by Christian Diaz, News Editor
Dear Faculty and Staff,
I didn’t bother to visit Warren Wilson before enrolling as a transfer student in the winter of 2009. Yet, I knew that this school was the right fit for me—with its acclaimed emphasis on cross-cultural understanding and the celebration of hard work, I felt confident that the most tender facets of my identity (gay, brown, immigrant) could fit comfortably in this nook, flourish even, nestled in the plush mountains of Western North Carolina. I said goodbye to my parents that January and packed a small traveler’s backpack; clothes, photographs, no linens. I boarded a greyhound bus at 2:00 am during a quiet blizzard that struck downtown Chicago and slept for most of the 17-hour trip south. I’ve become more myself since then.
It’s not that Warren Wilson is an absolute paradise, though compared to grey-in-the-day and orange-at-night Chicago, it is. But it’s not a campus where one can go to forget who they were in the past. The opportunity to recreate oneself is imbedded into the triad, but it’s not a matter of wiping our slates clean. Because we all, students, faculty, staff, choose to live here, isolated in many ways, perhaps free from the pressures of our civilization, with its brand of incessant wanting and culture of competition, we recontextualize our selves in a setting that asks much of us but promises more in return. And as you learn to ride the waves of academic pursuit and overlapping commitments you leave Warren Wilson transformed and capable.
That’s what Warren Wilson accomplishes truly; students are put through a triad that makes them highly competent. I’ve found a safe space for me to make mistakes and to develop my talents as a writer and as a student. This college brings out the best and the worst in each of us, but these are qualities we need to see for ourselves. At first, the experience makes us giddy. The natural surroundings are so beautiful they make us humble. The people around us are so talented and bright that we can’t help but let ourselves be taken away by the newness of this experience. Warren Wilson brings together people who felt outcasted in some way in their previous setting. And when we unpack our luggage we find that we are accepted here, often encouraged to run with our idiosyncrasies and ideas where they might not have been appreciated before. The first semester is a celebration. Finally, we say, I am with my people. The world is play.
Then months pass us by, and we realize that Warren Wilson is not all play. We have work crews and we have service and we have to learn to take these seriously, because the world is a serious place. During my first semester I hardly read my textbooks or worked on homework problems outside the classroom. Today, I know that’s key to success in college, and the time and effort I put into the classroom matches the insight, understanding and appreciation that I feel for the world. And in our work crews we learn to take responsibility for our work. Through our commitments to each other we question, do I say what I mean? Do I make agreements I intend to keep? Do I honor my commitments? Work ethic is ingrained into our habits as a means to success. When I keep my word and my agreements, I accomplish my tasks, I push my work crew, my group project and my service crew closer to reaching our goals and I establish my role in the team as a reliable player. From this, confidence grows. The individual is reigned in because our many roles on campus, as student, as worker, as volunteer, require us to collaborate with others. Our communication and team building skills improve naturally.
Want to share your senior letter? Have a parting message for the campus? Email us a segment and we’ll print it in our last issue of the semester, out April 30!
A liberal arts education is one in which students can accumulate a wide pool of knowledge which can then be tailored into an education that reflects our individual passions. Because the possibilities in our curriculum are much like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, the individual is catered to by a lax general education structure. But our intellectual growth is prevented from blooming in a vacuum. Because we are required to work on campus, and we are required to engage with a greater community through service, our intellectual pursuits are complemented by real world experience.