I had mixed feelings returning to the campus of Hanover College to accept the President’s Award for Excellence.  Click here to view the video.

Why mixed feelings?  Because as a student, I had mixed experiences.  It’s been seven years since I graduated, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Mixed Feelings and Experiences at Hanover College

  • I was enthralled by the academic experience.  I was challenged academically, grew intellectually, developed my writing voice, practiced my presentation and speaking skills, served as primary investigator for several research projects, worked for three different professors, and was mentored by many more.
  • But socially, I struggled.  Parties approved by the Office of Student Life celebrated stereotypes, like a gangsta party with rap music and sagging pants.  A fraternity proudly displayed a confederate flag on the side of their building.  Some students used racial slurs and other hateful language without hesitation.

Struggling to Work Hard without Victory in Sight

  • During my Junior year at Hanover, I finally decided to do something about the negative campus culture – thanks to strong encouragement from my then-boyfriend, now-husband Eddie Journey.  Let me be clear, it was easier to complain than to do something about it.
  • While advocating for students, it was difficult to decide what to do, what to say, who to meet with, what to ask for, and how I could really make a difference.  Positive results were not guaranteed.
  • I had concern that my advocacy would put the following in jeopardy:  my full-ride scholarship, my campus employment, my friendships, and my reputation.
  • When the hate crime happened on the hall of my dormitory, I suffered paranoia and extreme stress.  I had to seek mental health counseling for my own personal well-being.
  • I know multiple students who suffered discrimination and other hateful circumstances at Hanover.  Some of those situations sent students to the emergency room, to trusted mentors, and to mental health professionals – seeking healing, understanding, processing, and affirmation.

Struggling to Accept Positive Affirmations from the Institution

  • I know multiple students of color, gay students, and female students who advocated for change at Hanover and their efforts did not result in such sweeping changes – like my advocacy work did.  Other students worked just as hard and as smart as I did, but the institution would not fully receive advocacy work from all students.
  • I know that since I graduated Hanover has still struggled with campus climate and complete institutional change.  President DeWine personally shared stories with me.  Progress has been made.  But Hanover has yet “to arrive.”

So, for any reader who wonders what it takes to earn the President’s Award for Excellence, please know that it takes:  sleepless nights, unclear answers in response to limitless questions, exploration of self-identity, risky actions, and mixed feelings (even 7 years later!).

Having said that, I am grateful for the experience at Hanover.  I learned some hard lessons that forced me to grow and to truly be about what I talk about.  It was an opportunity of a lifetime.

Still wondering what the heck I’m talking about?   Click here to view the video.