In the fight for gender equity, men have an important role to play. I see it as our mission to inspire men to take up that mantle,” Josh said.
M-Pact is doing that this semester through the March Madness Challenge and a V-Men show on Mar. 21, which will look at sexual assault as a men’s issue.
Josh’s own relationships are very important to him, and he loves any opportunity to help others.
“I strongly believe that empathy is the most important quality I can possess. To understand where other people are coming from in their lives and give them venues for being understood by others, so anytime I can be an open set of ears, I think that’s one of my favorite roles to play,” he said.
“He’s an incredibly supportive friend and the type of person that will drop everything to spend time with someone he cares about,” Richards said. “He has an enormous heart, and I can’t wait to see what he does with it after graduation, but he’s made some enormous changes in our community already.”
“The foundation of what I’ve found Gustavus to be, what it really comes down to is faith. I mean that in the sense that I’ve had a lot of people believe in me in these past four years, and that experience has given me the capacity to believe in myself,” Josh said.