#65: Check out the student union at Macalester

It’s only been within the past few years that I have fully recognized January 1 as the start of a new annual cycle.  Before then, my mind “knew” that 11:59 pm on December 31 signaled the end of one measure of time and that a new one commenced at midnight – but my body recognized and lived by a different annual clock.  Until very recently, every August something deep in my subconscious acknowledged a transition from old to new – and every September a sizable part of my core being met the month with a mixture of giddiness, anticipation, and anxiety, preparing for the start of a new year.  Though I was approaching middle age, part of my life was still being “regulated” by the American academic calendar.

Growing up, my mom, sister, and I employed a “school preparation” routine every summer, which included one mass day of shopping for new clothes (often in a big city like Chicago or Indianapolis) and one afternoon of school supply stock-up.  I still remember the genuine joy I felt when choosing my folders and pens, as well as the focused deliberation I put into selecting my first-day-of-school outfit.  I still vividly recall the standard Day 1 procedures for elementary, middle, and high school, and I absolutely still have strong memories of registering for my first semester of college courses.  At the start of every new school year, I felt a little bit nervous, but more eager and excited than anything else.  I adored school, and genuinely delighted in receiving assignments that challenged me to read, comprehend, question, probe, and learn.

When I moved to Minneapolis after college and settled into my “adult” life, I began to realize that the city offers an abundance of high-quality schools, especially at the university level.  A few years after starting my career I attended one of these institutions to further my education and receive an advanced degree – which served to further reinforce my body’s understanding that the “new year” occurs in September, not January.

It’s been several years since I’ve been 100% done with school – and yet, every August when I see stores display mass quantities of paper and pens, I still get an urge to buy a backpack and fill it with supplies (even though I have absolutely no “need” to do so).  And each September, when I see bright yellow buses driving around the neighborhood, I sigh, a wee bit disappointed that I don’t get to don a carefully selected outfit and join the kids on their ride.

Though I haven’t attended school for eight years, I have had the opportunity to participate in events on nearly every college campus in the metro area.  The Fringe Festival took me to the University of Minnesota and Augsburg; educational speakers drew me to Hamline; workshops prompted me to spend time at St. Thomas (both campuses); and my master’s degree was obtained at St. Kates.  But one post-secondary school I haven’t yet had a reason to visit is Macalester.  So when I made my 101 list, I decided to put “Check out the student union at Macalester” on it, if for no other reason than to be able to say that I knew at least a little bit about the key universities in the Twin Cities.

The start of a new academic year felt like the right time to complete this task; so earlier today I drove across town to Macalester’s intimate campus, and spend some time walking around.  I poked my head into buildings, took in the sights as I strolled from one end of the quad to the other, and just generally explored the space.  Here are the notes from my venture:

  • I was impressed by the abundance of free on-campus parking; it puts all of the other metro colleges to shame.
  • The campus felt like a hybrid of Indiana University (where I completed my undergraduate studies) and St. Kates – and I loved that Macalester was an enclosed campus (especially amid a semi-unsavory part of the city…).
  • The school’s library was semi-modern, but it smelled exactly like the stacks at IU.  I guess true academic texts smell the same no matter where they are, nor how long they have been there.
  • The class buildings also smelled exactly like the ones at IU – but the classrooms were tiny!  Each one I saw had a mere 15-20 desks/chairs in it; and I couldn’t find a single 300+ seat lecture hall (where is the environment in which I completed all of my 100-level classes).
  • The “student union” consisted of a dining hall on the first floor (which I learned was the only dining hall on campus), an open-air lounge/study area on the second floor, and a TV room/pool hall/mail room on the lower level – and that was it.  Hmm… Very “spartan” compared to the student union at IU.  I even asked the student staffing the information desk, “Um…is this the student union?”, and was told that yes, it is.  Okay, thanks…
  • However, beautiful student art adorned the space – which I definitely appreciated.  This academic community has a lot of talent!

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  • I was impressed by the visible diversity within the on-campus student population.  I saw a good number of people from every major race and ethnic group (which is particularly noteworthy for a school in Minnesota!).  I also saw what seemed to be a decent diversity among the student’s socio-economic statuses and social interests (i.e., introvert/extrovert, athletic/studious, comfortable-popular/awkward-nerdy, etc.).

I allocated 2-3 hours for my campus visit so that I could leisurely walk around and spend as much time as I wanted to look at whatever struck my fancy (which I did).  But after 45 minutes, I realized I had seen the entire campus (except for the residence halls; I didn’t think it was appropriate for an adult stranger to snoop around the student’s dorm rooms…)  I gave the campus a final once-over to make sure I hadn’t overlooked anything significant – and nope, I didn’t see anything more to explore.  So I returned to my car, gave the campus a wave goodbye, and drove back home.

I had a fantastic undergraduate experience (both academically and socially), and I wouldn’t change it.  But, I could see myself deeply enjoying this school, too.  Maybe in another life – or later in this one?  🙂


About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
This entry was posted in 101 in 1001, day zero project, postaday and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to #65: Check out the student union at Macalester

  1. Ruth says:

    I shared with my son Matthew. I always enjoyed the visits at Macalester.
    Will also share with a former colleague who graduated from Macalester.


    • Stef says:

      Thanks! I’d love to hear their opinions and perspectives – and to let me know if there was anything I missed that I should absolutely see. 🙂


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