I admit it: I was on the speech and debate team when I was in high school. Despite the stereotypes we debate-types have had to endure (yeah, they’re mostly true), it was a life-forming experience for me. Aside from sharpening my skills as a thinker and as a speaker, debate opened me to the wonderful world of the college campus.
You see, for many years, beginner and experienced high school debaters have participated in summer speech workshops at college campuses. My first workshop was at Loyola, when I was approaching ninth grade! We lived on campus and “took classes” in all of the buildings that are now part of my daily circuit, making this work at Loyola in this decade a kind of surreal homecoming.
Subsequent high school years sent me off to other campuses–Dartmouth, the University of Iowa, and, before my senior year of high school, a student-teaching gig at the University of Kentucky and an advanced workshop at the University of Michigan. Before I started for real at Boston College the following fall, I had already lived the sum of more than one semester on a college campus. My fate was sealed.
The atmosphere-the sheer force of the intellectual life, the history, the inescapable sense of place and purpose–brought me to my life’s work, on the college campus. The students keep me here.
And Loyola has special students–bright, creative, concerned for more than just their own successes but the edification of others and the wider community. I could not begin to calculate the joy it brings me to witness their work and learn about their ambitions, answer their questions, and offer the best guidance I can (whether they ask for it or not!).
I could not imagine working somewhere where these kinds of personal interactions are not a given, an inescapable fact. I’m told such places exist–I’ll never work at them.
Packchat provides a nice introduction to some of our students. Read all the entries to glean a sense of the variety of student personalities and profiles we bear witness to each day. We’re quite lucky.