Meet best friends Meredith Heneghan and Albert Conteh. Albert is in my 9:35 a.m. family studies course and Meredith is in COJO 220 – Interpersonal Communication – immediately following. About week two of the semester I began noticing a contagious energy exchanged between the two. As classes changed from one to next (same room), they would greet each other, chat and friend-hug – usually with great animation and contorted, silly faces … plus the occasional inside joke (“We’re not just on the same wavelength, we’re on the same URL.”)
Being my observant (ha) and interpersonally savvy (bahaha) self, I finally asked: “You two know one another?!”
The following Wednesday, during one of those class-transitioning and hug-filled-good-morning-friend moments, Meredith and Albert simultaneously moved toward me with a collective, eager expression paired with a pleasing invitation. Surely I responded with inappropriate eye contact – frantically shifting my lecture materials, and my mindset, from last hour’s discussion (the ever-practical Symbolic Interactionism theory) to next hour’s interactive activity, which involved tying labels on people’s heads (to explore “self” as a social construction).
“Dr. Bruess, would you ever have coffee with us … just to get to know each other better?”
My response came immediately and explosively from my mouth, unfortunately with the ever-annoying and high-pitched Carol timbre: “OF COURSE!”
And thus it was that an idea was born: 2 students + 1 professor + 3 mugs of fall beverages + 1 tiny corner in Coffee Bene = a new series for The Scroll.
In an overly obvious nod to Brandon Stanton’s ever-popular “Humans of New York” blog and book by the same title, why not catalogue a few of St. Thomas’ “inhabitants?”
We quite deserve regular glimpses – like I was getting of Meredith and Albert on that chilly fall afternoon – into the daily lives and denizens of our beautiful campus community. Lucky for me, uber-talented sophomore Elena Neuzil – a some-day famous photographer, I predict – has agreed to help capture the faces via her sharp eye and Canon SLR while I share Scroll-sized slices of their stories (via my wanderings about campus and obsession with talking to, well, other humans).
And so begins the first installment of – wait for it – our very own “Humans of St. Thomas.”
Meredith is a junior; Albert, a senior. He’s from Sierra Leone; she’s from southern Wisconsin. He, in his own words, “is extremely gay.” Her ultimate dream? “Being a mommy some day.”
Meredith, on life: “My sister is my hero. She shows me what determination means. She shows me that it’s okay to not always say everything.”
Albert, on life goals: “I want to impact our society in a positive way through my passion of performing. And I know wherever life takes me, if I’m on stage, I will be the happiest.”
Meredith, on St. Thomas: “This place challenges me to always be considering and re-defining my values and beliefs. I love that I am a part of community that forces me to critically evaluate and explain myself, sometimes to people who have never heard an explanation like mine.”
Albert, on friendship: “When an individual is able to have one view, but have the uncanny ability to see the other side. I love when people have a willingness to try new things. I believe open people have such a beautiful perception in the world.”
Meredith: Works at the Center for Writing and the Loft. She loves banana chocolate chip bread. And doodling.
Albert: Has seven older sisters. He was the first to be born in the United States.
Meredith: Is minoring in American culture and difference and majoring in family studies. Her favorite color is yellow.
Albert: Will graduate in seven weeks with a major in psychology and minor in family studies. First thing he’ll do when the diploma arrives? “Take a photo of my new diploma, with an eye-appealing filter. Then post it on all my social media: #GUESSIT’SOFFICAL #COLLEGEGRAD #GROWNUPSTATUS #ALUM!” He admits he’ll also toast himself with an appropriate drink.
Meredith: “My spirit animal is a hummingbird. They’re tiny but stunning, and the world slows down when I see one.”
Albert: “I’m a major sucker for the hipster-chic fashion. Obsessed!”
Meredith, on her obsession: “I had to buy a whole new water bottle this summer to accommodate my sticker collection.”
Albert, reflecting on his most profound St. Thomas experiences: “Those outstanding educators who took the time to connect with me. To inspire me. And my VISION experience that challenged my perception of the world. I’ve appreciated all of that. And the beautifully, amazing, outstanding, fantastic friends. I love St. Thomas because, if you give it a chance, it can be the best environment to be in.”
Meredith, on life lessons learned – so far, anyway: “I’ve already learned how to be excessively optimistic, how to have a healthy sleep schedule and how to write a kick-butt paper. I’ve learned that comparison is the thief of joy. And that it’s OK to change your mind. I’ve learned when it’s a good idea to apologize, and when it’s time to say goodbye.”
Know some humans at UST? Do tell, because I’d sure love to meet them and share their stories. I’m at email@example.com.