As I write this, it has been just over a year since people around the world packed up offices and moved classrooms online. Here at Albright, the entire college has been roaring forward on initiatives supporting Albright’s strategic vision, and it’s been quite the whirlwind. From Empowering Albright Voices to building a fully online virtual tour experience, to creating new programs combating sexual assault and securing grants to transform the library into a new Student Success Commons and Library — there really is an incredible amount of forward progress taking place at Albright.
But in the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
During the past semester, two dozen student and faculty Interim ACRE pairs worked to publish research findings. Thirty members of the college’s Pandemic Planning Task Force continue to study changing state and federal mandates in preparation for summer and fall sessions, and a team of more than 70 students and professionals (many of whom never actually met in person) produced an incredible virtual production of “Romeo & Juliet.”
Twenty-three honors students presented senior theses to a committee of faculty readers and 377 student-athletes finished up NCAA competitions.
And to cap off the semester, we were thrilled to be able to celebrate the classes of 2020 and 2021 during an in-person Commencement. Although Commencement always feels like a finale, this year’s event was especially so — as a culmination to the undergraduate careers of two classes and the potentially long-awaited ending of a pandemic.
I hope as you read this you are happy and healthy and looking forward to our next chapter with Lion Pride!
– Carey Manzolillo, MBA
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The Last Word
by Kennon Rice, Ph.D.
Carolyn Cortes ’20 came to Albright as a quiet, first-generational college student. Few people in her mountainous hometown in northern Pennsylvania earned college degrees and neither of her parents had finished high school. So she arrived on campus, not just unsure of what she wanted to major in, but unsure that she wanted to be here at all. She felt she did not belong on a college campus. She lacked confidence in her abilities.
She started academically rocky, later telling me that she “could not” raise her hand in class — as if it were a physical impossibility. She failed English 101 because she simply did not have the nerve to give a required presentation to the class and took a zero on the high-valued assignment rather than endure it.
Then she found her legs.
The more time she spent at Albright, the more she began to believe in herself and find success.
“There were professors and peers that understood my passion and were able to engage in meaningful conversations about it,” she later told me. “I was able to take a lot of classes to help me focus on what I actually cared about.”
When she became a sociology/anthropology major, I witnessed her also become a leader in the classroom. She completed an ACRE project with me and a research-based independent study with Barton Thompson, Ph.D., — describing both experiences as pivotal in her development. Even months after graduating, she tells me that she is still excited to reach back to share her new accomplishments with her Albright professors. The connection made with her professors feels deeper than she ever expected a student/teacher relationship to become.
As late as her final semester, however, Carolyn was still unsure what to do after graduation. She tells me that an exploratory writing assignment about personal career aspirations, in my senior seminar course, helped her to find direction and inspiration. It prodded her to pursue, and eventually win, a position as an AmeriCorps VISTA community organizer. Now, she feels both grateful and proud that she was able to secure meaningful work, in her field, during a time of such economic upheaval. She says the skills she learned at Albright are important to her. And it’s clear to her that her professional colleagues value and respect the education she received and the skills she now brings to the team.
It’s hard to rationalize that only a few short years ago, Carolyn was failing a course for fear of even trying. Now, in her first year out of college, she is making presentations to CEOs and community leaders. She applied for and won a $32,000 grant to help the working-class community in Massachusetts, where she lives. And she feels the satisfaction that comes from making a positive difference in the world.
Wanting to reach back and help the next generation of Albright students find direction and appreciate what they are receiving here, Carolyn asked me this month if she could speak in that same senior seminar course that helped her find direction. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see her voluntarily raise her hand to speak — or more thrilled to say yes.
— Kennon Rice, Ph.D., is an associate professor of sociology and director of urban affairs at Albright College.