Stories including VSA

A Place That Loves Me Back

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.

Reaching Common Ground

How do you sum up four years in so many words? It is impossible. After countless hours with friends and teammates, professors and administrators, what I have come to appreciate most about my Vassar education is how I have been challenged to rethink my core beliefs and basic assumptions about the world.

The Vassar of my imagination was loud and liberal. As a prospective student, certain “Vassar traits” immediately stood out to me: Vassar students love to walk around campus barefoot, Vassar professors like to be called by their first names, not their last, and Vassar coaches love to showcase the accomplishments of their teams. I think I surprised my parents when I chose to apply early decision to Vassar over some other top-ranked liberal arts colleges because I am pretty quiet, I like to wear shoes (or at least flip-flops), and I prefer to address professors by their last names. Perhaps not the most “conventional” Vassar student, I nevertheless found my place at this school.

Driving through Main Gate in the fall of 2006, I knew I had a lot to learn here and an ocean of opportunities to choose from. The best and fastest way to get acclimated to a new environment is to get involved. So that is exactly what I did. Beginning my freshman year, I committed time and energy to Vassar athletics as a tri-sport athlete in volleyball, squash and rowing, and to the Vassar Student Association (VSA) as class vice president and VSA president. I stretched myself to my limits trying to find time to balance class work, athletics and student government. I traded countless hours of sleep for late night meetings, early morning practices and weekend tournaments off-campus. And I am still not ready to leave.

Thinking back on the last four years, a few moments definitively stand out in my memory: climbing a 75-foot ropes course in Virginia with the volleyball team and coming one step closer to overcoming my fear of heights, winning the VSA presidential election and looking forward to a year of progress, exploring the ice caves at Mohonk during senior week last year, attending candlelit After Hours concerts in the Aula and competing in my last varsity athletics tournament at the national squash championships at Yale University.

The time I’ve spent on the court, in the office and in the dorms have come to define my Vassar experience, almost, if not more than, my time in class. On a more personal level, my term as VSA president has been rewarding, despite the many difficulties that came with the position. I learned how to communicate calmly and effectively, how to listen to different perspectives with an open mind, and how to negotiate and compromise. I am proud that my initiative to grant athletic credit to varsity athletes passed and will be enacted next fall. This is evidence attesting to the fact that incremental change can be accomplished at this institution to better the lives of students, faculty and staff.

In being challenged to rethink my core beliefs, I have learned practical life skills that I will carry with me to law school next year and through life afterwards. As I prepare to move on into a new chapter of my life, my dear alma mater will be close to my heart and always in my mind.

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