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Antioch College Main Hall with two flags, US and Pride

Photo credit:
Buffalo (Steve Duffy ) ’77
Taken at Reunion/Commencement after the Orlando Pulse shooting, June 2016

It is early June and Commencement 2022 is now within a fortnight. (and Volunteer Work Project and Reunion in about three fortnights!) The big celebratory white tent for both events should be up super soon! Since 2015 almost 270 Antiochians will have made it through all the hoops that come along with being an Antioch graduate. The world is a better place already as many recent Antiochians are already out there making waves. (I see it on FB all the time! And some already have Masters’ degrees, Ph.D’s and families too! Antioch IS just a romantic place for some!) It looks like 30 or so will soon join the ranks of our collective “cavalry”, joining that army of people, many who may “Win a Victory for Humanity” before all is said and done. That is an amazingly wonderful feat considering that our collective cavalry of alums brought the College back during the huge financial meltdown of 2008 and 2009.This certainly makes us like no one else and is a testimony to our resourcefulness and resilience! Not even the COVID crisis could do us in. In fact things seem more stable than in quite some time. Campus looks swell although not perfect; if something is broken it gets fixed straightaway. That hasn’t always been the case! I have memories galore of when that wasn’t always the case! Like suffering through summers sans air-conditioning in the OKLIBRARY! And being blown around by large fans that just blew the hot air back and forth.

In perusing a decade of “Antioch College Records” up in Antiochiana while making a ’70’s “slideshow” of pictures and headlines for a Reunion event a few years ago I came upon an op-ed by a Community Manager, Scott Tobey ’68. It was titled “Welcome to the changingest place on earth!” In some ways that may be very true but so much of an Antioch College education remains that real CONSTANT of traveling out into the real world, situating yourself, coming back and having mentors and friends help you reflect and put the experience all together. That is probably why Antioch feels like one of the “changingest” places on earth. Travel, different kinds of work experiences, and a tight knit campus community and great classes are crucial in putting all those puzzle pieces together and the changiest place (your own evolution) is really the changingest change within each Antiochian. Everyone’s co-op and academic adventure are uniquely their own. A great or terrible co-op can turn you around and maybe steer you into a passion that lasts a lifetime. Or away from a temporary fantasy that just wasn’t what you thought it might be.

There have been formal and informal ways that Antiochians tend to bond together to get through our seemingly “Changingest place on Earth”. It might be with common-room conversations, conversations in the caf, library or even the stoop or maybe in a Science Lab or while working on a video project.

On campus there are what are called “IG’s”; we all do so love our acronyms! (IGs are Interest or affinity groups). People with like-minded issues or hurdles bond together to get through all the “changes” they go through. Some long term groups have been PPA,TWA, BAMN, POC for people of color. Others have been related to gender related issues, The Gay Center, The Queer Center, and QOC (queers of color). The nomenclature and nuances may vary from decade to decade but the concept is the same…supporting each other through what seems like insurmountable hoops and making lifetime friendships at the same time.

Alumni have paralleled this concept in various ways. Getting an Antioch Science Degree is tough stuff and also the stuff that makes for memories. So more than one hundred science alums in an online “Interest group” told their stories to each other and after some time came up with enough money to provide at least a couple of future scientists, perhaps someone like Nobel-Prize winning Mario Capecchi ’61….full 4 year tuition scholarships. A serious six digits!

Alumni of color and allies formed a group to help students of color get through hoops and a few occasional extra assists that are needed. The Alumni of Color fund (Under the umbrella of the Antioch Alumni of Courage for Diversity Interest Group) has given more than fifty students assists since 2013 for co-op expenses (to six of the seven continents as well as co-ops within the country) or sent people to mind-opening or life-affirming conferences. The concept behind the fund materialized after people returned to honor Jewel Graham as she received the J.D. Dawson Award at the 2006 Reunion. Although for many the Antioch experience for them was imperfectly bittersweet it was hoped that folks could reconnect with each other, the institution, and help the next generation have a somewhat sweeter experience. Reconciling mixed feelings.

So the Alumni of Color Fund and Pride Fund have helped send people to co-ops in Ethiopia, India, Italy, Greece, Argentina, Mexico, New Zealand, Nepal, as well as New York, San Francisco or even somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin, Indiana and Vermont.

Recently during Spring Break this year a number of students wanted to go to a conference at Tulane University. The conference seemed to cover many intersections: social justice and tenants rights during COVID, New Orleans’ LGBT history and Tennessee Williams, getting into the Music Industry and its class intersections, Runway and drag culture and much more. Not your normal spring break itinerary….some education and after hours maybe some great NOLA cuisine and culture.

Like many things Antiochian, AOC and PRIDE stipends request proposals before and a reflection after. So here is a reflection from one of those thirty who will be heading into the-big-co-op-in the-sky. Also out of 30 or so grads, 6 have received AOC or PRIDE stipends.

