Early in my first semester of grad school, a colleague invited me out for coffee to kindly inquire about how I was doing so far. I was doing okay, I thought, but was feeling a bit out of place. My colleague gently suggested that I was being perhaps a bit too aggressive in asserting myself in class and in general.
Encouraged to be a bit more vulnerable, I expressed that I felt my own background may be a liability, and that I may be overcompensating. My colleague encouraged me to calm myself and be more patient, more open, more empathetic.
I thank that colleague for that conversation, one of so many here at UNC that helped me grow further as a responsible, informed citizen.
Like all of us, I am the product of institutions. I hope to graduate with a doctorate from UNC in communication this August. While I have been well-educated in the specifics of my discipline, the most important thing I take from this place is a better way of being a human in community with others.
The diversity of viewpoints I have been privileged enough to engage with and try to understand, both academically and personally, leaves me incalculably enriched. While polarization seem to be what our politics currently reduce to, my experience here has taught me that this world need not be what it is. My colleagues and I fully agree and vehemently disagree, often across years of written work, often in the same seminar hour, often on an outside patio.