College is 'learning to see again'
One of her art teachers long ago told Sarah Gordon that "learning to paint is like learning to see again."
Sarah never knew what she meant until she got older, and now, as a senior in college, she can apply the sentiment to her experiences at LaGrange College.
"College for me has been learning to see again," she says. "It's learning to look at life, look at the world and really see it for what it is, or to see things you haven't seen before. That's one of the great things about college-just every day, there's something new to see, something new to learn.
"Just being able to have the ability to analyze, break down, and formulate ideas is invaluable. That's a liberal arts education at its finest."
Sarah, a senior art and design major and history minor from Watkinsville, first came to campus four years ago for a Presidential Scholar competition, which included her with some of the best and brightest students from across the Southeast. She earned one of the two coveted Presidential Scholarships that are given each year. The scholarship includes tuition, room and board.
"It's a blessing because I really wanted to come to LaGrange but my family couldn't necessarily afford it without financial aid," she says. "It's been incredible to come here without having to burden my family at all."
Sarah's history and art professors have helped make LaGrange "a home away from home," she says, and have inspired her through their encouragement and knowledge in their fields.
"I can't say enough good things about the history department; even though I decided to do a history minor instead of a major, they don't hold it against me," she says."They'll check up on you. I've been pulled into several offices and asked, 'How are you doing? Have you registered for classes? What are you taking? Are you on track, not on track?' It makes me feel like my professors really care about how I'm doing here. They're really invested in the students."
Sarah is a teaching assistant in history professor Joe Cafaro's freshman Cornerstone class and is involved with Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society. Last January she traveled with Dr. Cafaro's history class to London and Paris, where they followed in the footsteps of the Allies as they explored many of World War II's most significant sites, including the Cabinet War Rooms, the Imperial Museum and the beaches of Normandy. During her freshman year, Sarah traveled to Ireland to study its great poets along with the English faculty here.
Besides history, Sarah has a love for painting and drawing and appreciates her art professors' passion for what they do.
"They have an enormous amount of respect from their students," she says. "They know their stuff and they know how to make you better, so when they tell you something, you listen up because it's good advice. You never walk in the classroom and your professor doesn't want to be there. They're excited to be there; they're excited to see you working.
"They've really helped me grow. I've learned so much. In four years I never thought I could learn this much; every day is something new, which is so exciting."
The art faculty chose Sarah to paint a new rendering of Smith Hall last year. Built in 1860 and the oldest building on the campus, Smith Hall is iconic to LaGrange College.
"When you think of LaGrange College, you think of Smith Hall," she says. "Being on the Quadrangle, it's the hub of activity right in the middle of campus. I was excited and honored to be a part of that project."
When Sarah is not painting, she is involved as the arts and culture editor of the student newspaper, The Hilltop News, as well as a Presidential Student Ambassador, one of several students who represent the college president, Dan McAlexander, and his wife, Celeste Myall, by attending events for the college's alumni and friends and by speaking to groups about their transformative experiences at LaGrange College.
She also is president of Wesley Fellowship, a United Methodist campus ministry.
"I can't even put into words how much Wesley Fellowship has meant to me on campus," she says. "It's a close-knit group of students who help each other grow in your faith, help you dig deeper. I've been a Methodist all my life, and so have many of the students in Wesley Fellowship, and it has helped us look into that next level of exploring faith and what it means."