This past week I had my first session of my first MA Community Leadership class: Exploring Communities. I sort of got a sense of the program's cohort at orientation, but not really. This was, essentially, the first time we were all meeting and had any substantial introduction to each other. As we went around the room describing our "passion issues" and goals for using our degree, I had a fleeting moment of intimidation. These are some seriously sharp, compassionate, inspiring people. We have careers in everything from homeless outreach to public healthcare, from advocates of women's rights to programers of youth arts initiatives. We plan to pursue everything from wilderness camps for adults with disabilities to refugee resettlement, from working abroad with environmental resource groups to starting community gardens in our own neighborhoods of SLC.
I say my intimidation was fleeting because I realized, more and more and we moved around the circle, that I'd come home. I don't mean "come home" only in the sense that once upon a time I earned my BA from Westminster College, although that's part of it. I mean "come home" in the sense that I've been thrust into a community of like-minded people. There's no reason at all for me to be intimidated; these are My People. I love my MBA class, don't get my wrong, it's difficult and it's pushing me and I'm learning a lot; but the contrast between that experience and my MACL course cannot be more stark.
The first thing the MACL students did, before the professors even made it to the classroom, was arrange the tables/chairs into a conversation circle. The professors showed up with hummus, pita, and apples from the downtown farmer's market for our halftime break. The room we meet in is full of different colored chairs, funky modern furniture, and soft lighting. The sterilized mock board room of the MBA class makes perfect sense, but it would never fly for this course. We hadn't been in class an hour before the huge post-its and markers came out and we were told to "draw Utah and it's historical, contemporary, and future social issues." Some people were literal, some people scribbled away with a mess of abstract blobs and colors, then we all engaged in hours of conversation about our world, our politics, our thoughts on Loeb's "Soul of a Citizen"
The MACL class is no less intense than the MBA class, in fact the readings and assignments are just about on par, but it has a completely different feel. And that feeling is home.