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Just as March quickly faded into April like the swatches on a color wheel, graduation has become less of a dream and more of a reality. Going to Waynesburg and earning my undergraduate degree has been my life for the last four years—a life I have looked forward to and a life that has shown me I can handle more than I thought. Change is on the horizon and the more I think about it, the more nervous I become.

“What’s next?” people ask.

“I’m not sure,” I respond in honesty. 

It’s no secret to those who know me that I am not someone who embraces change easily. I have the same morning routine no matter the day of the week; I’ve gone to the same church my entire life and lived in the same town; I’ve always done what’s comfortable.

I hear my classmates talk about their plans to go on to graduate school and then get their doctorates. I’m proud of them. Their plans sound so crisp and attractive, but are those same plans for me? 

I’ve sat in my classes trying to absorb everything I can, grasping at each and every word as if they are the last remnants of some sort of ancient colony. I’ve collected those words, organized them and placed them inside a clear glass case in hopes that, one day, I can help future generations learn from and admire them as I did. Even as I go back through everything I have stored in my memory bank, my mind wildly races: am I really ready for this?

Of course you are, God answers. Have I not gotten you this far?

My faith is a constant reminder to me of what’s in store for my future, even when I have no idea where my life is going. There is no question I’m entering a time of change. My life is going to be flipped inside out, washed, pressed and hung to dry, but one thing will always remain the same: the love my Savior has for me.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.." Jeremiah 29: 11

This very verse has gotten me through my entire undergraduate career and is sure to get me through even more as I enter the new stages of my life. Even when the prospects of college, jobs, marriage, kids and a mortgage seemed like distant fairytales, God was preparing my heart for them, watching me transform into the person He wants me to be.

I know this journey is far from over, but with the things I have learned as a student at Waynesburg and in prayer, I also know I have the ability to harness my nerves so God can lead me to the place I’m meant to be.

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First semester freshman year, I anxiously sat waiting for my second class of the day to begin. My Survey of Music course had just let out and as I trekked across campus, gasping for air as I climbed the hill to Buhl Hall, I wondered what else was in store for me.

High school was over. College was a new animal.

I took a seat in the front near the door, not wanting to draw attention to myself, but still wanting to get as much as I could from the lecture. As students filed through the door, I pulled out my fresh notebook, a mechanical pencil and my agenda, making sure everything was labeled properly (some things wouldn’t change) and that I had what I needed.

When I finally looked up, a man shuffled into the room whistling as he closed the door behind him. He set his things on the desk in the front of the room and then turned around to write his name on the board.

“My name is Dr. Bob Randolph,” he said over his shoulder as he wrote. “But you can call me Dr. Bob.”

When I enrolled at Waynesburg, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with my life, so I declared my major as “exploring.” During freshman orientation, I met with my given advisor. As we sat across from each other she showed me my schedule for the semester, which had been put together based on my interests and general requirements. Her red pen pointed at each line, creating a small dot at the beginning of each course name.

·Survey of Music

·College Composition I

·Environmental Biology

·Fiat Lux

When her pen settled on a line that read “Introduction to Creative Writing” a sudden surge of excitement took over. I was going to write.

Dr. Bob turned around and gave a reassuring smile to the room full of unsure freshman students, settling on my own nervous face for a moment before continuing. He told us what the class was about and the more he talked, the more drawn in I became. We were going to write fiction, poetry and a small memoir. I could not wait to get started. The first thing we would write would be a flash fiction story—500 words, due the following week.

I became intent on creating a suspense filled award winner. The idea for the story came quickly and I feverishly typed out the plot line. My story was about a young woman whose husband had gone to war and died, or so she thought. She mourned over their pictures together, remembering the day she watched him climb onto the plane. One stormy night she wandered out to their old creaky barn and found a letter from him. He was alive. They weren’t safe. He would send for her.

As funny as it all sounds to me now as I look back on that semester (and that ridiculous story), my freshman self was intrigued—emotionally invested. Full of new ideas and concepts for stories, I had found a passion. By the middle of that semester I was in my advisor’s office proudly declaring my major as English, creative writing.

