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The poet Virgil sang of arms and a man, but I have come to tell the tale of students and an arch. Many have attempted to storm the arch throughout the decades, but no freshman class has made it through.
“This year will be different,” some say. “Our class will be the first to storm the arch!”
The event is undoubtedly exciting. As the students and faculty of Juniata gather around the arch, the anticipation builds. The upperclassmen and rugby teams prepare to defend the arch with intimidating chants. As a freshman, I couldn’t help but hope that September 18, 2013 would witness the victory of the underdog. The rules were set forth: once you fall, you must stay down.
President Troha, also a freshman of sorts, joined the freshman class. The event began. The teams rushed toward each other with purely metaphorical weapons brandished. The two sides clashed. The upperclassmen were stronger warriors. Within a minute, all the freshmen had fallen. The losing side regrouped and tried again, but to no avail. After a few rounds of combat, the upperclassmen decided that they wanted to challenge the leader of their foes. They chanted, “Troha! Troha! Troha!” However, the presidency of Juniata does not include armor adequate to defend against the rugby team. The upperclassmen were not going to allow anyone through the arch, neither new students nor their president. The occasional freshman who was able to emerge from the clump of bodies was then defeated by a second line of upperclassmen. Together, the freshmen and President Troha valiantly stormed the arch ten times. However, the upperclassmen defended the arch too well. The arch remains un-stormed.
Over the past 2 years at Juniata, whether by design or by coincidence, I have frequently stumbled across different lists on various social media sites describing attributes of small liberal arts colleges. So many of them harp on small colleges because you know everyone on campus and professor hang out with students, but honestly, I see the pros of a smaller student body outweighing the cons. Having a smaller student population allows for the campus to build a much stronger community that trusts and respects each other. If I told you to leave your laptop and phone sitting in the middle of the quad and walk to go get a coffee at any campus with over 5,000 students, would you do it? Most likely not. What if I told you that you wouldn’t have to worry about people touching your stuff if you did this at Juniata? This is the type of trust and respect that Juniata’s students have for each other. Even our new President has taken notice of this with how the students leave their bags outside the cafeteria. It is much calmer and makes your college experience less stressful when you don’t have to worry about people stealing your stuff. This is just one reason I prefer the small college experience.
With a smaller student population indubitably comes several other benefits. One of which is the ease of access students have to faculty, staff and each other. Many professors at Juniata have an open door policy, where if they’re in their office with the door open, you are free to walk in and strike up a conversation. Being able to have this connection with your professors really is a luxury that increases the quality of your education. I have professors from freshman year that still remember the names of my siblings and pets! Even new President Troha is going out of his way to be accessible to the student body, as seen in Kunal’s blog entry on September 12th. If you want to meet with your academic advisor, department head or even the dean of students, they will usually be able to meet with you within 48 hours. The beauty of having a smaller school like Juniata is that we have so much more access to our professors and staff, and as a result, more of an input into our education. I personally view this ability to interact with Juniata staff at such a personal level one of the pros of having a small, more tight-knit Juniata community. This ease of access is something most people at Juniata take for granted, but is something that also makes Juniata one of the friendliest and most welcoming campuses on the East Coast.
One of the activities I care about most is my involvement in student government. Last year I was honored to be elected Class President of the class of 2016. One of my responsibilities as Class President is to attend bi-weekly senate meetings, and this year the first meeting was at the house of President Troha himself! It was an amazing experience meeting his wife, and kids, and basically getting to hangout with the president and play table tennis with him. (Talk about historic.)
Last year President Troha spoke about expanding the role of student government, and this was a great symbolic gesture that he meant what he said, but he proved that night he was more then just talk and symbolism. One of the first events planned by my cabinet was a concert on the school quad with all the proceeds going to Alex’s Lemonade Stand. We later found out that our event fell on the same week as president Troha’s inauguration, the theme of the inauguration also happens to be wellness. So we thought it would be a great idea to make it an inaugural concert, where students would get to put their own mark on the whole affair. I took that night as my chance to pitch the idea to the man himself. I walked up, more then a little nervous, and gave him my sell, and to my surprise he approved it on the spot. I know I speak about “Juniata moments” all the time but I can’t help but feel like these type of things don’t happen just anywhere. I walked up to the president of a college, gave him a simple pitch about a really ambitious idea, and I didn’t get brushed off or told to speak to him later. I was listened to. Now I’m busy planning, and more excited then ever, because I know Juniata is in the hands of a man who means what he says. I can’t imagine the possibilities.