Essays by members of the Class of '09
On a warm, gorgeous evening four years ago we sat together for the first time. It was Induction and we were brought together from across the country and across the globe, united by this small, liberal arts college. That August evening we were reminded of the theme for our first year: “Built by Rasp and Bicycle,” or the concepts of what make a house a home. I’m sure we all expected Denison to become a home to us, but to what extent, we had no idea. We were brought together geographically, but over these four years, we came together by the home we created.
The inspiration for “built by rasp and bicycle” came from a professor, Dr. Paul Bennett, who built a house near Denison, working nights and during breaks to create a home for himself. He hauled many materials to the site by bicycle, and through ups and downs, he constructed a home. Similarly, we began our journey with an empty slate — we met as strangers thrown together in the shoeboxes of the Shorney, Smith, East, and North Quad dorm rooms. At this point, Denison was not yet a home to us, but rather just provided the structures of a house, and the possibility of metamorphosis into a home. This transformation depends on the heart of a home, which is the people, or family, that lives there. Creating a home at Denison depended on building friendships, which took time, patience, and care. The process was not always easy, but living together helped us to grow together. Moments that may have seemed unsubstantial at the time, such as late night talks, library study sessions, or Slayter lunches, as well as more structured events, such as the November 2007 diversity talks, have helped us to understand each other and create a home we could all be comfortable in.
Balancing classes, co-curriculars, and social time was probably the hardest part of our adjustment. Denison taught us to value the whole experience and subsequently, time management was a lesson we had to quickly learn. Across the college, we were challenged and urged to ask questions, relate new subjects to our interests, and stretch our minds. Our classes provided us with a breadth of cross-disciplinary knowledge, and emphasized depth in our particular majors. Our professors worked hard to connect classroom concepts to real-life experiences and motivated us to make an impact in those areas where we were drawn to. From atop this hill, we learned how connected we were to one another and to the rest of the world. In our first year, we saw the effects of Hurricane Katrina, which motivated students to volunteer and donate. We learned about the importance of education, and volunteered in Newark schools. We brought global perspectives to campus, and raised awareness about issues in every social sphere — including the environment, social justice, politics, and the economy. These four years opened our eyes to new world issues, theories, and ideas. It has been a time of self-discovery and it has been exciting to find, teach, and share our passions with one another. We learned both inside the classroom and out, all the while growing together as a community and building a home based on learning, excitement, and involvement.
Our home would not be as sturdy or secure without our dedication to one another and the community. We’ve thrown ourselves into involvement, whether through research, sports, campus organizations, service, or as typical of Denison students, all of the above. And the reason why it is so difficult to leave is because of our investment here. It is hard to imagine life off the hill because we have grown together during our most intellectually stimulating years and seen each other through the good times and the bad. Finding our individuality, our passions — come on, just choosing a major — have all been a rollercoaster of emotions. But at the end of the day, we had one another, we had the home we created to fall back on. Denison has provided us with the structure in which to create a home and since that Induction ceremony four years ago, we have become like family to each other. And now, four years later, we sit together for the last time preparing to say goodbye to the home, to the family, that has made us who we are today.
The only way I can look at our goodbye is to appreciate this family — our friends, professors, administrators, and staff — that we have built a home with. When Dr. Bennett completed building his home, he wrote, “And we were delighted, for what we had done, we did with the help of relatives and friends.” Class of 2009, be delighted in our accomplishments and appreciate this Denison family for helping us to accomplish them. Wherever we go, we will always share a common home at Denison. And now the time has come for us to build a new home for ourselves. It will inevitably be hard, but by rasp and bicycle, we will soon find our places in the world. As we do, remember the lessons about friendships, humility, perseverance, and diversity we’ve learned from one another. Carry with us the passions we’ve discovered on the hill and the drive to make a difference. We have become active citizens on this hill, and that involvement and excitement will stay with us long after today. I wish you all the best of luck in your next home!
