Tuesday, January 29, 2008

JBWho?

Sunday, 01/27: heading out on another recruiting trip. Flying right now actually, heading east to Cincinnati then south to Savannah, GA, where Savannah College of Art and Design lives and thrives.

Rewind. Friday, 01/25: our final day at JBU.

Just finished up lunch at President and Mrs. Pollard’s house. The perfect experience to wrap up an amazing trip. Bess and I start the drive home. We’re rockin’ out to Alex’s “Make me Artsy” CD and Derek's chill mix, and for the first time in a few days, we’re not talking a mile a minute. We’re both sitting quietly, rural hills, rocky cliffs, and winding rivers rolling by, thinking about the past few days. The quiet gave me some time to figure out how to best sum up the JBU trip… Here are my thoughts.

During travel season, I’m often asked by friends and colleagues, “Where are you headed next, Erin?” Usually that question is followed by them trying to guess, “Philadelphia? Atlanta? San Jose? Sarasota?” I have to confess that nobody has ever guessed “Siloam Springs, Arkansas.” And when I told them where I was headed on my first recruiting trip of 2008, most of them responded with a facial expression that said, “Arkansas? JBWho?

I have to admit, when I first met Todd Goehner and several JBU students in March of 2007 at AIGA Kansas City’s Student Portfolio Day, I was a bit surprised myself. I had never heard of John Brown University, and I had to ask several students to repeat themselves so that I could remember what it was called and where it was located.

Arkansas… rural, southern, small (tiny), small-minded, lacking diversity, Bible belt, small towns, no towns, nothing to do, limited perspectives, religious, not at all unique, boring, never changing… All of these are ideas that people may have in their minds about a place like Arkansas, though most have never been there. It's the same thing as when people associate Kansas City with cattle sales barns and a poor baseball team, though they have never visited KC.

Though it is hard for me to admit, I know I had some of these Arkansas-stereotypes in my own mind prior to my visit (and I had only visited Siloam Springs once, and for less than 48 hours). But, isn’t it amazing how a person’s perspective can change if they invest a little time and energy into something they know nothing about?

My mind (and my heart) have changed after visiting JBU and spending time some time on the campus. Bess too, shares my perspective on this: What we found in a small city in Northwest Arkansas was far different than we ever expected.

We found passion and compassion for people. We experienced it firsthand when Jeran took us to lunch and she smiled and said hello to every person she saw; when Dave, Todd, Neal, Neil, Peter, Joel, and Charles opened up their classrooms and students to us, allowing us the opportunity to get to know so many passion-led, talented people; when Chip and Carey Pollard opened their home and their table to us on our final day, genuinely interested in hearing about our visit to JBU, asking about our experience, and hearing about the growing partnership between JBU and Hallmark.

We found creativity and talent. In the Art Building itself was an atmosphere that breathes creativity: the gallery, the classrooms, the offices, the art and quotes on the walls; In the faculty: their creativity and talent was evident, both in what they teach, and in their personal artwork or hobbies; In the students: their teachability and excitement for creative expression, their sponge-like ability to absorb everything around them; their individuality coupled with their acceptance of others who are unlike them.

We found a campus rich with diversity. We learned that most students had either lived abroad or had traveled abroad. We met students who grew up in all parts of the world as children of missionaries: Bolivia, Brazil, Korea, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Russia, Germany. Most of them are bilingual. We met students who had studied abroad in England, Ireland, France, Jordan. We learned of students who come to JBU on 4-year scholarships from countries throughout South America. We learned that nearly 20% of JBU’s student body is made up of students from outside of the U.S. -- cool!

I could go on and on with this list. I'm not really sure how to sum up this blog entry, because my mind is still so full of "hard to type" thoughts, memories, and ideas. So, I'll close by saying thank you -- to all of you. For a wonderful experience, and for broadening my perspective and my creativity.

3 comments:

Hooflex said...

That was an entry - a very, very great entry. And you have become more artsy from visiting us in the au natural state...

Stuz0r said...

Great story! Thanks for coming and talking with us. Very interesting stuff you guys had to share! :)

cre8ivemind said...

hey friends -- hope that you are all safe after all that crazy weather the other night... stay warm and thanks for reading! i miss arkansas! :o)