Vol. 12. No. 2
Fall 2002

Up Front

Only Connect

by Theresa Desmond, Editor

In A Woman's Education, Jill Ker Conway's memoir of her years as president of Smith College, she describes a middle-of-the-night awakening by a crowd of Smith students cheering, shouting, and singing at the door of the president's house. A sleepy Conway and her husband met the group at the door, listening, applauding, and singing back; as Conway says, in spite of the trustee meeting she had the next morning, "It was impossible not to enjoy the instant mass mania of the young on a high."

Whether it sounds like a quaint private-college rite or something more reminiscent of Animal House, the storming of a president's house strikes me as an unlikely event at the U. It's not just that the Rosenblatt House isn't situated next door to student housing (perhaps to the relief of the Machens). It's that it requires a critical mass of students who have a sense of ownership of the University — that is, a sense that the U is their home, theirs to roam and to occupy.

Compiling this issue made me think of the notion of the University as a place. The many e-mails we gratefully received from faculty, staff, and alumni to build our list of "25 favorite things" revealed that often it's the many hidden (and not-so-hidden) treasures and small pleasures at the University that make it a place with personality, a place to which people feel connected and committed — a home.

It's a reminder of the value of a full, multi-faceted college experience. I love online courses and night classes for their convenience and accessibility, but I think they are only parts of a whole. Attending lectures and concerts, meeting for coffee at the Union, cheering at a football game, talking with faculty during office hours, joining a club, playing intramural sports — these things fill out the credit-gathering and give it meaning and proportion. I'm not advocating résumé building; I'm referring to engagement with a time and place. Engagement argues for keeping tuition manageable and scholarships and loans available so that students of all ages and persuasions don't have to watch their college experience stolen by 40-hour workweeks.

In his last column as editor of The Daily Utah Chronicle, Matt Canham BS'02 bemoaned the lack of community at the U and urged freshmen, "Start small. Call the Bennion Community Service Center and feed the homeless. Attend a religious service. Find a club that suits you. If it doesn't exist, create it. If you don't," he warned, "you will never truly know what college is like."

Indeed, without some sense of the University as a place to be occupied, both physically and spiritually, students won't be able to compile their own list of "favorite things," those odds and ends that make time at the U so memorable.

Like everyone, I have my own list — from the bulk candy at the bookstore to the bookmaking exhibits on the fifth floor of the library. But like so many of our respondents, for me the real treasures are the people I work with. We didn't include people on our list of 25 because it was impossible to pick and choose among the many deserving nominees. People like Dean Ottesen of the paint shop, Toni Lehtinen BA'74 of the development office, Deena Gehling at the Union, and Leo Leckie ex'89 of the diversity office are representative of the many people who were mentioned as making the U a better place because of their dedication to it. It's not always the most visible people, we learned, who are the most valued for their consistent contributions.

The same is true here at Continuum. Behind these pages is a devoted crew: Randy Royter, the magazine's longtime art director, who figures out a way to make every subject jump from the pages; Linda Marion BFA'67 MFA'71, the managing editor, who writes, edits, budgets, and, most recently, photographs with sound judgment and good humor; Gina Fisher BS'77, the marketing manager, who keeps us afloat with advertising and corporate partners; and Nettie Pendley BA'59, the editorial assistant, who writes, proofs, and reminds me that commas can be good things. They care for each story about the U with their own sense of ownership and pride, albeit without a midnight serenade at the Rosenblatt House (yet). I'm grateful to them all.


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