Well, who knew?
I stepped on the campus of Cazenovia College in 2003 and it was weird then. A first-generation student with no concept of what college really was and what I should expect, and even more so, how I socially would integrate to campus culture and college lifestyle - for lack of a better phrase, it was all well, weird.
Today, I'm now a college graduate, having completed graduate school (and oddly, doing it again for fun and interest), I stepped back onto that same campus in a much different role - as an alum returning, as an advocate for higher education and student affairs, and as someone who personally felt compelled to give back to a place (and the next wave of students who are like me) that gave me access and a launching board for my life today - again, this was weird too. Very weird.
Life is crazy. But again, there I was on the same quad fifteen years after I first stepped foot on it, eleven years after rocking a cap and gown, giving a speech to my class on "forever", packing up my car, and heading home. Again, so weird.
Nonetheless, I would be lying if I claimed to be completely chill about going back. The return was exciting! I do miss Caz. No matter how much I travel, or what big city I fall in love with as my choice for retirement, that little village in central New York has tight strings to my heart.
And while the campus had many changes, the athletic center upgrades, the various resources having changed locations, Caz is still Caz. From the very first moment of parking my car and walking onto campus at 9:45am on a Friday morning and seeing students roll out of dorms in sweats and school gear, their lanyard lazily flowing at their side, their wet hair still obvious from the shower they just jumped out of, and that look - I still know that look! - of regretting everything about morning classes, I knew things weren't as different as those obvious changes tried to fool you on.
But with every step on campus, it was like a rush of emotion and nostalgia overflowing as I thought about the many people who I met there, the moments that happened on every part of that campus, how I changed, and even, at times, how crazy it was that I was back - and even more wild, invited and welcomed back!
You want to know how crazy fifteen years can become? I went from a first-gen student who attended Cazenovia at the absolute very last minute (was headed to St. Johns University) to now having lunch with their brass on institutional advancement and discussing assessment goals and advancement of the college, along with future connection possibilities. Uhhhh, yeah, like whoa!
However, with that said, you know how crazy fifteen years can NOT change things? I sat down with one of my favorite professors - EVER! - who also happened to be my debate coach for three years, and the woman STILL intimidates me. She just has that Coach Taylor-Friday Night Lights vibe about her. Truthfully, I want to be her. Anyone who has taken a class with this lady would back me up on this.
But really, my favorite part of returning was speaking to the new batch of Wildcats in the classrooms. Having the opportunity to discuss what they are learning, my experience in the field, and of course, tying it all to diversity, inclusion, and ultimately, how to deal with various types of people when they hit the real world.
The feedback was absolutely tremendous. I answered numerous types of questions after class on a variety of topics, including simple things like "getting through Caz".
It's not unusual to have a close connection to your alma mater, but for me, the timing is very significant as I close out a semester where I find myself heavily invested in student affairs, making multiple presentations all over the country, and of course, awaiting my son in June. It all just makes for a massive bundle of change, nostalgia, and reflection that I'm not sure I can unpack and accurately capture in words as of this writing. 2018 thus far has been an absolute whirlwind.
But one thing is for sure, I do have Caz pride. Many move on. Others find it too cool to show that kind of appreciation. But not me, Caz is a big part of me. I am very proud of that place, regardless of size and notoriety.
It was great in so many ways to be back at Caz. And something tells me, it won't be eleven years until I am back. I am very thankful, and of course, looking forward to it.