Brendan Duffy: Paying it Forward

Blake Cesarz, Student Support Specialist

The year 2020 wasn’t the year anyone hoped for. An unprecedented period in our nation’s history, and in the world’s, this past year has shown us both our collective best and our collective worst. It has tested us, challenged the boundaries of normalcy, made us think, reevaluate, and reconsider. Though the year certainly closed its fair share of doors and put some things on hold, it surprisingly also created opportunities we would not have otherwise had; the opportunities to grow, to reconnect, to reaffirm frayed or fraying bonds, to practice empathy, revisit old passions, or discover new ones, to contribute to a cause, and to become, perhaps, more than we were.

Brendan Duffy, a senior studying communication and political science who utilized SALT Center services during his time at the university, has faced quite a few of his own challenges amidst the pandemic.

Brendan Duffy

Photo courtesy of Paxton Tomooka

“Everything changed from the moment we went whole routine has changed; the way I feel, have to learn, and participate. It’s more difficult to find motivation. Also, not having that face-to-face time with your teachers and classmates is very difficult. Jennifer Hansen, my Student Support Specialist, helped me out a lot, and I think a lot of other students at SALT have had that support from their Specialists. Jennifer especially does a really good job with that.”

To overcome these challenges, Brendan not only sought out support through the SALT Center, but he also decided to fight the pandemic firsthand by taking on the role of a COVID Ambassador within the University’s Local Government and Community Relations department, for which he had interned this past summer. Brendan has been no stranger to campus engagement, having participated in the Honors College as well as in the Athletics department, where he served for a time as the University’s mascot, Wilbur T. Wildcat. However, it is this most recent role as a COVID Ambassador of which he seems most proud.

“When we got started, it was basically just me, another intern, and my boss’s son who were the only COVID Ambassadors. We had one golf cart between us, and our goal was to handout masks around campus, and direct the flow at campus testing centers. We also had info cards to tell people the regulations for campus and for the city. The education aspect was extremely important, and the first week of school, I really thought we had our work cut out for us because not a lot of people were wearing their masks. But, week by week, as we got more people on our team, and the more people saw us around campus…there’s a big change from the first week of school to now.

"I think this period is going to be talked about for a long time, even when it’s all over, and I’ll be able to say I was one of the people who was out there trying to make a difference." 

Brendan’s commitment to his fellow students during this unprecedented time is a shining example to us all. In a time filled with a blaring fever pitch of confusion, and so very many voices clamoring to be heard, it is with a quiet dignity, and a gentle hand, that Brendan and his fellow Ambassadors entered the fray to provide a symbol of safety, personal responsibility, and security for our campus community. From it all, Brendan not only shared that he grew in the role as a leader, he also shared his big take-away from the whole experience:

"Kindness really does go a long way. It’s been a scary time, and an election year, so everyone has been a little more on edge. I think when someone’s kind to you you’re more likely to respond in kind, because it’s important to pay it forward."