@carrie_at_umass: I #lovehighered. Youthful, creative culture. Challenging, engaging discussions anytime, anywhere. Always learning. Always changing.Worcester is home to ten colleges. (Or is it 11 now with the Mass College of Pharmacy? ) I have my fair share to pick from. And New England is super-U central anyway, with several big name schools within a 75 minute commute of where I live. I could not be luckier.
I had little exposure to college while growing up. Neither parent went to college. My older sisters and my brother didn't go to college so I never experienced the family excitement and drama associated with SAT test scores, applying to colleges, acceptance letters, packing and moving and coming home for Christmas. I never spent time on college campuses, aside from attending a few films and concerts at Clark University while I was in high school. I did spend the night in a friend's dorm room at MassArt once after seeing the Ramones play in Boston, but that was pretty much it.
After high school I was living in a mid-western college town with a vibrant music and art scene. I enjoyed all the benefits of the college town without the college debt. It wasn't until my mid-20's and moved back to Massachusetts that I decided to get a degree; it was when my brother needed a degree for a promotion and he bet me I couldn't beat his GPA (I did). I liked college so I started working in higher ed immediately after, then went on to get my master's. Grad school was an amazing experience; I loved it all (which is why I blogged about it with this blog for 2 years!). Now I'm gearing up for a career transition and the only place I've considered is higher ed. I can't imagine working in any other environment.
What I like is the easy, casual vibe of the college campus. I like the youthfulness of the general population - the 18 year olds for sure, as well as the gray haired profs in their Chuck Taylors. I like the cultural diversity. I like the cyclical change in campus atmosphere running concurrently with the seasonal calendar. I like that everyone is on a self-centered track, working to better themselves - I find it inspiring. I like the libraries. I like the lectures and seminars and campus orgs. I like that it is cool to sit under a tree and read a book (and be photographed for the school website). I like that it is cool to stay up late reading. I like the innovation and discovery. I like the ingenuity and freedom for creative interpretation. I like the community.
And I love that the higher ed community extends beyond any singular campus. I have met hundreds of people in higher ed over the last five years and had amazing conversations with them. I value my higher ed relationships - the people are interested in what I do, are supportive and fun. Likewise, they are doing interesting work, share what they know, and inspire me to try new things. Most of these folks I have met face to face only one or a few times. Some of them I have only met online. For some reason, these relationships have sticking power. Part of it may be the openness and collegial quality that makes higher ed so special.
My next blog post will discuss my pending career transition. Stay tuned!