What I have learned as a creative writing major at Waynesburg is far more than how to write a compelling story. I have learned how to incorporate new ideas into otherwise tedious writing, I have learned how to show emotion in a way that relates to those I am trying to appeal, and I have learned how to write grammatically correct, effective pieces of work.

Story-telling, I have found, is an art form. Through it, we become inspired, we feel and we dream. Creative writing is more than writing poetry, fiction and nonfiction. It is observing and understanding the world and those in it; it’s sharing experiences with people from various demographics; and it’s coming up with new ways to explain the things that affect us all as human beings.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Kayla_Painting.jpgHow art courses at Waynesburg have changed my life (as a non-major).

1. The first time I picked up a paintbrush was my sophomore year at Waynesburg. It was the fall term and as I scoured the thin book of offered courses, I stumbled upon an acrylics class, open to all majors. Aside from some sketching here and there, I had never put much effort in to becoming an artist; all I wanted to draw were horses. I had spent my childhood drawing horses until I nearly mastered them. They ran, jumped and reared on the page, never accompanied by a scene of any sort, just a ghost on a sheet of printer paper. Simply put, I couldn’t draw anything else. It was difficult for me to envision myself painting, but I had heard the professor graded based on progress not talent (friendly to anyone with a true interest in learning) so I joined. In a few short weeks, I found myself consumed in the technique of putting paint to canvas— the smooth, gentle glide of a brush and the act of finishing my own work-of-art. It was after my first painting that I (reluctantly) called myself an artist.

2. That fall semester my sophomore year proved to be a challenge, yet, when my feet found their way to the art room time stopped. I sat at the long table with my easel, pushing my brush against the canvas sheet, and I felt my mind lift from the haze of upcoming exams and papers. I couldn’t get enough of the freedom I felt when I was covered in paint, leaving fingerprints on the things I touched. When I realized just how therapeutic painting had become for me, I decided to order more supplies and bring the studio to my own kitchen. The sink, table and floor quickly became their own masterpieces, dripping with paint to my mother’s disliking, while I worked on my paintings. I allowed my thoughts to drift off to happier places where the world I envisioned was the world I became a part of, not the one I actually lived in.

3. Art, I have found, is not always realistic or the popular definition of beauty, yet as I stand in front of a sculpture or a painting with its odd limbs and colors, suspended in midair, I find myself lost in it amidst a lack of understanding. I wander toward it, staring, hoping I’ll have that “ah ha” moment where it becomes clear what exactly is in front of me. I never do, but the interest remains. I continue to look, hopelessly. Questions fill my mind, pressing me to think outside of my normal worldviews. Picasso, Warhol, Kandinsky, what dreamlike places did you travel while you transposed your thoughts to paper and paint to canvas? I want to know where you’ve been.

4. There are nights when I look at the blue and orange sky shifting to pinks and purples over tree branched mountain tops and I want to scoop them up and spread them over a fresh, white canvas, letting the colors mold into one another as they kiss the corners of the page. I want to mark that image forever in my mind, hang it on the wall or mount it in a gallery for the world to see the things I have seen in that very moment. Sometimes I grab my camera to keep that image tucked away, somewhere, for a second glance, but what I have found, through my art courses, is nothing can quite capture an image the same as an artist’s eye.

5. When I think about the peculiarity in the nature of a piece of art, I think of God and His own designs. What inspires God to mold, cut, mix and scrape his creations into their final forms? With infinite amounts of color, materials and tools, the possibilities are endless, yet he chose to create me. What greater, peculiar, humbling love could a person ever encounter?

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I have been a student at Waynesburg University for four years now and one of the first things I would tell anyone interested in applying is that the faculty here are amazing. Waynesburg is a small university; therefore, its focus is to provide a personal learning experience to its students, which it does quite well.

A great example of Waynesburg’s personable faculty, from my own experience, occurred this past semester.

Before the fall 2013 term began, two of my scheduled courses were rescheduled for the following semester. I was anxious. I had no idea what I wanted to replace them with, and it was the start of my senior year. I needed more credits.

When I found an open seat in a Biblical ministries class titled “Wisdom Literature,” I quickly joined, not fully knowing what to expect.

