“I’m heading off to law school next week, are you around campus to say hello?”
These requests from alumnae are among my favorite. Reconnecting with someone you’ve taught, someone you’ve challenged, or even better, someone you’ve learned something from, is enormously gratifying. And not just in the “Oh, that’s nice” kind of way, but in the “Yes! We shared an intellectual experience and I can’t wait to learn what you’re thinking about these days” kind of way.
I remember this student as extremely diligent, a genuine thinker, and truly kind (all qualities her chosen field will benefit from). Right away, a few things struck me—while she reminisced about Dana Hall, she was prospective in her reflections rather than solely retrospective.
There was no syrupy nostalgia. She was, and is, focused squarely on the future. Of course, the Dana Hall of her day peppered our conversation and we shared memories, but I was struck by how her tenacity as a high school student had shifted to the wisdom of an adult. Instead of wistfully referencing a beloved roommate, she described how her Dana Hall roommate prepared her for living in the college dorm with students who had never lived away from home. She could summon her experiences and leverage them for new learning.
Another example—instead of focusing on her enjoyment of classes while at Dana Hall, her evolved self reflected on the academic competition while here and how it was different from the cutthroat environment of her highly competitive college. And, with openness and authenticity, she appreciated her decision to delay law school, and instead take a job as a paralegal to first learn about the law before learning how to practice it.
Once students leave Dana Hall they take their skills and habits, but they also take their connections to classmates and adults alike. As educators, we wish them well, and we turn our attention to new students in our care. This visit reminded me that our collective experiences as students and adults at Dana Hall continue to shape and stir our world view, even once the Step Sings and Harbor Cruises have passed.
I asked her if she was nervous.
“No, I’ve got this. I’m going to be a really good lawyer and I know this is the right path for me.”
She’s right. Just so right.