I Let a Student Take Me for a Walk

Yesterday was one of those magical days. As my husband and I drove home from campus, he asked me how my day was and typically I can name specific things that were good or bad. Yesterday, I sat in the car simply smiling and trying to figure out how I could relay to him the feelings I had after all that had transpired.

My day started out talking with @KMcCarthy8185 and connecting about the unique and fulfilling educational experiences we had by attending a woman’s college. Both of us were able to reflect on the life changing and empowering experiences that shaped us into the women we are today. Then, I talked about WISA Panel of Listeners program at our NASPA regional conference. I love taking action to make our profession one that embraces the advancement of women in leadership. These were both conversations that I had on my calendar and I looked forward to as I woke up on Thursday morning. They were everything I anticipated they would be.

Then, in the afternoon, something totally unplanned and unexpected happened. I let a student take me for a walk.

I had my afternoon free for once and one of my senior students stopped by to give me a gift of gratitude for serving as an advisor to the student group she leads. She gave me a token of appreciation that will be a wonderful addition to my office and remind me of our event themed “adding a colorful twist.”

However, the greatest gift she gave me came from this-  She asked me, “do you have time to take a walk?” I looked at my to do list and my open calendar contemplating for a minute. Then I looked up and said, “yes, absolutely. Let’s go.”

What proceeded was a 2 hour walk around campus visiting her favorite spots all while listening to her talk about the meaning of her journey the last four years. She told me about what her education means to her, the challenges of her father committing suicide and her grandmother passing away in her first year of college and raising her brother, and the impact of capitalism on class and feminism. She told me what being on the debate team had contributed to her ability to critically analyze and problem solve. She talked about her work in Zimbabwe, in the local DA’s office to address violence against women, and in the local high school around sustainability. What an amazing journey.

I listened, I followed, I sat, I took it all in. Our last stop was at a particular bench on campus over looking a statue of “the pioneer mother” on campus located by the residence halls the first women students on campus occupied. On a beautiful, sunny afternoon overlooking a significant campus location we sat and she shared a speech she had submitted to be selected as a speaker at graduation.

As she delivered her speech, I sat in awe. The passion she conveyed about how her education will empower her to create a new future moved me. Here is a woman who majored in political science talking about creativity in music, dance, and art. She talked about the ability to change the future through multiple means of expression. The power of a liberal education to interrupt the reproduction of our greatest societal ills and transform a new path for humanity. For 15 minutes I sat and listened to the power behind her narrative.

I was glad I had sunglasses on because I had a tear or two. Here, sitting right next to me on this bench, is a clear demonstration of a student who harnessed  everything that higher education hopes to offer to students. I think deep down, I was so moved because it reinvigorated my hope for the future. This woman sitting next to me transformed before my eyes into someone I would gladly stand side by side in the struggle for what our world will look like in the years to come.

In the end, I didn’t talk much at all. I let a student take me for a walk. And, it was one of the most beautiful walks I will ever take in my life.