I am occasionally asked why I teach at a small liberal arts college like Messiah College. While I remain loyal to Messiah and its mission, when May rolls around I am usually exhausted by the endless meetings I attended, classes I taught, and department responsibilities I had to fulfill. I have often wondered if the grass might be a little bit greener somewhere else.
But whatever doubts I have about fulfilling my vocation at a place like Messiah disappear during graduation weekend. Tonight I spent the evening with our graduating history majors and their families at the Messiah College baccalaureate reception. It was a time of goodbyes, reflections on four years of academic life together, and thoughts on what the future might hold.
In a small department like the one in which I work, it is not unusual for a student, over the course of his or her college career, to take three or four courses with a given professor. We build relationships with these students–as instructors, advisors, and friends. (In fact, after graduation tomorrow morning I am headed to the wedding of a former student). At Messiah we have managed to balance the academic rigor of a history department with a caring and supportive community for our students.
So when I spend time with our graduates and their families every May it reminds me of one of the reasons I do what I do.