Let me paint you a scene. You’re at a funeral, a family reunion — one of those occasions when you’re obligated to retell your abridged life’s story to a half dozen relatives you haven’t seen for 10 years (or even knew existed). They ask you what you do, if you’ve got a job or go to school, and you respond, “I just go to Weber.”
I ‘just’ go to Weber. How tragic that little adverb is.
I felt this same sense of embarrassment my freshman year. All of my friends were going to the University of Utah or Westminster — but after filling out my SAT in a zigzag pattern to protest standardized testing, the only way I’d have gotten into a private school would have been if the Gambino family had threatened to break the school president’s knees if I weren’t accepted.
Unlike the Hermoine Grangers of the world, I didn’t discover ambition until I was in my 20s, years after high school. I discovered it, of all places, in a diaper factory. When I was 18, I took a temp job watching the things into which babies discharge feces go by on conveyor belts, and one day, a scene from “Mrs. Doubtfire” flashed through my mind.
It was Robin Williams (who I sincerely believe is my spirit animal) asking, “Ever wish you could freeze a moment in your day and look at it and say, ‘This is not my life?'” This was that moment, and it couldn’t be my life — I had to get the hell out of there and go back to school.
The following semester, here I was, ‘just’ at Weber, the only school that would have me. Let me tell you what six years of ‘just’ being a Wildcat has gotten me.
I’ve shaken hands with a man who campaigned to be president, turned the pages of 16th-century books with a CNN war correspondent, lifted a pint with my English professor at a pub in London, dug through time as part of an archaeological excavation team and earned the position of editor-in-chief of the newspaper you’re reading this very moment.
This university has ‘just’ given me the support, instilled in me the discipline and provided me the experience I needed to be a contender for the graduate program at my dream school for a quarter of the cost of attending the U of U.
The names of schools like Harvard or Yale don’t guarantee a world-class experience if students don’t work for it — but I demanded a world-class undergraduate education from WSU (and worked my ass off for it), and that’s exactly what I got.
I got an experience that ‘just’ Weber could provide.