This week’s alumni spotlight turns to David Clifford, a former Bonner scholar and class of 2016. A commonality between all alumni I’ve interviewed has been the absence of an initial plan to come back, in a way it just sort of finds everybody differently. Clifford’s case was no different.
When he graduated, he was eager to move on to the next stage of his life.
“Leaving campus is typically part of that,” he said. It’s not that he didn’t admire Maryville College, but he had started to outgrow MC as a student.
Clifford was encouraged to apply for a newly opened position by some of his connections at the college, and now he can be found coordinating the current Bonners, Center for Campus Ministry (CCM) scholarships, setting up meetings and keeping up with outreach in the community. But what makes MC special enough to Clifford for him to want to pursue the opportunity of coming back? He left Maryville College with a very positive experience.
“It can open just about any door in the world for you,” he said, explaining why MC is important to him. He praises the college’s private liberal arts environment for providing more than just an education.
Clifford said he feels that, in the liberal arts, you “learn how to learn” and how to think critically across an array of disciplines. You are pushed out of your comfort
zone to practice and internalize life skills that will help set you on the right foot for your next stage in life.
He emphasizes that, in addition to this aspect of the college, a big part of what sets MC apart is how tight-knit the community is. The location, the size and every aspect of Maryville is geared towards making sure that students are “less likely to get lost in the crowd,” which can be difficult to find. Students are also allowed to take leadership in their community and clubs, which is important to him because he was a very involved student during his time here.
“I want to see MC grow and strengthen as an institution,” he said. “All alumni share a high expectation for their school, which can be an asset for them if they come back as employees eventually.”
I ask in every alumni staff interview what that person thinks about alumni workers on campus and their role.
“Alumni can be a wonderful addition to an institution’s community if they have the right mindset, but it is not a competition between alumnus and non,” Clifford said.
In fact, he points out that being an alumnus could act as a set of blinders, keeping them from seeing the full potential of MC as an institution.
This is why he stresses that a balance between the two is imperative, different viewpoints to offset the other blinders. When a staff and faculty community is balanced, it is reasonable to believe that the students will come out balanced as well.