by Christian Diaz, News Editor
A week ago, I passed as a University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA) student at their annual scholarship banquet. After pretending to feel indignant for being excluded from their guest list I was given a table where I sat with corporate defense lawyers who had donated money to UNCA, UNCA’s Director of Development and three other students.
Incognito, I heard a conversation about our college.
When I told these folks that I wished I had gone to Warren Wilson, they told me that at least at UNCA I don’t have to work in the dirt.
Perhaps it’s human nature to oversimplify, but what I tend to encounter when I’m out engaging the “real” world are people who think Warren Wilson is nothing but a farm school, or sometimes a day-care center for hippies. Although partially true, it’s unfortunate that we have such a bite-sized reputation. This place, this life, is so much more.
These misinformed, generalized ideas of Warren Wilson are benign, or so I thought until rumors started spreading about the disastrous effect our reputation as a college is having on graduates.
Someone came into The Echo office to tell us that the board of trustees is concerned with substance use (I know, a tired subject) because the raver image that some students and staff choose to project about our campus is making its way to graduate schools and employers, tarnishing the achievements of students.
The sudden collective and internal commotion ignited by this information was palpable in our small and crowded room. I felt horrified by the possibility that my bachelor’s degree from this college will be more a hindrance than an accolade when I step out into the “real” world.
But before we all get upset, let’s get serious. Where is this information coming from? It’s easy for a graduate to blame their college for their own failure, whether it means not landing a job or not getting accepted into their first choice graduate school program.
One of my closest friends who walked on stage on the Sunderland lawn last May just got placed into the Peace Corps. I have another who took a job managing waste in Washington D.C. whose strongest qualifications consisted of her experience working on Recycling Crew.
Whether or not a bad reputation follows us after graduation is somewhat irrelevant, or at least not as relevant as our level of engagement on campus and in the greater community. Our actions resonate further than our school’s reputation.
Many students feel that our academics lack rigor, that our general education requirements are outdated, that the party culture on campus is distracting and reputable, that the lack of diversity leaves us unprepared for the “real” world.
I have to disagree. At the risk of sounding like a shortsighted republican, I think people who have a hard time at Warren Wilson for these reasons should look at themselves before blaming outside circumstances for their troubles.
In my opinion and experience, Warren Wilson is fertile ground for cultivating our intellect and civic engagement. The triad that makes our college unique allows us to explore our talents, tread the waters of different fields and, more importantly, allows us to acquire relevant experience.
No matter where your ambitions lie there is a crew, a service commitment, a student organization, a break trip or a study abroad option to harness academic theory into practice. On top of this we have access to a very progressive city that boasts a significant concentration of NGOs per capita that we can donate our time and effort to in exchange for impressive resume space.
There is no “true” image of the college because the experience here is self-created. Thus it is all things, depending on the person: drug hub, farm school, or an expression of white privilege.
For me it’s been a holistically engaging academic institution which has exposed me to experiences and people I wouldn’t have encountered at another institution, and I’m confident my experience here will translate into success, whatever I define that to be, once I graduate.