by Karen Roberts Turner, Class of 1986
When I reflect back on my days at Vassar, the snapshots that most immediately come to my mind include the prospectus, “Your Mind Our Matter”, Serenading, Vassar Devils, White Angels (Mrs. M and Mrs. Whalen were the best), the Noyes Bonfire, Primal Scream, the best single rooms in Strong, watching “Dynasty” and ordering Napoli’s Pizza on Friday Night (and it never took “half an hour”), parties in the ICC with the West Pointers, Trouble Funk at Sunset Lake, cookies and cream milkshakes from the Retreat, Daisy Chain, tea in Main, Ntozake Shange, Michael Manley, Jim Lehrer, Garry Trudeau, and Meryl Streep, the bus trip to Broadway to see “Dream Girls,” table cloths and steak in ACDC for Parent’s Weekend, the Mug Dance, Rocky Horror, going to the Harvard-Yale game and the Black Student Union after-party, basketball games at Marist, Biology labs, having to go to the library to use a computer, Students’ Afro-American Society meetings and the uprising caused by The Misc., the beautiful trees in the Quad, raising our voices against Apartheid and to “Free Mandela,” spending Junior Year at Spelman, forming friendships that have lasted a lifetime, and developing a mind strong enough to change the world!
by Nate Silver, Class of 2010
I came to Vassar planning to double-major in drama and political science, take the LSAT during my senior year, head to law school next fall and be a practicing attorney by the time I was 25. Along the way the poli-sci major fizzled to a passionless correlate (culminating in its complete dissolution courtesy of the Registrar’s office last week), I took no LSATS, applied to no law schools, and am graduating with a bachelor’s degree in drama with no real life plan other than financial instability and artistic uncertainty. And I couldn’t be happier.
Such is the beauty of my Vassar education. I have been taught that what’s most important is for me to be able to look into the mirror each morning-at my bald head, grizzly beard, and (very, very cute) dimples-and be proud of the choices I have made. I have been taught to value passion over wealth and, as difficult as it might be to cope with the thought that I will never own a penthouse in lower-Manhattan, I’ve been sure to befriend a few econ majors along the way.
At Vassar I’ve had the opportunity to try many things: student government, carnival rides, star-gazing, math classes, dancing, writing long papers, Jesus’s chili, to name several. I’ve realized that, though I like to do many things, there are only two things in the world that I love: food and theater. From winning the Big Sauce Challenge freshman year (and the odd combination of pride and embarrassment that came with seeing “Nate Silver Sauce” as a special in the Retreat), to chairing the Food Committee and helping the Aramark’s Chinese guest chefs make noodles my sophomore year, to writing a weekly food column for The Miscellany News and launching my very own catering company this fall, my College experience was fundamental in harnessing my passion for cooking.
Falling in love with theater was unexpected, or at least, the extent to which I have made it a part of my life is. I came to theater relatively late in life, not having been in a play until I was 16, and though finding a college with a great theater program was part of my college search, it was not the most important factor. Twelve plays later I must say that theater has defined my college experience. I was told I had limited space for this retrospective, so after contemplating how I could say all the things I want to say to the Vassar Drama Department in this column (my idea to write this whole thing in size 7.5 font didn’t fly), let me just say this: I have never worked harder, failed more miserably, been more proud or strived to be a better person more than I have under your guidance. I am grateful for every second I have spent in the Center for Drama and Film, and though I will miss Sunset Lake, the Library lawn and the outdoor amphitheater, it is on the floor of the drama building that my feet will have the hardest time getting used to not being.
Sentimentality aside, what Vassar has truly prepared me for is to begin a life beyond its walls. I have been given the tools I need, an unbreakable support structure if I fail, and a beautiful community of intellectuals to return to when I’m ready. Though the future remains delightfully uncertain, my Vassar education is my empowerment and, at least for now, when I look into the mirror each morning, I am proud of the man this college has made me.
by Liz Pacheco, Class of 2010
This past fall I had the opportunity to talk with a number of alumnae/i about my experience here at Vassar. I was asked why I chose the school, what activities I was involved in, my favorite place on campus, and a number of other questions that were meant to detail my personal experience over the past four years. Toward the end of the conversation, I was asked the inevitable: “So what is the campus climate really like right now?” It was about halfway through the fall semester, and at that point the situation wasn’t so great. Spirits were low, and students, faculty members, administrators and staff were all frustrated. Words like “transparency” and “economic downturn” had become part of everyday conversations. And so, I was honest with the alums: The campus attitude was fairly negative, but not at all uninspiring. I had come to the conclusion that students were taking action, demanding the best resolutions from their administrators for one reason: Vassar students love this place.