“My name is Ulises Sanroman-Espinosa. I am a 4th year-undergraduate student from Antioch College who will be graduating with a B.S. this spring in Sustainable Pedagogy, Policy and Media Strategies. Nice to formally meet you. Thanks to the Alumni of (Color) Courage fund and PRIDE fund, I was able to attend a week-long resource event at Tulane University. These events included panel discussions on business and success + Sustainability and Real Estate. The main reason for the trip was to decide on whether or not I would be interested in working with the Tulane University team in the future, by accepting my admission to the M.S. in Sustainable Real Estate Development. Although I decided not to go down this path at this current stage in my life, I was still able to meet amazing people and have experiences that will impact my future forever. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Let me tell you what I was able to accomplish:

As expressed in the opening, the main reason why I traveled to New Orleans was to learn more about the sustainability initiatives of a top-tier higher education institution. While I was there, I learned alot about the business side of sustainability and what it takes to prioritize ecologically conscious initiatives within the corporate world. But the thing that I didn’t know that I would leave with was the inspiration to communicate about Antioch’s sustainability goals and their particular influence on community shifts towards sustainability. That is why as soon as I left New Orleans I began to construct my senior project which is on science communications at Antioch College. If I had never gone to Tulane and got inspired to emphasize Antioch’s sustainability initiatives, I would have never been able to accomplish the work necessary to complete my senior project. Thank you for helping me to travel to Tulane and spark that inspiration.

Part of our trip was going to the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans. As an animal lover and conservation enthusiast, it was a dream come true to see how other AZA-accredited institutions managed their animals and emphasized the importance of conservation efforts. One of my favorite parts was being able to talk about microplastics in marine ecosystems.

While in New Orleans we were immersed in the arts and culture of the space, as many tend to do when visiting. But, I believe that my particular experience was meant to be as it was very specific. While going around the French Quarter we stumbled upon a wonderful antique book store. It carried many books from old to new – even some were bound with fragile materials. But the book that caught my eye had a vibrant orange cover. I could see it from across the room. I wasn’t sure what it was but it was calling my name. When I went to reach for it I started to read the small wording on the binding which showcased the book’s title. THE LATIN AMERICAN FASHION READER. This made me so happy as I am an inspiring design and sustainability entrepreneur and I too am a Latinix individual. As a Mexican gay man, it made that much more exciting to be able to uncover and learn about the history of dress in Latin America, Of course, I read it throughout our time in New Orleans and also on the plane rides back home and Antioch. I learned so much about what it means to organize textiles and create wear that is historically and culturally significant to one’s ancestry. I thank you for giving me the resources to be able to enter that book store on a hot New Orleans day and find inspiration.

During my time at Tulane University I was able to meet with directors of programs and active members of the real estate professional community within the greater New Orleans. My friend Maria (who also received a stipend) and myself were able to learn more about the state’s regulations regarding social justice, housing security, and disaster management. These were things that I never thought about and indeed it made sense as to why every federal or state level organization must take into account these particulars when analyzing the cost, efficiency, and locality of residential spaces and properties. These key points and networking connections allowed me to stay close with some of the professionals in the area who may be looking for collaborations in the future. As someone who wants to go into the design and real estate world, you don’t know how much this meant to me, I will forever be grateful for your contribution which allowed me to make these networking opportunities. As a Latinx-First generation college student- gay man, it was an opportunity that I may have otherwise never been able to have. Hopefully, after graduating and going into my professional career, I too will be able to contribute to the futures of newer generations (Antiochians). Thank you a million times over.”

Another ’22 grad Maria Lopez also received an AOC grant, and like Ulises is also an animal lover as most biologists are. In her case the stipend helped her go to Puerto Rico where she helped spay and neuter cats and dogs in the aftermath of a Hurricane also named Maria. Here is her story from a previous grazing:

These 30 or so students have been through all the hoops and have seen a lot.

Soon they will be receiving their diplomas. All of us remember that Antioch graduations are far less stodgy than most. One year I remember a helicopter landing on campus’ front lawn to ferry a recent grad away in grand style while many of us were simply “blown-away” by the helicopter landing in our midst. Communications people have also walked up to get their diplomas with old fashioned giant video cameras in hand and on shoulder to document their own graduation long before the masses became obsessed with cell phones with cameras to document every minute of their lives. I am hoping to hear plenty of ecstatic hollering from both the graduating students and attendees as all the hoops and hurdles are finished. For the most part Antioch, that “Changingest place on earth” really changes YOU. In the end it produces what Bob Fogarty, an ultimate academic and mentor would say many times…sentient human beings.

Wishing everyone a fabulous commencement as this next fortnight zooms in and in three fortnights an equally fabulous in-person reunion…the first since 2019. It will be fabulous just to be with each other.

Yours, from that alleged “Changingest Place on earth” with its Universal constants …where the changes really wind up in YOU!