Perspectives: On The Topic of Belief

How does the power of belief take hold in our lives?

Headshot of Rebecca Barth

Rebecca Barth ’16

Center for Career Engagement assistant director

Students are the core of everything we do at Gettysburg College. Whether they are on the cutting edge of research and technology with our faculty experts or at the forefront of our Bullet Hole dining staff helping to serve our community, they are essential members of every team.

Merging what a student learns inside and outside the classroom, Student Employment Services strives every day to incorporate student employment into the College’s integrated student experience. Our philosophy is that student employment is not just a job—it is an experiential learning opportunity where students can build upon the enduring skills they gain at Gettysburg to be successful in future endeavors.

We also believe supervisors are educators. Through their collaboration and partnership, our students have been able to learn how to use new technologies to enhance the student experience, create and present programs to engage their peers, propose new initiatives to make the College a better place, lead their peers to initiate change, and so much more. Our student employees and supervisors truly make Gettysburg great!

Headshot of Timothy Funk ’00

Timothy Funk ’00

Chemistry chair and professor

Beliefs can be powerful, uplifting, inspirational, and dangerous. As a scientist, my default setting is to base many of my beliefs on tangible evidence when possible and to be skeptical when it is lacking. Part of doing science is being comfortable having your beliefs or theories proven wrong, and our world would be a better place if everyone was open to having their beliefs challenged.

We can also improve our communities by believing in the potential of ourselves and the people we meet. At Gettysburg College, our students come from many different cultures and backgrounds, but they all share a desire to learn and become more engaged citizens. I have been fortunate to work with many students in my classes and my research lab over the last 16 years. They are the most successful when they believe in themselves and have a group of friends, family, faculty, and administrators who affirm their potential and self-worth.

My experiences with our students have given me great faith in their ability to tackle the important problems facing our world. I believe in our future because I believe in them.

Headshot of Brent Hege ’98

Brent Hege ’98

Senior lecturer in religion and Center for Faith and Vocation scholar-in-residence, Butler Univ.

The 19th-century English mathematician William Kingdon Clifford called belief a “sacred faculty.” There are at least three meanings of belief: To what am I willing to commit myself, to desire, to love? (the “existential” meaning). What do the facts suggest, and what is supported with sufficient evidence? (the “empirical” meaning). What am I not sure about? What do I think might happen or not? (the “hypothetical” meaning).

The frustrating and beautiful thing about the English language is that all three meanings are contained in this one deceptively simple word. With this one word, we can plumb the depths of the human experience to determine what we value, what we love, what we hope, what we can support, what we can prove, what we can guess, and what we just don’t know. So much of what it means to be a human being is contained in this simple word: “belief.”

The Latin word for “believe” is credere, which means “to give one’s heart.” To what are we willing to give our hearts? Our beliefs orient, guide, and shape us and our world, so to believe (in) something is a sacred invitation and responsibility we should not take lightly.

Headshot of Susan Fumagalli Mahoney

Susan Fumagalli Mahoney

Senior associate director of athletics and compliance officer

From age 5 through college, I was a competitive swimmer and later became a runner. While training for my fifth half marathon in 2015, I injured my foot, which required surgical reconstruction. After extensive rehab, I believed I would return to the active lifestyle I once enjoyed. Yet, fast forward more than seven years, and I am learning how to walk on bilateral prostheses.

My medical journey has been incomprehensible. With an undiagnosed medical condition never seen before, I traveled to the best medical facilities across the country. I had numerous surgeries, two of which claimed both of my lower extremities above the knee. A team of doctors, family, and friends believed that an answer would be found for me. It allowed my heart to hold onto hope during life’s most difficult times.

While I might not have realized it then, swimming and running taught me how to persevere, which gave me strength I never knew I had—until I needed it most. When you believe in someone, it can change their future. The steps I am taking now are because everyone around me, especially my medical team, believed in my tomorrows.

Headshot of Miranda Zamora

Miranda Zamora ’23

Former Student Senate president, political science major, Spanish minor

Belief has been an essential part of my time at Gettysburg College. It is something that has helped me not only find my way through life, but it has also helped me to advocate for others. My role as Student Senate president has taught me to believe in others and the work that they can do. It has motivated me to act for others, as I know that others have come to believe in me to make change.

The belief that others have had in me has given me incredible opportunities, such as becoming a Fielding Fellow through the Eisenhower Institute, working in various legal internships, and even representing Gettysburg College at a White House conference with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

But most importantly, belief allows one to have faith in oneself. No matter what life throws in one’s way, whether it be a rejection email from a graduate school or a job interview gone wrong, belief pushes us to get up off the ground and try again.

“My experiences with our students have given me great faith in their ability to tackle the important problems facing our world. I believe in our future because I believe in them.”

- Timothy Funk ’00
Chemistry chair and professor

More stories