I have a conflicting relationship with the month of September, and now that it is behind me for another year, it’s time to talk about it.
Who doesn’t love the fall colors, or getting hopelessly lost in a corn maze, and you can’t beat the feeling of sleeping with the windows wide open, allowing the cold, crisp air to force you under a mound of blankets you haven’t seen since last winter. There is also excitement and energy as campus comes back to life, and that’s why I love the month and all the promises of the new academic year.
The part of September that made me melancholy ever since I graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College back in 2007 (I know, I’m getting old, almost 25 now . . .), is that I could not seem to shake the jealousy I have for all the undergraduate students getting to live their college years. As I directed more than 1,000 cars through the upper quad during move-in weekend and welcomed first-year students to campus, I could not help being envious of the excitement that was sure to follow as they met Tommie for the first time.
Also, let’s be real: walking to work through campus on a nice, sunny September afternoon can be cruel. I wanted to be with students sitting on the grass, chatting about weekend plans, playing Frisbee or procrastinating over homework. I miss the days of shuffling between classes, being on the tennis team, study parties in the library and decking out in my Gustie gear to cheer on the fall sport teams; yes, I am aware St. Thomas may have beat us at almost every sport, but I still have my Gustie pride. September served as a reminder that I was no longer an undergraduate student. Graduate school is great and all, but it’s all academics minus the fun.
Lucky for me, I was able to find a career path that allows me to be part of the college community. As I enter my second year working as a graduate assistant in the Office of Campus Life, my concerns with being a college graduate have faded, and I have come to love working with college students even more than being one.
The students at St. Thomas never cease to impress me with the dedication and professionalism in their everyday activities. Working next door to the student leadership offices, I get to see firsthand all the hard work and passion the students put into their roles to help make St. Thomas great and to serve others, along with developing their own character.
In the book No Neutral Ground, Robert B. Young states, “Higher education does not make people equal. That goal is too low. Instead, the aim is to increase the development of individuality.”
The opportunities St. Thomas gives to students are doing just that: developing individuality. What they are doing outside of the classroom, paired with their academics, is developing as a whole. I cannot help but be excited to come into work every day to hear new ideas from students and guide them through the process of making their ideas a reality. Fishing Club? Entrepreneurial Society? Colleges Against Cancer? Women’s Water Polo? Let’s do it! Here’s how.
As I reflect further, I realize I may have more love for September than sorrow. Working with students and watching them grow, along with my own growth, has proven to be an even greater experience than my days in college. I can honestly say the spirit and sense of community I feel at St. Thomas has loosened my Gustie pride and made me proud to put on my purple every Tuesday.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I still would rather be outside playing catch on a warm September afternoon than sitting in front of my lonely office computer. Thankfully, the colder October weather is bringing students back into the buildings, keeping me company.