Being Intentional by Gary T. Hartfield

Being Intentional by Gary T. Hartfield

An unexamined life is not worth living. —Socrates

In 1994, my first professional job after undergraduate studies was an admissions counselor at Florida Southern College (FSC) in Lakeland, FL. I was the first black professional at the institution. During my tenure, I helped establish the Multicultural Affairs office on campus and I also helped bring the first predominately black fraternity to the campus – Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

In honor of Black History Month, myself and Ms. Evette Simmons, an alumnus and Board of Trustee member for FSC, had the distinct privilege of sharing our experiences while at Florida Southern College. As I began to share my experience with the students and staff, I realized that I had a more important story to tell.

I quickly modified the original points that I wanted to convey to the audience. While I wanted them to know that I worked hard at FSC and had a positive impact on the campus community, I really wanted to share with them a life-changing moment…I wanted them to know that everything that I worked to accomplish at FSC was intentional.

My work to help increase student diversity and enrollment, develop on-campus multicultural programming, and establish business and personal relationships were all intentional.

As noted in my book, STAND, this passion was a direct result of my undergraduate experience. Due to misdirected parental influence and poor post-secondary preparation, I struggled to enroll, matriculate, and complete my undergraduate studies. As a matter of fact, I flunked out of college twice as an undergrad. Eventually, I had to learn how to stand up as a man and take responsibility for myself.

Because of my undergraduate experience, I became very intentional about counseling students and parents on how to successfully transition from secondary to post-secondary education.

Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines intentional as: done in a way that is planned or intended. As we increased the diversity of the student body, we recognized that most of the campus’ extracurricular activities did not lend itself well to students of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. To this end, I wanted to make sure that the student’s experience was enriched by on-campus and community programming that the students found engaging.

As I concluded my address to the students, I challenged each student to be intentional about developing relationships with individuals that do not look like them. I expressed that the relationship that I developed with my mentor, brother, and President Emeritus of FSC, Dr. Thomas Reuschling, was very intentional. I was intentional about building a relationship with him during my tenure to now. Dr. Reuschling is 28 years my senior and a white man. What made the message more beautiful and come alive for the audience was the fact that Dr. Reuschling was there, still, cheering me on. As a matter of fact, we had an early dinner and talked casually about my book and life in general, before making our way over to the speaking engagement.

One of the founders of Western Philosophy, Socrates, was the archetype of being intentional. He believed that philosophy – the love of knowledge – was the most important pursuit above all else…so much so that he was willing to die for his belief. For some he personifies, more than anyone in history, the pursuit of wisdom through questioning and logical argument by examining and thinking critically about ourselves. Socrates asserted that a life without philosophy – an “unexamined” life – was not worth living.

Like Socrates, I challenge you to examine your life and to live life intentionally.