For me, drawing this conclusion was a revelation of sorts that I had yet to recognize for some reason. I knew that if anyone asked me about my Vassar experience my automatic response would be: “It has been incredible. I love this place!” And yet for the first time I was really able to approach these sentiments as an observer. I watched my fellow students spend time organizing protests, making signs, creating videos, signing petitions, participating in ergathons and writing letters to the Miscellany, showing their love for their academics, their professors and their staff members, all the while pushing those in charge to make the choices that were the best for the College.
These choices were anything but black and white, and I watched as peer institutions struggled through the same process. However, I couldn’t help but think that the situation at Vassar would always be better-our students just cared more. Despite the challenges that came the way of the College, students were still continuing with their academics and extracurriculars. There were three-, even four-hour Vassar Student Association meetings, with students using the opportunity to make their voices heard. No opinion was deemed unimportant and all were expressed in an effort to make the College a better place for its students.
Any Vassar student here both first and second semester will admit that the campus climate took a dramatic turn after Winter Break , and students seemed to be much more preoccupied in showing their love in more traditional ways. Plays were sold out, a capella concerts overwhelmingly attended, and the stands at men’s volleyball games (and even men and women’s lacrosse games) were overflowing. Students supported the events, their peers, their professors and their community love-everything from thesis presentations to readings by English professors and composition classes, to a local elementary school threatened by budget cuts.
By the end of spring semester, there is always the anticipation of what the next academic year will hold. From many of my fellow outgoing seniors I’ve heard concerns (and excitement) about changes that will come to Vassar next fall, and it’s been sad to watch their realization that they will no longer be a part of that immediate Vassar community. Yes, as the Alumnae and Alumni Association of Vassar College will remind you, the seniors are becoming part of that vast network of Vassar alumnae/i, an exclusive club of sorts that is still allowed to come back once a year to celebrate Founder’s Day. But the experience won’t be the same, and our love for Vassar will be taking another form. We’ll be celebrating it whenever we see our friends in New York City or Asheville, N.C. or maybe even Alaska, writing about it through e-mails and Facebook posts, and reading about it whenever we catch a classmate’s name in a newspaper article, or even a byline. And most important, our love will be forever extended to those current students at Vassar through our faith in knowing that those already here are showing the same love that has made the past four years nothing less than incredible.
by Kelly Stout, Class of 2010
All the living rooms in the Town Houses (THs) look about the same: one window, linoleum flooring, and-for some reason I don’t think I’ll ever understand-no lighting.
In an attempt to set our TH apart, my housemates and I called our living room “Florida” this year. Our striped orange couch, purple carpet, faux-glass patio table purchased at an estate sale, and indoor plants gave it this sort of tropical living facility vibe that made us feel not like seniors as much as senior citizens.
Which is, of course, pretty funny considering we’re all 21 and 22 years old. But anyone who has ever taken a poli-sci class can tell you that the spaces we occupy alter the activities we do in them and thus our identities. So it’s not totally impossible to believe that we’ve spent the past year acting a little like old people-excuse, me-active adults.
I’ve spent a good deal of time at Vassar doing the kinds of things that your grandpa does when he hangs out in his plastic patio furniture shouting about what everyone else is doing wrong. I’ve had the pleasure of writing for the Humor & Satire section and editing the Features section of The Miscellany News – tasks that have required that I poke fun at everyone and everything at Vassar and take on a sort of weird public critic persona. At times I’ve felt a little like grandpa sitting there in his orthopedic shoes shouting insults from the corner when all I really wanted to do was make everyone laugh.
