Four years ago I moved into my dorm at Iowa State University with no understanding of how much the university and Ames, IA, would eventually mean to me. As I set up my dorm room, I installed a bulletin board on my wall and one of the first things I pinned to it was this photo:
This photo of my parents walking together (under the red and white umbrella) on the day of their graduation from the College of William & Mary in 1991 remained on my bulletin board in every room I had while attending Iowa State. Every time I looked at it, I enthusiastically dreamt of what my own graduation day might look like. I was eager for the opportunity to celebrate my four years at college and extend my appreciation and thanks to all who had played a part in my experience. Little did I know, my graduation would look drastically different than any class before me.
On March 14, during Iowa State's spring break, we received official word that the rest of the spring 2020 semester would be moved online. With this, the spring commencement ceremony was canceled with promise of a live-streamed commencement address. I won't lie, I cried when I read that email. I was devastated by the apparent loss of senior-year moments I felt entitled to. I had been looking forward to walking at graduation, attending multiple honors ceremonies, singing "All Glory Be to Christ" at the final Salt Company Thursday night of the semester, chatting with my advisor, staying up late into the night with friends, dancing the night away at my sorority semi-formal, sitting in Hamilton Hall for classes and walking around Iowa State's beautiful campus (among other things). In the blink of an eye, these "plans" were taken away.
As I transitioned to completing my courses online from the comfort of my family's home in Wisconsin, I took time to mourn these losses. However, slowly but surely I have been able to see the overwhelming blessings that are also evident during this tumultuous time. I have had a front row seat to the compassion and innovation that has flowed from such difficulty.
Last weekend I took a quick trip to Ames to visit friends and have an official graduation photo session on campus. Although it may seem trivial or vain, being able to take photos in front of all my favorite campus locations and in my full graduation ensemble truly meant a ton. I know that I will treasure these photos for a long time. They serve as a piece of normalcy amidst the crisis and they helped to capture and celebrate my experience at Iowa State University.
I could fill pages upon pages with my list of people and things I'm thankful for, but I'll try my best to sum it up.
My family: Thank you for making it possible for me to attend Iowa State University and for supporting me through every second. I'm thankful for your assistance with each move-in, every car ride to or from ISU, Sunday FaceTime sessions and so much more.
My friends: Thank you for filling college with deep conversations, road trip adventures, dance sessions, bonfires and laughter. I never knew that true deep friendships could develop this quickly!
Deb Gibson: Thank you for being my advisor, mentor and friend. Thank you for seeing my potential and providing countless opportunities for me to learn and grow. I am forever grateful to JL MC 240X for introducing us!
Salt Company and Cornerstone Church: Thank you for introducing me to some of my closest friends, placing influential mentors in my life, giving me the opportunity to grow as a leader, allowing me to worship boldly and most importantly, drawing me closer to Jesus. Coming into college, I knew I wanted to be involved in a college ministry. I remember talking to my freshman roommate and committing to trying out multiple churches and college ministries before deciding. We attended Salt Company's kick off, and when we walked away we agreed we didn't need to search any further. We attended one Sunday service at Cornerstone and knew we had found our church home. Salt Company and Cornerstone Church exceeded any expectations I could have had for developing my faith while in college.
Alpha Delta Pi, Pi Chapter: Thank you for surrounding me with driven, confident, authentic women who both accepted me as I was and challenged me to become my absolute best self. I will never forget spending days cooped up in the house during recruitment, getting Megan Poppens as my little, the preference night conversations (Jennae, Kennedy, Marisa and more), reading my preference night letter, cheering on our teams for Greek Week and nights spent lip syncing.
The Meredith Apprenticeship Program: Thank you for making my dreams a reality. During my initial tour of ISU, I got to talk to professors and students within the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication. I distinctly remember someone mentioning the school's Meredith Apprenticeship Program which selected ten students each year to work at Meredith Corporation in Des Moines. I knew I had to try for this program (I even attended the interest meeting as a freshman even though I couldn't apply yet). The fact that Iowa State is uniquely positioned only 45 minutes from Meredith Corporation, the #1 magazine publishing company in the country still blows my mind. I feel so lucky to have served as Meredith Apprentice with Better Homes & Gardens. Through this program, my work was published in a national magazine, and my desire to work in magazine media was confirmed.
The Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication: Thank you for providing classes, professors, extracurriculars and programs that were exactly what I needed. Thank you for developing in me not only the necessary skills to be a journalist, but also the passion that this field requires.
In the words of Tony Stark: "Part of the journey is the end." As a huge Marvel lover, I thought this quote was a perfect note to end my Iowa State career on AND a perfect way to decorate my graduation cap.
This morning I donned my graduation cap while sitting in front of the TV with my family. Together we watched Iowa State University's spring 2020 commencement ceremony and I finally got to move my tassel. I can now say I am a proud official alumni of Iowa State University! While this graduation was not what I imagined or wished for, it definitely was special. This pandemic can't take away four years of amazing memories!
I can't wait to see what God has in store for me next. He sure knew what he was doing when he brought me to Iowa State University!
Ames, IA, I'll definitely be back! GO CYCLONES!