I’ll never forget the day I walked into Dr. Douglas Mitchell’s office to discuss a paper I was writing for his class and he informed me that he was taking his freshmen down to the creek as they discussed The Iliad and that I was welcome to come. Armed with his copy and a kayak, he led us through the brush and sandy trail as we swatted away bugs, and I couldn’t help but smile a little at the confused looks on their faces.
I was a senior that year and had witnessed the many shenanigans of my professors as we built a Trojan horse and put on impromptu plays, clad togas for Greek-style Olympics, and always wondered where they came up with this stuff. The freshmen were getting a taste of what makes UM gold, and I was a little jealous of all they were about to learn.
They could choose to skate through their classes if they desired, never truly letting this place change them, but if they were truly wise they’d surrender to all it had to teach. They would grieve with Andromache over Hector, scratch their heads at Plato’s riddles and be brought to tears when Scripture came to light as never before. They’d go to their professors’ homes, meet their families and sit on their porches discussing matters of life and love and faith.
I can’t count the number of hours my classmates and I spent wrestling with tough issues from the chair across from our teachers as they asked questions, prayed with us, imparted wisdom and helped us come to our own conclusions about the world. They didn’t offer us meaningless platitudes or brush us away because they had papers to grade but invited us into their offices for a cup of coffee and conversation.
The first time I realized UM was unique in this manner was in graduate school when I tried to do the same and quickly realized this wasn’t normal. My cohorts listened to my stories of comradery among classmates and friendships with professors like I was suggesting there was a magical land in the back of a wardrobe.
Looking back, I know that it wasn’t the curriculum, campus, or classmates that made the experience so life changing and special; rather, it’s the ones that shepherd us into the hard places and throw us a rope and help us a climb out on the other side. It’s the quirky, brilliant, kind people who stand in front of the classroom week after week and teach with passion and courage. Their faith and conviction inspired every part of me and it is because of them that I am who I am.
So embrace it. Push through the difficult days and write the paper on the harder topic because you know you’ll learn more, and when you feel like you can’t take another step forward, ask them to help you. My professors at UM taught me that life is a classroom and it’s in session every single day, so go on and make the most of it. You’ll find you’ve got some pretty great teachers right there in front of you. Walk with them through the sandy trails on the way to the creek and embrace the full experience. They are what makes UM special. They are why you will look back and call yourself blessed.
Malory Green Ford is a 2013 graduate of University of Mobile where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Intercultural Studies and English, as well as participated in the UM Honors Program. She went on to study at Baylor University where she graduated in 2015 with the Master of International Journalism and now works for Alabama WMU as the Missions and Ministry Consultant for Students and Young Women. She and her husband Jared live in Pike Road, AL with their two fur children.