Everyone has been asked, “What are you doing after graduation?” We’ve been able to provide answers to that. Then comes the follow-up question, “Are you ready?” That’s a little tougher to answer. Think back to high school graduation. We were asked the same questions. “What are you doing after graduation?” “Going to college.” “Are you ready?” At that point, we had varying answers. Whether we answered yes, we were ready, or no, we were still going to Denison. Ready or not, here we come. We might not have felt ready for college, but Denison recognized that and helped us through all of the orientation programs. Denison made us feel ready for that next step.
I spent a lot of my time at Denison with first-year students working as a June and August Orientation staff member. It was my job to teach incoming high school graduates about their next step — to help them feel “ready” for college. I was there to help them become acclimated with Denison and the Granville community. Now, I can’t help but find it ironic that after speaking so much to the classes of 2010, 2011, and 2012 when they were incoming freshmen, my final speech is addressed to the outgoing seniors of 2009. The only difference is that this time, there’s no Dean of Post-Denison students, and there’s no Orientation. There’s nothing to make us feel “ready” like those Denison programs did before we even started our first class. So what will make us feel ready? Maybe a May Orientation would make this next transition much smoother and a lot less frightening for us. Maybe we need a May-O.
It would be great! We need jobs and we need places to live. Think about it: at May-O your first stop would be to pick up your key from the landlord. The city assigned you a place to live and a roommate whom they’ve matched from the survey you took on Craig’s List. While you do that, the wonderful May-O staff wearing matching red shirts will unload your cars and set everything beside your room, even your refrigerator. And that’s heavy. They’ll even carry it up the three flights. When you‘re ready, stop 2 will be downtown. You’ll want to have your driver’s license or passport ready so you can fill out the necessary tax forms. That way your May O staff leader can help you find the right job for you. Make sure you find a job that has good health benefits. Until then, May-O will provide you with band-aids and some cough drops.
All of the May-O staff leaders are trained in money management. They’ll help you figure out how to pay for your car, for your phone, for your groceries, for your rent, for your utilities, for your insurance, for your cable, for your internet … . We know how to use money wisely—so if you’ve got a microwave, then we’ll get you Ramen noodles, frozen pizza, and Stouffer’s frozen dinners. Nothing comes closer to home. Be sure to get over to IKEA and pick out your room—they’ve got it all set and ready to go. Just write down the one you want. Then build it.
Now, just because you’re moving on does not mean you can’t get involved. There are plenty of clubs and activities in the city. You can buy a membership to a gym. You can pay to be in a bowling league. The Activities Office offers plays and musicals—for full price.
Sure, it’s going to be tough; it’s going to be different. Instead of going to bed at 6 a.m., you wake up at 6 a.m. to dress in business casual. Instead of small talk about the crime reports in the Denisonian, you talk about mortgage rates. Instead of being handed a student ID card you’ll get an AARP card.
But you know what? We don’t need May-O. We don’t need something to make us “feel ready” because Denison made us ready. Denison truly is a college that changes lives. Denison prepared us for our futures. Denison challenged us to think and to experience. It encouraged us to try and succeed. These are all promises Denison made to us back at our induction ceremony in 2005, when they first rang that bell to symbolize the acceptance of our class and when they played the Fanfare for the Class of 2009. I wondered what it would be like during our commencement. I wondered if we would be ready to hear the bell again. Would we be ready to hear the fanfare again? Back then that fanfare was just a song, but one day it would come to mean so much more. It would mean a culmination of our experience at Denison, the promises our school fulfilled and the memories we created. Memories like the first warm day of spring when everyone is suddenly out on the quad talking and playing Frisbee; like the sounds of common hour inside Slayter when everybody checks the mail at the same time; like spending long nights in Fellows pouring everything into that research paper that you thought you would never finish; like the click of the security detectors in the library as you exit, when you’re scared that the alarm is going to go off even though you know you don’t have anything in your bag. Well, that day is today. We don’t need May Orientation. We already have Denison. We are ready. We can handle it.
The Denison Symphony — When I was asked to write this, I spent some time trying to think of what the college experience could really be likened to. Ultimately, I came back to a concept that has long been in my mind. I think that the four years in college can best be compared to the four movements of a symphony, with the sole exception that there are certainly no slow movements in college life.
