TCU encourages students to self-reflect with “This I Believe” essays

Take a breath, have a seat and write an essay.

“This I Believe,” a program developed by Brittney Luby, chapel and events coordinator, asked this question of faculty, staff and students.

On Tuesday Luby set up a table in front of the Founder’s statue and asked people walking by to stop and write down one word describing something in which they believed. As students wrote down phrases, Luby told them about the essay-writing project that is now up and running.

Students could get scared when they hear the word “essay,” but the project had no deadlines or grades, Luby said. This I Believe centered on listening to the voice of the university, she said.

The university’s This I Believe program, which began in March, was inspired by the 1950s radio program of the same name, Luby said. 

In the original radio program, renowned journalist Edward R. Murrow asked Americans from all walks of life to write and recite their essays on air, Luby said.

Now, This I Believe lives on as an online project and a special feature on National Public Radio.

Luby, who regularly followed the national This I Believe project, spent a weekend during the fall semester reflecting and writing in a monastery. Following her weekend retreat, she decided she wanted the university to experience the benefits of self-reflection, she said.

Brief, 500-word essays provided a way for people to explore their personal beliefs and to create a mission statement based on their experiences, said Mary Jo Gediman, outreach director for the national This I Believe project.

Luby said the project has a website,, where students could submit their essays. Eventually, the essays could all be a part of a book.

Many college students might leave behind their parents’ beliefs and forge their own, Gediman said. 

“And it’s a good time to write those things down so that you can live by those beliefs your whole life,” she said.

Too often, people lived in conflict with their beliefs, said Carol Thompson, the Department Chair of Sociology, Criminal Justice and Anthropology, who helped Luby develop the project. And it could be that those people never defined or revisited those beliefs, Thompson said.

Studying terms, writing papers and reading books could distract students from meaningful internal conversations, Thompson said.

“When I was in school I looked in the mirror and asked, ‘What do I believe in?’” Thompson said. She said she developed ethical guidelines which have led her to be a vegetarian for almost 30 years.

As soon as Thompson heard about the university-created This I Believe project, she said she offered support.

Examining and respecting beliefs should be a part of the college learning experience, Thompson said. This I Believe would create an atmosphere in which beliefs could be shared on campus.

The Rev. Angela Kaufman, minister to the university, also helped develop the project. She said she thought back to an experience at Frog Camp when she sat in a circle with her group and talked about their beliefs. But those experiences were limited to certain settings, she said.

“This project can occur anywhere at anytime and all those stories can come together to tell our story at TCU,” Kaufman said.