Monday, April 7, 2014

The School I wanted to go to and the School I did.

I'm obsessed with schools these days. My son is having issues in his school, so I am looking down the road to see what I need to do NOW in order to get him to college/technical school in about 12 years. And, btw, when I say issues I mean the type where you hire people to help you get what the school is required by law to provide.

Yeah. That bad.

But it got me thinking about the university I wanted to go to, and the one I did. It's rather interesting, and I am just now seeing similarities I never saw before.

First, let me explain a little more about my educational background. I'm an Army Brat, which means I didn't spend more than 2 years in a single school until I attended the behemoth that was my Secondary School (5000 students) where I spent six years. I learned how to find people to make friends with quickly, and I'm still friends with some of them. This behemoth was about 2 hours away from a school I truly wanted to go to - the University of Virginia. Unfortunately, there is an unspoken rule about being from Northern VA and wanting to go to UVA. Your grades have to be stellar, or you have to be amazing at something. I was an Army Brat. I was amazing at moving. That didn't count.

So, I started college already disappointed. I knew my Senior year I would never even get into the Univerisity so I didn't try. The application fees were so high it wasn't worth it. Instead, I ended up at a small school about an hour east of the University and one and a half hours south of home. And when I say small, I mean tiny. Only about 1132 students - just 300 more than my graduating class from high school.

To say Randolph-Macon College is a small college belies its deep, rich history and the bonds that are formed with other students, with the professors and with the administrative staff. Everyone knew everyone. Something happened to a student, professor, or administrative staff members - everyone knew about it. From births to deaths to illness, we still all know about it somehow through the RMC grapevine. It's a nice community to have.

But then UVa went to Division 1 March Madness and suddenly I was once again wishing I had thought to transfer sometime during my sophomore year. Then they lost, and a list came out - "44 Signs You Know You're a Virginia Cavalier." I read the list, then I read it again. It seems that there are several items on the list that can prove you are an RMC Yellow Jacket, showing me that perhaps I did have the benefit of a UVA experience in a much smaller, better for me, package. 

For me, the comparisons started with #2 - Architecture. Our school was built about a century after Mr. Jefferson's, but it still held onto the principles of useful, yet beautiful architecture. Anyone who has an issue with that needs to go look at Pace, Old Chaple, Wash Frank Hall, Mary Branch and Thomas Branch first, then tell me we don't appreciate well done architecture.

#5 - You spent a lot of time in McGraw Page - either in the stacks or in the computer room. These days there are also group and single study rooms. Heck, I even learned how to drink wine from a chemical standpoint in that library. No, really - it was a class. A very yummy one at that.

#'s 6, 7, and 8 sound like us as well - think about it, the smaller the school, the more difficult it is to get in. I don't think I appreciated that back when I was applying to college as every single Virginia school (save VA Tech) rejected me so I thought I must have been stupid. Nope. RMC is filled with some of the smartest, most creative people I've met. We're also over achievers and all of us got a bit of a wake up call when we got to college. The only difference between the wake up call UVa gets and RMC gets is this - there is room for EVERYONE to do something at RMC. Lots to do, and a smaller pond, all mean that you get to try it all if you want to.

#11 - Calling your professors Mr or Dr. totally depended on your professor, at least back when I was there. I had a few Mr.'s, one or two who insisted on first names and the rest were Dr. But it didn't really matter, they where there when you needed them which brings me to #12.

#12 - "But, really, you didn't care about what you had to call them because you were too busy learning from their brilliance.": My sophomore year I took a Shakespearean course from the resident Shakespearean expert. Having taken Shakespeare since I was 10, I knew a thing or two about Othello, especially since I'd been lucky enough to perform in the play on the Folger Shakespeare Library stage. When the professor started claiming something I was pretty sure was bogus - change that to absolutely sure - we fought about it in the middle of class. I mean, knock down, drag out fight that ended with him telling me to "Prove it." So before the next class, I faced down this Harvard Doctorate, expert in Shakespeare with a stack of 16 or more books, each proving that Othello could have been Arabic or Turkish and did not have to be blackface based on Elizabethan language. For the record, I won. When I showed up in his office with all those books ready to go at it again, he conceded. He also became an ad-hoc advisor, along with almost every English professor at the school - every one of them was interested in where I was headed. They still are, to be honest. It's nice. 

#14 - "You probably developed a close relationship with an administrator or two." Try all of them at RMC. That was pretty darn awesome. They were really there for us.

#16 - "This woman gave you lifeeee!" UVA has it's Miss Kathy, RMC has it's Barclay. It also had Champe, but he recently passed away so we only have Barclay now, but Barclay ROCKS and is EVERYONE's campus mom. Love you Barclay!

#20 "You're really glad this woman is an alumnae." UVA has its Tina Fey. RMC has its Carbon Leaf, and quite a few others.

#21 "You have an unhealthy obsession with secret societies." OK, we aren't as bad as UVA, but I have heard tell of a secret society or two on campus. Pretty sure they're still there, I'm just not obsessed with them. Oh, and we don't advertise those we have on the steps of historic buildings.

#23 "You have some experience with imbibing." Yeah, this one speaks for itself.

#25 "But despite all the drinking, you still manage to stay fit." Again - speaks for itself.

#26 "Your school loves you just as much as you love it." Hi @Randolph-Macon Alums!

#27 "You're really good at taking on a leadership role and ownership over a project." Student self-governance, what can I say! When I was there, anyway, there were several projects, clubs, etc that only had faculty advisors in name only. You were still expected to do the work and make it come together whether it was a concert or a debate tourney - it was on you, the students.

#35 "You frat hard. So, so hard." I have yet to hear of a school with as high a Greek percentage as RMC - and it's not always a bad thing. Between the social Greeks, the academic Greeks and the service Greeks I'm not sure there is anyone on campus who isn't Greek. Of course, let's keep those Greek activities a little less dangerous as the photo of the guy jumping out of the window on the UVa page.

#36 "You love and miss Charlottesville." OK, this may be a stretch for a lot of us, but there are so many people who moved to Ashland and it's surrounding areas maybe it's not. I do miss Ashland on occasion - near the train tracks more so than the lovely fast food strip by the exit from 95S.

#39 "You willingly leave sh**, like your laptop, unattended in public places." Yep. Totally. Gotta love the honor code!

#40 "Whenever you bring up UVA in a conversation, somehow there is always a Virginia Tech fan who will chime in about their football program." Substitute "UVA" with "RMC" and "Virginia Tech" with "Hampdem Sydney" and we're set!

#42 "You have an affinity for history." With our wonderful history department set up in an amazingly historical building, how could you not?

That's nearly half, and totally my opinion of course. But what it tells me is this - RMC is a smaller version of UVA. I guess I got my wish after all, just not in the way I expected.

Thank you, RMC, for all the lessons, academic and life, that I learned bowered midst the oaks and maples.

1 comment:

stu said...

I've had some weird experiences with universities (English ones, with all that entails), having gone to Reading for a week, Coventry for a year, and Hull for something in the region of a decade, off and on. There were moments when I found myself wondering if I shouldn't have applied to Oxford or Cambridge instead, but Hull seemed to fit.