In retrospect, it’s often hard to tell what has changed more: our environments or ourselves. Four years ago, I came to St. John’s with little perspective and little idea of what I wanted out of life. Now, preparing to leave, I have no more an idea of where I’ll end up than when I started. As for perspective, though, I like to think I’ve gained a bit.
For instance, I’ve come to see the dangers of dealing in absolutes, and I’ve learned that most of the time, while we’re attempting to locate the source of the change that we feel over time, it’s a little bit of both: our environments and ourselves.
St. John’s is not the same place that it was when I took my first class here. It will be a different place still when the freshmen of today are in my position. The evolution of any place is a constant process, and I’d like to think that in the realm of academia, that process is only hastened, as the free exchange of ideas and the pushing of boundaries nurtured in places like these makes them the catalysts for progress.
Progress: the word has a good feel. It reminds us of the ability of human kind to continuously and miraculously make things better. And it’s the word that I feel can best describe my four years at this school. Though single steps forward have at times been accompanied by multiple steps back, in the grand scheme of things, I have seen progress.
I have seen an underwhelming campus in a bland neighborhood take leaps and bounds toward becoming a home to be proud of. When I got here, the newly constructed Taffner Field House symbolized a university and an athletic program struggling to assert its relevancy and recapture old basketball glory. Today, the new townhouses symbolize a renewed emphasis on the campus community; the massive silhouette of what will be the new University Center symbolizes a new age in the academic image of our school.
I have seen a student body noted for its diversity, but also for its apathy, continue to develop a culture all its own. The ever-present question mark about the lack of student engagement is troubling, but it’s still hard not to feel like we are growing as a residential community. Keeping in mind that this has been a residential campus for only ten years makes these ongoing troubles seem more like growing pains than a chronic ailment.
I have seen the chair of my own department, English professor Dr. Stephen Sicari, oversee the hiring of young, talented and enthusiastic professors, a phenomenon that I can only hope is representative of a University-wide trend. There’s a lot that this school can continue to work on in improving its academic reputation, but hiring the right professors is one of the important things that can be done to improve the individual programs within the University and engage the students intellectually.
I have not seen anything approaching perfection in my four years at St. John’s, and maybe the acceptance of that inevitability is the best lesson I can take away from this place. Still, despite the many mistakes and the numerous setbacks I have seen, I have seen progress.