This content originally appeared in the Siloam Springs Herald Leader
I landed at John Brown University by happenstance. My first choice didn’t work out because I needed to stay closer to home than New York allowed. I asked my youth leaders if they had an idea on quality Christian schools. Larry and Donna Moore recommended JBU, and raved about their son’s experience. I logged onto the internet, emailed an admissions counselor for a campus tour and the rest is history.
When I arrived at JBU I was in a very interesting transition space in my life. I was heavily involved in my local church and a Christian university education was valuable to me. The thing was that when I arrived at JBU I found myself out of place. My sister and I worked full time jobs and our rough backgrounds made it hard to fit in with a lot of the conservative and homeschooled kids. I began to feel as though I wasn’t the “right kind of Christian” for John Brown University. My liberal ideology and support of my LGBTQ friends and family made it hard for me to meld into the culture. I started to feel isolated, jaded about the goodness of “Christian Community”, and mistrusting of the “JBU type.”
Because I arrived at JBU during a time that I was wrestling with identity, it was easy to assign all my angst on JBU as a global entity. If I struggled with feeling alone it was because I wasn’t “JBU enough”. I am not the only one who has had an experience like this. I’ve had the chance to talk to multiple alumni who report having the same experience. When they found themselves in the same places they felt a desire to reject John Brown University along with all the other cookie cutter Christian identities they’d held dear. I’ve struggled not to be embarrassed to admit that I am a graduate of JBU when some of my first launch into discussions about how closed minded people who attend JBU are.
JBU has become a place I, sometimes, love to hate. If I am honest, though, and we are all honest John Brown University has held the mantel of hope for so many of us. Regardless of whatever problems JBU has and what JBU needs to change, the university does this right: JBU is filled with the most gracious and kind people.
When my brother died Andre Broquard showed up at my brother’s service with my RA. Jackie Wright and Becky Lambert bought me gifts during my first pregnancy. I struggled with how to fit in the undergraduate population while being pregnant and married and Holly Allen sat with me for hours at a time encouraging my journey. Melanie Kennedy and Julie McGarrah cheered me on as I raised a toddler and finished up my requirements for graduation. Frannie O’Neal, Edelyn and Tim in the bookstore, Carla Swearingen, Dave Johnson, Carol Maines, Jennifer Pastoor, Rick Froman… all these people loved me and cheered on my success.
It is true that JBU’s campus holds some bigoted and close minded ideals. It is true that people from diverse backgrounds can feel marginalized on the campus and struggle to fit in. What else is also true is that the community at John Brown University is deeply compassionate. The people I have met on this campus wrestle with the tough questions and love fiercely. I am moving pass the period of my life where I need scapegoats. My angst at JBU was and is more about my feelings of insecurity than anything else. If we focus on the broken parts of something we may be too distracted to see the most amazing parts of something. For me, the most amazing parts were the people who invested in me and forever changed my world. I owe them a debt of gratitude. I am thankful to all of you. The future success of my children will be because you helped their mother become a better version of herself. The people I help in my life will be because I was helped by each and every one of you. Your love has been a gift to me and will be the legacy I remember of John Brown University.