We arrived here four short years ago, a large group of musicians, eager to come together with others to form a large, talented orchestra, and set off to perform this symphony, composed by Denison.
Our first year: Movement 1. A quick orientation program or two and we were off. Initially not quite sure what was happening, we soon settled into our new home. As we moved forward that first year, there were times when unexpected things happened – things that seemed very out of place, but, looking back, things that all make sense in the grander scheme of things. We all looked forward to that first December, and may have breathed a quick sigh of relief when the first semester was over. However, before we knew it, we were back at the beginning again. Only this time around, there were fewer surprises. We knew what to expect, and we were able to glide to the end of our first year, for a well deserved break.
The break, of course, was no time to stop and applaud, as much as I am sure people may have wanted to. We kept ourselves busy over the break, with jobs, internships or intriguing travels. Some of us took summer courses, whilst others simply spent time with friends and relatives, who were surely missed during that first year. But, the symphony was far from over and soon it was time to raise our instruments once more to begin the second movement.
As we began the second movement, we had moved into new keys and the materials were, once again, new to us, but as we got further and further into the piece, we became more and more familiar with the composer, who was quickly becoming a favorite. So we played on through the second, and even the third movements.
The more we played, the easier it became. The themes built upon each other, and we were able to use our knowledge of the previous movements to better understand the structure and development of those that followed.
As we approached the end of this third movement, we were all getting a bit anxious. Some were excited to reach the end of this magnificent piece of music (no doubt wondering how the finale would sound), yet, others wished they could stay and play some more. We were even busier that summer with job searches, graduate school applications, GREs, GMATs and LSATs, and the third movement flowed directly into the fourth. Without a break, we burst forth, jubilantly, into the fourth and final movement. There was no doubt a terrific amount of excitement building up in each of us as we played through to reach that most perfect of cadences, that is today. I think we played well.
So, what is it that made this performance so special? Like any performance, it is a combination of factors – the composer, Denison; our conductors, the faculty; and especially, us, the musicians. I think it is imperative here to also acknowledge and express our tremendous gratitude to all the people who worked backstage– from Academic Support and Dining Services, to Campus Security and the Phys Plant, and everyone else who worked so hard to ensure the success of our performance.
As for us musicians, we came from very diverse backgrounds, playing a wide range of instruments and each having very different performing styles and bringing something unique to the orchestra. Of course, being a liberal arts college, we have ended up trying our hand at a variety of instruments, often from instrument families very different from ours. This has been vital to our experience and has given us a much better understanding of the music and we are far better performers for it. There are also several of us who have realized that it is an instrument other than the one we played four years ago which we wish to specialize in and spend the rest of our lives playing. Whatever each of our individual cases was, I think it is safe to say that we are leaving having found the instrument that is right for us and that we are meant to be playing.
Every four years, a completely new set of musicians performs this symphony, and I’m sure it sounds completely different each time. That, I believe, is what makes it so special. The notes are always the same, but it is the musicians who lend their own skills and knowledge, personality and interpretation to it, thus ensuring that the piece has stayed fresh for all these 178 years since its composition, and that it will forever more.
Like any piece of music, it is the performers that shape it in every performance and make it their own. I guess, in some ways, then, rather than playing a symphony, we are performing a concerto – each of us being the soloist for our own performance, with our classmates forming the orchestra to accompany us and our professors on the podium, guiding us along the way; though, we are each interpreting the piece for ourselves.
As for what comes next, well, each one of us has to make our own program. Some of us may choose another multi-movement work in graduate school, while some have chosen a shorter single-movement piece to get us through the next few months or year. For some, this may even be the intermission, whilst the concert of education, for some, may be complete, at least for the time being, as they go on to join the professional world. I am not even going to presume to know what each of our next pieces will sound like, and I’m sure a lot of us are not sure what our own performances will encompass, either.
However, what we do know is that these past four years together have improved our knowledge base and our technique tremendously. Whatever may come next on each of our programs, we are going to shine as the virtuosos that playing this Denison symphony has made us.
So, now, as the final chord of this piece has decayed, it is finally time to applaud. So, thank you, Denison, and congratulations, Class of 2009.