dolphins, family, and dreaming big dreams

Dear President Beck,

Welcome to the dolphin family! My name is Krista Wilbur and I’m a CSUCI alum. I graduated in 2008 with a BA in English. I saw that you’re spending your first 100 days going on a listening tour and I would love to have you hear about my experience as a CSUCI alum.

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I began CSUCI in the spring of 2006 with a heavy burden on my shoulders. Life had dealt me some very unfair blows and I had very inadequate means to deal with those things, so when I came to CSUCI I was floundering. I struggled through my first semester, earning failing grades in most of my classes. Except one.

That one class was a lower division American Lit class required for my major. My professor had no idea about the things I was struggling with, but when I asked her to make up some work I’d missed, she gave me the green light. And that forever changed me, being allowed to make things right when for so long I had made things so wrong.

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I caught up in that one class and finished it with an A. My other classes didn’t follow. I ended the semester with a terrible GPA, and I had to appeal my financial aid, and I had to attend a special class for anyone on academic probation, but I kept on going. In the fall of 2006, I took three classes with that professor and she made me feel like I was going to be okay. She listened to me as I wanted to grow academically. She challenged on the papers I wrote, pushing me to find my voice as a writer and encouraging me to go further, dig deeper, and to rise above whatever it was I thought I could do.

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She also gave me space to breath in the midst of those heavy burdens I mentioned above. When she wrote one-act play as part of a festival of one-act plays, I found myself relating to the lead protagonist in so many ways. I sobbed as I wrote her an email after the plays that night, telling her all of these things that had been bearing down on me for so long. She wrote back, words that soothed me — words that I carry in my wallet on a piece of paper folded into eights, its edges frayed and thinning and taped together. In the months after, that professor met with me every other week and helped me write a book, one chapter at a time. I hope you lead CI in a way that encourages professors to pour into students — not just the book knowledge but the personal stuff, too.

That is CSUCI.

In the spring of 2007 I attended an info session about being an orientation leader. I signed up to assist, not lead, and a few months later I ended up signing up to do the whole thing. I spent that summer, and the one that followed, helping plan new student orientation, leading students around a campus I loved, encouraging them to get involved and to let college go through them, as Doc would say, instead of simply going through college. I made friends and was encouraged to go to grad school, to pick a program that was entirely different than anything I thought I’d ever do. Those two summers taught me so much about having a strong work ethic, how to fight fair, and above all else what it means to love what you do. I laughed until I was sick to my stomach, the tears rolling down my face. I would go back in time and do it all over again if I could. I can’t look at those pictures from those two summers without a swell of pride coming over me.

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Being an OL taught me that whatever college you pick, you can find yourself at home there. I didn’t need a brand-name college. As Malcolm Gladwell writes about in his book David and Goliath, I had the chance to be a big fish in a small pond and it was life-changing. I hope you will lead CSUCI in a way that allows students, no matter how large the campus may grow, to be Big Fish.

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That is CSUCI.

In the spring of 2008, as May broke open its first few days on the campus, I watched as people began to set up thousands of white chairs in the South Quad, then a stage parallel to Anacapa Village. I took graduation pictures on the upper floor of the Bell Tower, the Bell Tower Courtyard in the background. I sat in that very courtyard between classes, listening to the silence and watching the squirrels climb trees. I bought a graduation robe and cried at everyone of these milestones. It seemed liked I’d never walk across that stage with my history, but there I was. Some of the tears I cried were in disbelief, but most were in sorrow. I was ready to graduate, but I wasn’t ready to leave CSUCI. It had been the first of the four colleges I attended that felt like home. I hope you lead CI in a way that makes it difficult to leave because it meant so much.

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That is CSUCI.

I came to campus in the spring of 2006 with every expectation of being a parking lot student. After all, I was older than most of the people in my classes, except my professors. I worked full-time off campus. I was simply trying to find a place to finish out a degree that was going to take me forever to get. I didn’t want to make friends. I just wanted to get done.

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None of that happened. I fell in love with the history of the college, with the care of the professors, with the concrete walls of the classrooms and the beauty of being outdoors. I made friendships that have still lasted. I was pushed and stretched and I cried but I was taught never to quit. I found a place where finally, after so much searching, I belonged. I hope you lead CSUCI in a way that makes everyone who steps foot on campus feel that they belong.

That is CSUCI.

CSUCI is a culture of family, of inclusion. It is a place where it’s safe to learn and question, to make mistakes and figure out how to comprehend the consequences of your choices in a healthy, supported way. It’s a place where friendships are encouraged, formed, and nurtured. It is a place of learning, of growing, and pf becoming well-rounded. CSUCI has and always will feel to me like that moment when you get home from a long day at work, with tired and achy bones, and you put on your pajamas and sit down on the sofa and your muscles just stop having to work so hard and you feel free in who you are. All of the little moments add to that. I hope you lead CSUCI in a way that makes it feel like a refreshing breath, a place to relax.

That is CSUCI.

I visit CSUCI a couple of times a year, and although it’s changed since I graduated eight years ago, I always feel at home. The first place I like to go is the student center, to the wall where donors have their names etched in brick. I gave money as part of the Class of 2008 senior gift and my name is on that wall. See it there always thrills me because I feel so proud to have played a part, however small, in a school that changes people in ways so very big.

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I have never once regretted my decision to attend CSUCI. It was small and still so new when I began. It was a risk. And that risk has been the one of the greatest I’ve ever taken.

Sincerely, and with much dolphin pride,
Krista Wilbur, ’08

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