By Ryan Reinhardt
There is often a proclamation to young people about the importance of the college experience speaking to the significant role it can play in one’s life.
For many who are in college, this idea may seem cliche or simply wrong. For countless others who are not in college, this experience may seem unattainable or undesirable in the first place.
There is a sentiment of truth in this statement, however. For those who have access and desire to go to college, being immersed in an academic environment offers opportunity upon opportunity to learn more both internally and externally– about the way you function or about the operation of the world around you.
Over spring break, I had an experience that helped me to recognize this as I was invited by my professor to go to the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA), a convention that focuses its attention on clay. This year the convention was being held in Cincinnati, Ohio.
When Professor Denise Joyal, my instructor for Advanced Ceramics this semester, mentioned the opportunity to go I was, at first, hesitant.
The anxiety of a new experience partnered with the financial burden that going would impose on me made me weary of even thinking to go. These thoughts were like restrictive chains preventing me from even looking further into the possibility of going.
The grasp clay has on me liberated me from these debilitating thoughts– the thought of being around other people with a deep interest in the ceramic arts slowly allowed me to look further into the potential to go.
The financials of the trip slowly fell into place. After investigating further, I discovered that I could avoid paying hundreds of dollars just to enter the convention by becoming a volunteer with NCECA, which I applied to do promptly. On top of this, Professor Joyal coordinated with another professor and students from Shippensburg University to provide me with a hotel room for the trip at no cost.
The convention ran from March 14th through March 18th, though these four days felt like months. Activity after activity, conversation after conversion– my days were full of something that I am passionate about and with people who are overwhelmingly easy to get along with.
Meeting so many new friends, making connections with so many incredible artists, and drawing inspiration from the endless creativity (some of which is pictured throughout the article) at the convention truly changed the way I think about my place in the world.
On the one hand, without the ease of forming close relationships with faculty, I would not have even thought of going to this conference or possibly even taking a course in ceramics to begin with. This level of instruction is more personal and impactful for me as I truly feel a connection with what I am learning and can conversate with both peers and faculty members who share similar interests.
On the other hand, choices are severely limited. Hearing about the courses offered at larger colleges, seeing larger groups of ceramic artists from different schools, and simply being in a metropolitan environment made me jealous of the depth of courses, community, and activity that could be obtained at a larger school in a more urban environment.
Ultimately, I am grateful for the benefits that Wilson offers as a small liberal arts college. I have been able to take advantage of so many almost unbelievable opportunities and am able to continue to push myself to do more. There is still a hunger inside of me for an experience at a larger school, but this hunger only pushes me to do more here.