Let Us Introduce You: Robert Wassel


Javier Muro de Nadal / Staff Photographer


A year of service spent in West Virginia had tremendous influence on Robert Wassel, SLU’s assistant director for Service and Community Engagement for the past nine years. The time Wassel spent volunteering in rural West Virginia helped guide his career path, and even helped him guide the many SLU students who come to him searching for service opportunities.

Approximately a decade ago, Wassel, after completing his undergraduate degree at Indiana University, spent a year volunteering at the Catholic community of Nazareth Farm, located in Salem, a rural West Virginian town. Wassel lived in this community with seven other people, and helped guide college students who came from all around the country to volunteer for a week. One of the main tasks that the community focused on was home repair; then, in the evenings, the volunteers would discuss and reflect on the day.

“I lived on a hippie commune,” says Wassel, when asked about Nazareth Farm. “We showered about once a week, grew our own food, and really tried to live a life of simplicity.”

Nazareth Farm was instrumental in shaping Wassel’s future. It led him to a career he’s passionate about- helping college-age students discover their interests and find themselves. Wassel doesn’t see his employment at SLU as a “job”- he sees it as a calling, which he calls his “vocation”.  Similarly, he wants to help SLU students find their “vocations” as well.

He mainly helps SLU students by linking them to individualized service opportunities that are relevant to each student’s goals. One of the ways that he does this is through an online Google form, which collects information about the student that can be used to search for relevant, useful service opportunities.

Another project that Wassel has had a hand in is Make a Difference Day. Although it is now quite popular among SLU students, with about 4000 out of 14000 SLU students participating in the event, this popularity is a recent occurrence. When Wassel first arrived at SLU nine years ago, approximately 1200 students participated in the event. With Wassel’s aid, and promotion from SLU as a whole, the event has grown exponentially.

In addition to encouraging students to follow the Jesuit mission, which is based in service, Wassel is also invested in the Catholic faith at SLU.  However, he says that service is universal; he’s glad that the students here take the mission to serve to heart.

“People of all faiths, or no faith at all, can all get behind serving others. Service isn’t limited by religion,” says Wassel.

Nazareth Farm continues to influence Wassel’s life; it happens to be where he met his wife, with whom he now has two children.

Although being a parent now takes up most of Wassel’s spare time, he is an avid runner, and has run multiple marathons in the past. When he isn’t running or helping to take care of his kids, Wassel cheers for the Chicago Cubs, and as a huge basketball fan, for the Billikens, too.

Another interesting fact about Wassel is that he played competitive chess and remains a huge fan of fantasy and sci-fi movies, such as “The Lord of the Rings.”

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