And sometimes I felt like grandma too. I wrote the Humor and Satire section’s “Weekly Calendar,” a long-standing tradition that dates back to the much-missed-but-not-forgotten Miscellany News Backpage, and includes a daily themed nod to the historic-if poorly attended-tea in the Rose Parlor. In fact, I’ve never actually been to tea in the Rose Parlor for all the hours I’ve spent making fun of campus culture through it. Regardless, thinking so much about tea in the Rose has sometimes made me wonder whether although I physically appear 21, I might actually be a 70-year-old dandy sippin’ on Earl Grey in the Rose à la Benjamin Button.
The trick, I think, is to remember that we never actually have lived like AARP members. Vassar is a place where we’ve all tried on different ages for size. We’ve talked as if we’re in our mid-40s in an afternoon seminar one moment, and behaved with the maturity level of toddlers at TH parties only hours later. Then we’ve felt like arthritic seniors again the morning after.
And now we’re leaving the retirement community, ditching the faux glass table aesthetic, and won’t return for another 50 years. We’re retiring from retirement. Or something.
Everyone’s been bellyaching about how hard it is to sum up four years at Vassar especially as we’re clinging to it the way Leo clung to that piece of wood in Titanic, but I have to admit that I can sum up my Vassar education: I’ve learned to be open here. Vassar and the friends and professors I’ve had here have helped me to see why things are interesting and to see why they’re funny.
I’m so grateful to Vassar because I’m curious and open, and I know it’s because I went here. The secret, I’ve learned, to being a critic, is not only to be-hopefully-interesting, but interested. Which brings me to the point of this retrospective: The great thing about not actually being an old dog is that we can still learn new tricks.
So until the day I actually join the AARP, goodbye “Florida,” goodbye patio furniture, goodbye Vassar and goodbye tea in the Rose! I’m ready to come out of retirement, and I’m ready to try out my new tricks.
by Chloe McConnell, Class of 2010
“What will you miss most about Vassar?” a friend’s father recently asked. I took a moment. The campus, the academics, the activities? I went with my friends; “Living in such a high concentration of 20- to 22-year-olds,” I responded. “I’ll never again be surrounded by so many incredible people my age. All my closest friends live with a 15 minute radius.” To me, Vassar is about making meaningful connections: relationships between people, parallels between classes, and analogies between academics and life-experiences. From frustrating days in the library freshman year to quirky evenings in senior housing, the past four years were absolutely extraordinary.
I started classes freshman year by making a pact with myself: that academics would always come first. I spent most days in the Library, but luckily had incredible friends in Cushing House to return to each evening. While I’ve stood by my academic goals, I eventually realized that the relationships made here are just as significant.
I joined The Miscellany News sophomore year and immediately developed great relationships with my colleagues whilst working through the grueling weekly production schedule. Being on the paper spurred an active engagement with the College’s inner workings. Learning about Vassar’s history, understanding the administration and tracking current arts events fostered a deep respect for the institution.
After a diverting junior semester abroad in London, I wasn’t ready to return to the rigid Vassar schedule and the tiny campus. Moving in to the new Town Houses, however, refreshed the school for me. I lived with ten girls who transformed from mere acquaintances to close friends by the semesters’ end. I met professors that challenged me and took courses that reformulated my interests. This continued into senior year, which has outdone the rest in terms of meaningful friendships and social excitement. I wrote two theses and took on new opportunities with a WVKR radio show. I fully immersed myself in Vassar’s peculiar social traditions, and I explored the beautiful campus. Even after walking the same paths thousands of times, I still gaped at the huge trees and magnificent buildings. Leaving this idyllic environment will definitely come as a shock.
I haven’t yet come to terms with leaving the place that has been my home for the past four years, but maybe I don’t have to. While my time on this campus will conclude on May 23, and the concentration of smart minds and affectionate hearts will disperse, I know that Vassar will stay with me. This somehow makes graduation and the thought of starting another chapter of my life a little less terrifying. Absorbing Vassar’s culture and ethos is inevitable. It will remain inside of me through all that I have learnt; it will remain around me through my continued friendships.
For the rest of my life, these past four years will persistently shape my character and thoughts. I want to say thank you to all my professors, friends and classmates. Thank you for building this unforgettable experience.