I’ve been around a few young adults recently. At seventeen or eighteen, they know everything, need nothing (except money), and haven’t a clue what they want from college except to get away to a new adventure and a better job someday.
I was much the same at that age. Yet I found that college is a place to explore. I found great professors who could excite students about almost any topic. Great athletic programs that helped build confidence, foster competiveness, and develop a sense of achievement. I found that a good college nourishes the mind, body, and spirit – providing a sense of belonging and imparting a set of values that serve one throughout life.
The residential community of students, faculty, and
even the highest level administrators were interested in me, on a
personal level, and that made an enormous difference.
At Saint John’s, I found all of that. But at Saint John’s, there was more. What enabled me to absorb those principles was the environment. The residential community of students, faculty, and even the highest level administrators were interested in me, on a personal level, and that made an enormous difference. Professors and administrators were available; they engaged with their students individually to help us filter new experiences, opportunities, and options at our relatively naive stage of life. At Saint John’s, it was clear that “It is about the students.” It was and is about student learning, values, and maturation. In contemporary terms, the institution encompasses its students in a personal way that helps them sort through how and why their interests, courses, majors, and other elements of their emerging adult lives can be formed into an orderly next step.
At the time, I didn’t have a next step in mind. But I was curious, and that curiosity was encouraged. I received a broad, liberal arts exposure to several disciplines that fed my natural curiosity – some I thought I might be interested in, but failed to excel in, others that I hadn’t originally been attracted to but did excel in. The counseling and nurturing that Saint John’s provided for me set me up for success in my career – as well as in a wide range of interests beyond that career. Smaller liberal arts schools like Saint John’s are especially adept at doing that for students.
What was important to me then, and continues to be now, was the ability to explore widely and to absorb things that were of little use until later in my career – when they suddenly were. And to be guided to understand better who I was and what options I had for my next move – and the one beyond that.
The experience of a nurturing residential college community contributes to confidence, knowledge, judgment, and eventually wisdom. That’s what Saint John’s does.
I left with an “attitude,” an attitude that caused me to constantly ask “Why not?” where that was rarely asked, to think strategically and a few steps ahead, and to muse over why a broader perspective might not result in a better alternative. A liberal arts attitude.
From clueless to clued-in with an emphasis on finding “myself,” the whole person: that was what Saint John’s did for me and it made all the difference.