Ra’Daniel Arvie has always been in service to others, but in college, he learned the lesson that many in service must eventually learn — to take care of others, one must also take care of one's self.
On May 20, Arvie will receive his bachelor’s degree in management with an emphasis in human resources from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln — but achieving that goal almost fell apart.
As a first-year student in 2018, Arvie arrived on campus with dreams of being an architect, but he felt himself pulled more to his church back home in Omaha than to Architecture Hall. He struggled to fit in, and often felt very different from his peers. Was architecture really for him?
“I found myself in freshman year at a crossroads, because I’d wanted to be an architect since I was in fourth grade,” Arvie said. “It was almost an identity crisis in a sense, because I’d never thought about anything else.”
Arvie spent less and less time on his school work, as he was driving back to Omaha many nights to serve his church and see family and friends. The pattern diverted him from building the ever-important community on campus.
“Not knowing what I wanted to do, that created a void for me, which also caused me instability,” he said. “I am the type of person that needs stability, and I wasn’t doing that. I never had a week that was just a regular week — always something new, something different going on.”
Arvie knew he was in trouble and was ultimately academically dismissed from the university in May 2019. He immediately decided he wanted to turn things around, and quickly. He appealed his dismissal, and leaned on his academic adviser, Leslie Gonzalez, his family and faith.
“They didn’t judge me,” Arvie said. “They just wanted to know why it happened. I remember my dad said, ‘why didn’t you tell me you needed help?’ They just wanted to help me fix it.”
In his letter to complete his Appeal for Academic Reinstatement, Arvie was “brutally honest.”
“I knew I wasn’t dismissed because I couldn’t do the work,” Arvie said. “I was dismissed because I didn’t do the work, and I wanted the second chance to do it right. It was no one’s fault but mine.”
He gave it to God.
“I was hoping for a miracle and that’s what I got,” he said. “It strengthened my faith because I had to rely on God and others’ grace to get me out of the situation I was in. I cried when I got the email saying I could come back.”
He was starting over academically, but he was determined.
“I went into the Explore Center, and I used every resource I could on campus,” Arvie said. “I had some anxieties about being in the Explore Center and not knowing what I wanted to do, but I learned it’s not uncommon, and they helped me figure out what my interests were, and one of those was business.”
Arvie enrolled in various classes. He kept a close eye on his grades, knowing that a 2.0 GPA was required to maintain, and he wanted to see that number climb quickly. He also started becoming more involved on campus, including in OASIS.
“They really helped my find my community on campus,” Arvie said. “And they’re a part of that. They made sure I was going to events and meeting other students who were doing their work and finding success, and that encouraged me. They helped me find any type of help I needed.”
Among the varied courses he took was an introductory human resources class with Jenna Pieper. The class resonated with him, and his love of service to others.
“That’s when I realized I did want to do business, human resources specifically,” he said. “I’m a people person, and the interaction with people you get with that position appealed to me. You’re not just part of a core team. You’re really working with everyone, and I view it as service-based, both to the people and the organization.”
Arvie started finding that stability he needed — then the COVID-19 pandemic shut down campus.
“At first, I was relieved a little,” he said. “There was graciousness from our professors, and I felt like I needed a break because since I’d come back, I was in hustle mode.
“But I quickly realized we were going to be out for the rest of the semester, and no matter what question I asked, the answer was ‘We don’t know,’ because the situation was so horrible. I had to create stability for myself again.”
Arvie purchased a desk, knowing he studied better at a desk than on his bed or a couch. He started a new daily routine, including turning over a cube of affirmation words his sister had given him, choosing a new word every day, and thinking about his goals.
“I tell my mom that COVID made me an adult in a way, because I think before that, my parents gave me that stability, but I had to create that stability for myself to succeed,” he said. “I got into the habit of logging into my Zoom courses 30 minutes beforehand, and I would read up on the material so I was ready. That changed my academic life. I still do that to this day, even with in-person classes.”
When in-person classes resumed, Arvie was ready. He also became more involved on campus, joining the Afrikan Peoples Union, Husker Dialogues, the Society for Human Resource Management, Jacht Agency, the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of People of Color and more. He found that being involved expanded his community and added more stability, as he was even more intentional with his time.
As a peer mentor in OASIS, Arvie shares his struggle and what he learned openly.
“My advice to underclassmen is to really find out what works for you, and that’s not a pro tip I heard when I came into college,” Arvie said. “As a peer mentor for OASIS now, I tell them all the time, ‘I know what works for me. I can’t tell you what works for you. It starts with self-reflection. How do you learn, and what circumstance or atmosphere is going to help you be successful? Try to duplicate that as much as you can.’”
As Arvie graduates, he’s looking ahead to being back in Omaha, near his nieces and nephews, He wants to stay in Nebraska and hopefully start his career with an organization that is service-oriented, possibly in the nonprofit or education sectors. He wants to continue to give back to his community in any way that he can.
“My siblings and I always joked that college was our ticket out of Nebraska,” he said. “But as an adult, as a mature person, the things I value are here in Omaha — my family, my church. Nebraska, especially Omaha and Lincoln, is on the precipice of growing into what everyone who has ever left wanted when they were here.
“Ten, 20 years down the road, I want to say ‘Yeah, I was here throughout the whole process.’ I prefer to be part of Nebraska’s growth, rather than part of the statistics of people who are leaving.”