T: Amazing Husband ST: Three-year-old Wonder Prof. G: Advisor I Prof. C: Advisor II Julie: Stylish Sister Rob: Awesome Brother Belle: Our Cat Bill: Grumbling BIL Rita: Uncomplicated SIL SMU: Smallish Midwestern University Doctoral University: where I got my Ph.D.
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Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Campus Love Letter
I cried big tears when I walked off of my undergraduate campus for the last time. I lingered a bit on the lawn in front of the performing arts building, the building in which I'd spent many happy hours in practice and in conversation with good friends. I drove one last time past the library (which would be completely rebuilt just three years after I graduated) and recalled the insane number of quarters I'd plugged into the copy machines, the frustrations I'd had with my oh-so-sophisticated PINE email account, and the times T and I would spend at a table near the reference desk, pretending to study. I loved that campus, loved my time at that university, and I was certain that I'd always be a [Insert Team Name] at heart.
Then T and I moved to Western State, and we both attended Private University for graduate degrees. T was seeking a professional degree, and I was working to support him and also studying for the infamous Master's Degree I Never Use But Am Still Paying For. When we left Private University, we felt no attachment to the place whatsoever. We were eager to leave. Off the top of my head, I cannot remember the name of the mascot for Private University's sports team, and I do not own anything that says "Private University" (PU!) on it.
My final academic destination was Doctoral University. Because I am no longer teaching or taking classes, I do not go to campus regularly -- it's a 20 minute drive for me, parking is atrocious, and I gave up my graduate student office in favor of a tiny library carrel I never use (I work better in my home office, despite the distractions). Today, in order to solve a data problem my advisor uncovered yesterday (quick fix!), I drove to Doctoral University after dropping ST off at daycare.
I've always known that I really liked Doctoral University. But today, I realized that I love it, and have a depth of feeling for it reserved only for places like my parent's house and the place T would have proposed to me had I not spoiled his plans (long story). Walking on campus today, using the library, seeing the eager undergrads in their wildly inappropriate attire, observing the massiveness of the building I work in, I realized that this is the place that has changed my life. And I know that, until I've worked at another university for a good long time and have built up an allegiance to it, Doctoral University will be "home" for me.
What do I love about it? I love the substantial, stately old buildings on part of the campus, and I love knowing that the pillars in the inside of my building aren't really marble. I love knowing the artist who faux-finished them to look exactly like marble. I love the huge trees outside, a label beneath each stating when it was planted and in what part of Home State it grows best. I am proud of the new, expensive buildings that aren't at all related to my discipline, with their flawless windows and glinting metal exteriors. I love the general state of unfinishedness about the campus: there is always a new building going up or renovations taking place. I have always had the sense that this is a place with a mission of constant self-improvement, and I have always been smart enough to avoid certain streets because they are always congested with construction trucks.
I love that the library has everything I need, and that there are reference librarians who can get me items from other libraries within days. I love the wall of Theses and Dissertations, tucked away on the third floor; I love seeing this wall of scholarship developed and nurtured by Doctoral University. I love the art displays that are ever-changing in the library's main entrance.
Most of all, I love the "bigness" of the place. I love that, driving around town and even on the outskirts, there are signs all over declaring property for the University. I love that even residents who didn't attend Doctoral University still wear its apparel with pride and decorate their cars with its stickers. And even though I couldn't care less about sports, I love that fans of Doctoral University's sports teams are crazy, and that our sports stadium has more seats than the population of our city. I love that there's a medical school and a law school, and that when Engineering got a shiny new building, Art and Art History did, too.
Life at Smallish Midwestern University (SMU) will be very, very different. The campus is compact, the sports teams aren't excellent. A lot of people wear the colors of Midwestern State's R1 University, located just an hour away from SMU. If next year I need to check the kind of data I had to check today, I will have to drive an hour to R1 University. I will have to find a new hospital, one unaffiliated with any university -- I've never done that before. And if I have to do legal research (which I often do), I'll again have to trek to R1 University. There is no fancy architecture at SMU (although my department will be moving into a brand-spanking-new "green" building in 2009) -- everything is neat, orderly, and practical, but nothing screams "major research institution" about the place. I will miss Doctoral University's prestige.
Doctoral University has served me well -- paid my tuition, funded my research, paid for my health insurance (as well as T's and ST's), and given me a great education. I am sad that it is almost time to leave. But I know that opportunities abound at SMU, opportunities for me to pour myself into a new place and change it. I was perusing SMU's website the other day, and noticed one silly thing that made me feel very, very confident that I'd taken the right job: the official school colors at SMU are identical to Doctoral University's, and as luck would have it, the mascot looks similar, too. Home away from "Home."