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Earlier this week, someone at my alma mater, Gordon College, was kind enough to share one of my recent Huffington Post blog pieces on the college’s Facebook page as an example of “Alumni in the News.” Suddenly, there on Gordon College’s wall, a place where the “Likes” far outnumber the comments, a comment war began.

Essentially, a couple of offended instigators listed the reasons why my piece wasn’t newsworthy and why it was an example of how Gordon College has derailed. In response, many more people (quite a few of my friends and acquaintances) defended the validity of my work and the reputation of their college.

This all got me thinking: I wonder how most people feel about their alma mater. What about you? If you’re an alumnus of some institution, how do you feel about your experience there, and what is your sense of the school’s ongoing legacy since you’ve left?

If you’re a current student, are you proud of your school’s alumni? Are you happy with the education you’re getting?

I’d love it if you’d be willing to share some thoughts here; I think we will find that reading of other people’s experiences will be helpful in gauging our own.

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Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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0 Responses to How Do You Feel About Your College?

  1. Hobo Derek says:

    I went to a large, public university with somewhere around 30,000 students. I NEVER had a professor twice, and I rarely had classes with anyone I knew. I love my alma mater, but I wasn’t much more than a social security number to the institution. If I’m being honest, I now mainly hope their entrance requirements grow steeper, their academic reputation goes up, and their teams win.

    I wonder if the Gordon College brouhaha was exaggerated because it is a small school and therefore has (presumably) more personal connections and people have a stronger sense of ownership. I don’t know…just some thoughts. Anyway, hope you weathered the storm okay.

  2. Brooke says:

    I went to Gettysburg College for two years, but the social atmosphere was very heavily dominated by Greek life and drinking. I’m currently at a state school, paying a lot less and getting a lot more. The social atmosphere still leaves much to be desired because very few students actually WANT to be there to learn. There’s a lot of whining about doing any work at all, but if you can ignore that, the professors are wonderful people, and I’ve developed positive relationships with the professors in my department…It also helps not to live on campus anymore, so the excessive drinking culture isn’t so much of an issue.

  3. Matt D. says:

    I went to a small liberal arts college and am extremely happy with being an alumnus. My experience at the school was good, classes were small and I got to know professors personally. There was a very strong sense of camaraderie and community amongst the student body.

    As a graduate I’m happy to belong to the alumni association. I don’t attend many events, but it is nice knowing there are things going on to continue to benefit the alumni and the college. I regularly give to the alumni association (not a ton since I’m still starting my career) and hope that college continues providing great education to students for years to come.

  4. N. B. says:

    I think these questions are related to bigger issues of identity and how we perceive our campus as reflecting qualities we identify with or disassociate from.

    I’ve been through three schools of which I can say this is true. First, I attended a small evangelical/fundamentalist bible college in the midwest which was closely aligned to the values and society in which I was raised. I found the atmosphere and people repressive, hypocritical, and in the long run it ultimately helped me find myself. Though I only stayed a year, I realized I never belonged there in the first place.

    The second was a large state university, again located in the midwest. I grew up in the northeast, and finishing my undergrad in a rural college town was sort of a reverse-culture shock. The conservative sensibilities, visible poverty and lack of cultural institutions was bizarre to me. The school was largely focused on sports and greek societies, in retrospect, I don’t know why I was there either. Although I really discovered more of myself, and had my first great job with the university, and got into my field, it was largely in opposition to what I perceived as the hegemonic standard at this college – business students and fraternity people who would go on dressed in ill fitting suits to work in large metal buildings somewhere about the great plains, managing farm equipment orders and telemarketing call centers.

    Finally, I am now a graduate student at a (very) liberal university in New York City. I love my program, most of the faculty are great, the students are very diverse, and I love it. But the prototypical student is trendy hipster art/fashion student with somewhat poorly informed radical politics.

    Perhaps I’d never be happy. I see rooting for one’s alma matter in the same way some see sports. Noam Chomsky says “I remember in high school, already I was pretty old. I suddenly asked myself at one point, why do I care if my high school team wins the football game? I mean, I don’t know anybody on the team, you know? I mean, they have nothing to do with me, I mean, why am I cheering for my team? It doesn’t mean any–it doesn’t make any sense.” And in many ways, that’s how I feel. What I remember best and with the most pride are the few faculty and fellow students who moved my ideas and thinking forward, and helped/help contribute to where I am today. Not the institution as some monolithic paragon of virtue or value. More and more, schools run themselves as a business – students are customers and we are treated, as one poster said, like social security numbers, rather than people. But the relationships we form inside a department and with our classmates – those are the people I want to stay in touch with. My “alma matter” can go to hell.

    PS Alumni Foundation, stop sending me requests for money! I still haven’t paid the loans for my tuition!

  5. Timothy says:

    In response to Derek:

    I’m currently attending a public college of over 30,000 students and feel very connected?

    How/why?

    Well, it’s all about what program you’re doing and how big that program is.

    As a Creative Writing student and serving as an intern to our literary magazine, I’m very connected with that group. You’re also bound to be in numerous work-shops and lit. classes with numerous other Creative Writing students.

    I’m also double-majoring in History and am less connected there, but I’ve taken/am taking classes with the same professors and am definitely seeing a lot of people I know in the same classes.

    So it’s totally possible to be connected and involved at a large college, you just have to be connected with the smaller subsets within the college.

    My commitment, though, isn’t so much to the institution as to the professors and students I know, who happen to be a part of said institution.

  6. Bo Eberle says:

    As a recent alumnus of THE Ohio State University, I’d like to stand up for “large, public universities” (with Timothy) and say that I don’t think I could have had a better education in my fields or a better overall experience both socially and academically. As both a Philosophy and History major, with a minor in Religious Studies, the faculty at OSU couldn’t have been more engaging with students, class sizes were relatively small (no more than 25 in non-intro courses), and the content and quality has shown itself to be (now that I have in graduate school) at least on par if not superior to that which some of my colleagues received at far more ‘prestigious’ institutions. As they say, one can always make a large university smaller, but not a small college into a big one. I would recommend a large university experience to anyone (one like Ohio State) in that you can get the quality attention and classroom experience and also have access to unimaginable diversity and opportunity that I don’t think is available (by in large)to that extent at smaller institutions. Plus there’s the big time college sports, come on ; )

  7. jonathan says:

    I attend Northern Arizona University, the smallest of our state schools in AZ. While at times, as an engineering major I feel like we get the shorter end of the stick as far as equipment goes, I do think the smaller class sizes and (mostly) quality, personal professors are worth it. I have classes with all the same people, and it’s only sophomore year. In addition, being involved with a large Christian community, I feel really connected to the campus and I always see people I know everywhere I go.

  8. Brian Howell says:

    I have a really weird relationship with my alma mater, Wesleyan University (CT). I got a great education, met people from all over the world, met the woman I’m now married to. I made great, life-long friends and have gone back for several reunions. I give money and maintain an identity, partly for the ego boost of being associated with a school that (some people know) is relatively prestigious. On the other hand, when I go back, I remember how completely weird this school is. The hook-up culture is out-of-control. The 60’s drug culture never left. The political climate is extraordinarily homogeneous and oppressive to dissent. I now teach at Wheaton College, and I am jealous for the ways my students get to see their faith brought to bear on the most important questions of life. Yet sometimes it does seem too…quiet, compared with my experience. As I said, a weird relationship.

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