Now, I have always been secure in my beliefs and understandings of faith, especially from what I have learned as a student here, but when I entered class on the first day, I shrunk down in my seat, my mind racing with insecurities. I had not taken many of the classes my classmates had and I was not a ministry major, like the majority of them. I felt insignificant and incompetent. Moreover, I felt like I didn’t belong.

Determined to drop the class out of fear of embarrassment and failure, I e-mailed the professor, describing to him my reasons for wanting to leave, though I didn’t need his permission. I had expected him to tell me “I understand and agree if you are uncomfortable, you should drop the course,” but the answer he gave was considerably different.

When I opened his correspondence, what he told me was “hang in there, enjoy, and feel free to stop by my office anytime for help. No bad questions.”

Through the course of the semester, we studied the Bible, primarily the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Each class period was spent reading aloud the book of study, then discussing its meaning as well as how it applied then and how it applies today.

After each class, the professor would ask me how I was doing and what questions, if any, I had. He sent me examples of things we would be doing for class such as blog posts and reading responses, knowing I was not accustomed to his teaching methods like many of my classmates. I couldn’t believe how much he cared.

As the semester unfolded, I found myself becoming engaged in the topics. What I had not allowed myself to recognize on that first day was that I had been given a unique opportunity to further my understanding of the Word of God in addition to furthering my overall education.

By the end of the course, the amount of questions I had shrunk significantly and I found myself branching off on my own, sharing my opinions and interests, thanks to the help of a professor who was willing to go above and beyond for one student’s understanding.

What I have learned through my college experience at Waynesburg is not only are people willing to help when you need it, they often will go out of their way to make a difference in your life, showing you what you are capable of even when you aren’t sure. To me, that alone speaks of the quality of education I am receiving.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Greene-County-Sunset.jpg

Friday, Jan. 3, 2014

Today, snow drapes from the bare cover of oak tree branches that line the sidewalk behind Miller Hall. Christmas decorations still adorn the frosted brick buildings as I make my way to the office. Yet again, I am reminded of the settling fact that this will be my last winter break as a student worker at Waynesburg University.

Each year it seems this view becomes more beautiful than before, almost whimsical, even. The once rolling green hills that move through campus are now smooth snow caps chasing the sun as it rises above grey clouds. Only frenzied squirrel trails can be found within the white, powdery mix, but in a couple of weeks they will be joined by the dips and divots made by routine ambles to class and the occasional snowball fight.

I don’t feel lonely by the bareness of campus as I continue walking toward Miller Hall, though one might assume you would this time of year. Students will return and the buildings will once again wake to the sound of occupied classrooms and fellowship with friends. In the meantime, campus comes to life on its own in the quiet, still moments of the day, the moments many of us miss during the bustle of our daily routines.

As I take in the view, I realize I will greatly miss this place and the beautiful way God shares His creations through it, for Waynesburg is a sight during every season, not just this one.

Every fall, as the warm summer heat begins to fade, I find myself in this same area, on a bench below the oak trees, listening to the cries of squirrels and the pops of dropping acorns on the surrounding cement. The trees are heavy with vibrant red, orange and yellow tones, and the sidewalks are full with students, yet, as I sit there, I almost feel as though I am sitting in my own private corner of paradise, totally at peace.

In the spring, when the rest of the natural world awakes once more, walking to and from class often doubles as a runway show featuring a wide variety of colorful rain boots and umbrellas. I hear the complaints of students whose hair has begun to frizz and whose coats have soaked through, though I know we are all secretly relishing in the sweet, familiar smell of rain hitting the pavement.

Summer continues this trend with even more beauty. To me, summer is when campus truly comes into its own. In the morning, a golden haze lifts from the grass and the birds and squirrels, alike, call out across the lawn, taking shelter in the shade of the historic buildings. By mid-afternoon, as I push through the doors of Miller and step out into the open air, the sun warms my skin, bringing back the nostalgia of fun with friends and summer loves—the things we once had forgotten.

Even at night, the air just warm enough to enjoy, after admiring the deep pinks and purples of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever witnessed, I curl up beneath the soft light of a nearby lamp post, book in hand, listening to the soothing hum of insects, the slight crack of a moth hitting glass.

Here, I feel safe. Here, I am at home.

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