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Beginnings and endings: A reflection of the 2017-2018 academic year

As the 2017-2018 Maryville College academic year comes to a close, now is the time to reflect on this period of grand beginnings, growth, loss, learning, chaotic politics and sad farewells. Containing three deaths, multiple retirements and numerous changes to academic policy, the end of this year marks the end of a tumultuous time in the College’s history.

This year, the college had many celebrations for those who made Maryville their profession. Several individuals bade bittersweet goodbyes to the College after years of service to professors, students and staff alike. Both Ms. Mary Frost and Mrs. Carolyn Potter, the former an administrative assistant to the behavioral science division and the latter an administrative assistant to the humanities division, publicly announced their plans for retirement early in December. These two staff members were loved by students throughout the years and seemingly possess a contagious aura of relaxation that is the bane of all existent stress. Mrs. Potter is currently spending more time with her grandchildren, while Ms. Frost is tending to her garden and driving an ambulance as an EMT.

In addition to these two, the College also bade farewell to Dr. Terry Simpson, Professor of Secondary Education and Director of Teacher Education. Simpson has a heart for education, and his passion for learning shrewdly inspired students at the college for nearly 27 years.  This year was his last teaching at Maryville College, though his undying love for education will certainly exemplify itself in other ways during retirement. These exemplary individuals will be sorely missed, but their words and actions of positive inspiration will remain with the College for as long as it exists.

Senior Brittany Johnson was a physical education major and started at point guard on the MC women’s basketball team. – Photo courtesy of MC Athletic Communications

Hectic events began just after the start of the 2017 fall semester when a beloved student,  Brittany Johnson, was killed in a car accident. Johnson was a physical education major and started at point guard on the MC women’s basketball team. Her loss was felt greatly by all those who witnessed her beautifully kind smile.

This January, student veteran Adam Peppers

A tree was recently planted in front of Crawford House in memory of student veteran Adam Peppers, who was a finance and accounting major with an outdoor studies minor. – Photo Courtesy of MC Communications

passed away due to cancer that required him to leave Maryville College in order to receive treatment in Georgia. He served in the U.S Army, and a tree has been planted on campus in front of Crawford House to honor his memory. The roots grow deep, mirroring his deep-seated devotion to both family and country.

Senior Clark Jones was a marketing major with a self-proclaimed love for heavy metal music and was known for his artistic creativity. – Photo courtesy of MC Athletic Communications

After a semester of grieving, the campus also lost a another senior, Clark Jones, who was killed in a traffic collision. Jones was known as an individual with a caring heart and had a reputation for artistic creativity and a self-proclaimed love for heavy metal. While he has passed away, his kindness and sense of humor live on.

Maryville College has also experienced much change in the realm of academics during the 2017-2018 year.  The number of course hours required to graduate was lowered, J-Term was eliminated and a nursing program was added to the curriculum for fall of next year. The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the regional body of higher education institutions that accredits over 13,000 schools and colleges in the southern United States, has allowed for a dual-degree arrangement between Maryville College and Tennessee Wesleyan University in order to offer a degree to those interested in health care and nursing.

This major academic undertaking will broaden the scope of Maryville College’s educational expertise while appealing to students seeking a traditional liberal arts education geared towards the health sciences. As for the elimination of January-term, the period during January that allowed students to take three credit hours in three weeks, it is to be resurrected as a new May term next year. The administration sought to create a more standard two semester experience rather than cutting the semesters in half with J-term.

Going forward, the college will require graduates to achieve fewer credit hours than in the past; thus, fewer classes are required. It seems Maryville College has attempted to advance its goal of a traditional liberal arts education by restructuring its curriculum and yearly schedule into a more modernized experience. Only time will tell if the changes made during this period serve to wholly benefit the institution itself.

While Maryville College experienced the journey of this year as a community, many students faced the 2017-2018 period as individuals attempting to finely balance personal lives and academic pursuits. One such student is senior Dalton Beard.

“Ambivalent,” said the 27-year-old writer and renaissance man of his senior year. “It sort of had two minds I suppose. The fall semester was an incredibly hard time for me. I had a lot of worries about income, fears about money and I had a bad job. The spring semester has been relatively easier. It has been what I needed before I graduate.”

While Dalton found footing in his own endeavors, he acknowledged that looking back, this year will be viewed as turbulent time.

“I think a lot of students will look back and view this time as a highly politicized era,” he said with a thoughtful look. “I think this will be the 1968 of our lifetimes.” In relation to his personal journey, he noted that he’ll “never forget the incredible friends [he] made here.”

Another individual who successfully made it through this time is junior Kalyn Carpenter. Carpenter is vivaciously involved in politics, as she served as this year’s president of the Maryville College Democrats and is a vocal feminist. She described this year as “a learning process.”

“I feel like its been taxing mentally, but it’s also been very rewarding,” Carpenter said.

Finally, it seems that Kalyn is not the only one to grow in terms personal identity. Brinley Knowles, a sophomore, executive board member of the PRIDE club, and the business and events manager of “Impressions” literary magazine, described her year as a long period of “holding my breath.”

“This year I was busier than ever with more commitments than ever and more school work than ever,” Knowles said.

Yet, business did not stop this scholarly individual from making new friends and taking on new commitments. In addition to her club work Brinley also became a Maryville College ambassador and found some amazing new people to call friends. She says she is incredibly “blessed” to have met such amazing peers at a college she dearly loves.

As a freshman, I have found that this first year of college seems to have been a whole life experience in microcosm. It has been a journey of new friends, faces, knowledge and wisdom, and I feel that I have grown more in this year than I have my entire life. From building lifelong spiritual relationships, to gorging myself on noodle cups in the wee hours of the morning, the whole thing was an adventure of fantastic change. A year like this is a tipping point, a time of life that is remembered as both a beginning and end. A time that, decades down the road, is reflected upon as seminally influencing all that is consequential in the existential expeditions of natural life. This year will forever be in our memories, and looking back, will remain with us for years to come.

                            

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