Daughter is at that age now when it's time to start thinking college. I must say, however, that for this child, thinking college has been something she's done her entire life. Education has always been an important thing for our family (and for husband's family and for my family before we were "us.") Daughter has also always had a keen interest in art and has known for years now that she wants to study some form of art in college. She's gone from fashion design to interior design, and now, finally, it looks like graphic design is what she wants to study. We took her on her first college tour two years ago when she was an 8th grader to Savannah College of Art and Design. She loved it.
Thanks to Facebook, I've gotten back in touch with students, professors, and administrators from my and husband's alma mater, Coker College. The memories brought back by talking to these people made me want to share Coker with daughter. So, when we found out there was an open house coming, we registered. She was not quite as excited about the whole thing as I was, needless to say! She was more excited about a girls' getaway and staying in a hotel than she was about seeing the place I called home for 4 years of my life.
Thursday afternoon, we left for our drive to Coker. The closer we got, the more excited I got. Although we arrived in the semi-dark and it was cold and raining, my first stop had to be at campus. Seeing the campus stirred up so many emotions in me. I didn't expect it at all. We couldn't do more than take a quick look, though, because we were both cold, tired, and hungry.
Friday morning arrived, again cold and overcast, and we got ourselves ready for the open house. Coker has changed so much since I graduated in 1987. There are new buildings on campus. The road through it is now closed to pedestrian traffic (hurray!). There are so many new faces in the faculty. Still, the feeling remains the same. Coker is a very special place, particularly for those of us who were students there.
Daughter was able to meet several professors, including a woman who made a huge impact on my life, Dr. Patricia Lincoln. Seeing Dr. Lincoln was probably the most special part of the visit for me. She has barely changed after all these years--still the same personable, upbeat woman. I did take the opportunity to tease her a little about those "forced marches" she used to lead us through in her classes! Any biology student of Dr. Lincoln's can probably relate to that!! As I shared with Dr. Lincoln in an e-mail, although I may not be working in ecology or evolution, the foundation I got in my education at Coker certainly prepared me to build what I like to think is a very successful career in the biological science arena. But, enough about me, let's get on with the open house and daughter's experience!
We picked up information about several of the majors at Coker, found out about what some of the extra curricular opportunities are, heard from professors about the academic environment, and heard from a student panel about their Coker experience. The emphasis all morning was on the importance of the individual, about professors and students who really are able to get to know one another due to the small size of the school and the classes (10:1 stuent teacher ratio). The Coker president told us that this is a small school by design and will always be a small school. Given that daughter is attending a small high school now, this is right up our alley. She's the kind of kid who needs to know everybody and have everybody know her. Most importantly for me, we heard about financial aid, and I found out that if things remain the same with daughter's grades and if her SAT (when she takes it) is as good as her PSAT which she's taken as a Sophomore, then she's very well positioned to get some of the most generous scholarships Coker offers. For the first time, I've felt like maybe we can swing paying for college after all.
Finally, after the presentations were over, parents and students split up for campus tours. This is the part I'd been anxiously waiting on! The campus still looks pretty much the same with a few exceptions. There is now a fabulous library/technology center. This place even has a coffee shop! There's also a great new performing arts center. Back in the late 80s, the Governor's School for Science and Math built a dormitory on campus. It's still there, but now inhabited by Coker students (the high schoolers have a new facility off campus). As a mom, I was pleased to see that security in the dorms has been increased. You now have to have a scan card to get into any of the dorms, and you only get those if you are a resident. Not even commuter students can access the dorms. The amphitheater behind Davidson has been filled in, but the students still enjoy using that space for pick up football or soccer games or just lounging in the sun. The SUB still looks just like it did back in 1983-1987 when I was a student at Coker.
The best part of the day for daughter was meeting with art professor Jean Grosser. Daughter was able to show Ms. Grosser some of her art work to date and get some objective feedback. She was also able to observe a class for a little while, get a personal tour of the building, meet a senior graphic design student who's working on his senior show, and see some of the work other students are doing. She was impressed and said to me afterward that some of the work she'd seen was even better than what she had seen at the art college.
Why did it take me 20 years to go back to Coker? I thought that holding onto the past meant not embracing the future, but I was wrong. There's nothing wrong with a visit now and again to where you came from as long as you grow and move on to what your future holds. I plan to make many more trips back to Coker, regardless of what daughter's decision about a college may be. I do take it as a good sign that on her evaluation she wrote that Coker was homey and a cozy place. It's a good sign that she wanted to stop at the bookstore on the way home and pick up some Coker gear. She has been wearing her new hoody since the minute we got in the car to come back home. She told me she likes Coker and can see herself going there. The thought that we may have a second generation Coker student thrills me. I do know, however, that this is entirely her
choice. She needs to pick the school that is right for her. I think Coker's small size and friendly environment will play a big part in that decision, but we still have many more small colleges to visit. Here's hoping Coker wins! ;-)