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Oliver: Ottawa has great potential despite difficulties

By Cyrus Oliver II
On April 28, 2010

Wow. I'm a senior. Double wow. I'm (hopefully) graduating in a few weeks. Where did this all begin?

January of last year I was fresh out of studying abroad in Australia and knew only one thing: I did not want to go another semester at Baker University.

My parents were worried I had abandoned the cause - that I was going to become a bum. The truth was, I had learned everything I could from Baker as an academic institution. Socially I never felt like a functioning member of the student body there.

In essence, I felt like a worker ant without an identity. The identity I had built up in community college and high school was not applicable anymore, and I needed a change. I decided to transfer to another school.

Unfortunately, when you're a week away from the beginning of the spring semester, most colleges won't offer as many scholarships or accept applications. I was accepted at several institutions that were willing to take me in on short notice, and I even had enrolled in classes at one university, but I wasn't particularly thrilled with it. Granted, at the time it looked more promising than my other options.

Then I recalled Ottawa University, the college of my hometown. I had overlooked it so many times in the past, but now it had my full attention. I went on a tour of the university and about three days before the first day of class last spring I completely transferred my academic and social career to OU.

Within the first week, I knew I had made the right decision.

For the first time in a long time I found a place where I felt accepted, appreciated and needed.

And believe me, OU is a much different environment than my previous colleges. I grew up being either private or homeschooled, so I'm used to small class sizes like the ones here, but something is different in the atmosphere here.

People are willing to open their hearts more here, and the student body is very diverse. The students here are remarkable; I have never met bigger dreamers than the students at OU, and I mean that in a good way. Many individuals here have high aspirations and ambitious goals - myself included. And that unrelenting, almost naïve optimism is exactly what I needed a year ago.

The faculty here is equally remarkable, and oftentimes I wonder how such a small town in the Midwest attracted the faculty here. There are many professors here who have traveled the world and worked in prestigious positions, yet they chose to move here and educate this unlikely bunch.

Still, OU has its downfalls. Admittedly, the technology here, while better than most private universities, still lacks in many ways in comparison to public facilities. To be frank, I feel as though some departments could use more than a little makeover.

However, OU's lack of certain tools allows for a certain improvisation or critical thinking on the part of faculty, staff and students that I haven't seen elsewhere.

It's a very experimental feeling where one is never quite sure what the end result will be, but everyone involved tries their best to make ends meet with what is available.

At the end of the day, I just feel as though we're all sort of misfits and progressive thinkers in the same boat. And I will miss that.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

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