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News for Zoe Gipson

Pockets of Love: Our Faculty

I have been amazed with the faculty at Aquinas since Day One- and by “Day One,” I don’t mean the first day of classes or Orientation, but the very first tour of Aquinas I took. In the midst of running around with my cousin and our Ambassador giving us a tour, it came up that I was interested in majoring in History. Our Ambassador, Nolan, took note and fifteen minutes later we were in the office of the Chair of the History Department, her hand extended and the biggest smile on her face. We had clearly interrupted a very busy woman, but she was delighted to meet a potential student. She quickly handed me her card and demanded that I let her know if I had any questions about academics here or the major.

My first year here at Aquinas, I took “Communication 101” to fulfill a General Education requirement, and I left a Communication major. My professor taught the class with an air of superiority and a lot of sarcastic wit- I’m not normally one for professors of that sort, but that attitude combined with his genuine, slightly nerdy love of the subject brought me into the world of soft science and communicating. A year later, the realities of adulthood set in, and after not speaking with him since, I sent a quick email asking what I could and should be doing for post graduation. Later that day I got an emailing setting up a meeting in our campus coffee shop so we could talk through the whole process.

A year after that, my first year as an Ambassador, I gave my first tour to a young man and his father. After a lot of talk about high school and goals, the Senior mentioned he was interesting in Communication as a major as well. Recounting my first tour, I glided down to the Communication Offices, hoping someone might be in during lunch time. I poked my head in each of the office doors, calling out to see if anyone was in. And the very same professor who had led me to major in Communication came out of his office, and spoke with the student and his father, not about the program, but about what he needed to be doing to prepare for his desired career. He was honest, he didn’t try to sell Aquinas, but gave him the broad strokes of pros and cons of different sized schools and locations.

We left the office, and the father-son duo talked in amazement at our 6’2” and covered in tattoos professor, as I recounted a story of another Communication professor in our department, a local Dominican Sister. It was in this moment I realized how much our faculty truly cared and gave of themselves continually. There has never been a class I have been a number in, never a class I have just slipped in and out of. Every professor I have had has cared about how well I have done and how much I gained- and not just in their class, but as a student at Aquinas trying to figure out adulthood.

Pockets of Love: The Writing Center

Today I had the honor of sitting in a pocket of love on campus in a Poetry Workshop run through AQ’s own Writing Center- a place for students to workshop, plan, and grow their writing skills in all areas and stages with trained peers.

Students who work for the Writing Center are nominated by professors and take a class in how to be better writers and mentors. They then work one on one to help students, staff, and faculty with their different pieces of writing at all stages. The Writing Center has helped poets on their slam poetry and helped professors on their dissertations and helped students conquer research projects.

This evening, seven students and the head of the Writing Center gathered in an open classroom to workshop pieces of poetry together for two hours. Julie Bevins, who heads up the Center puts countless hours and an infinite amount of love into any students who come into contact with her, and today she stay 5 hours later than she normally does to attend a Poetry Workshop led a by a student. For two hours, we took turns distributing a piece of poetry, and letting the other revel in it and devour it- we tested words, capitalization, spaces, line breaks, punctuation, and pushed the boundaries. It was soft, gentle, loving, and an earthquake to say the least.  Do you know how powerful it is for someone to share a piece of their soul with you and for them to let you help make it better? Only at Aquinas.

I say this not because I’m ignorant to the fact that other schools have student led poetry workshops; but for the fact that I know no other school has such an intimate experience led by a Senior who is pursuing an MFA in poetry post-graduation, where we discuss the personal history of Van Gogh, what vermillion looks like, and Synesthesia, while devouring Starbursts.

Pockets of Love: The Theatre Department

Aquinas has provided me with an incredible community here. I found so many lovely pockets, but this weekend I was able to revel in my Aquinas theatre community pocket.

I first found a home at Aquinas through the kindness of five ladies. They swept up a clumsy, awkward first-year and plopped her down in the middle of a large, loud, loving community and said, “Here you go, you belong now.” It was incredible and frightening and such a blessing. On Sunday, October 11th, the 19th Annual Grand Awards was held- a ceremony recognizing community and local theatre in Grand Rapids that doubles as a scholarship fundraiser. It was my third year attending, and the first year I was recognized- I had been in my third play ever, and was the lead in “The Melancholy Play” by Sarah Ruhl, under the direction of Randy Wyatt.

Randy, Associate Professor of Theatre and Director of the AQ Theatre Program, took a chance on a sophomore who had only been in two shows ever and had her fourth audition auditioning for this show. Randy gave me a chance with a play that fed my very soul. I played an exaggerated version of myself, in a very different world; it was exhausting and draining and difficult and so worth it. Easily my favorite role forever. I learned so much about myself and gained so much from the process. I was shocked to find out the Grand Awards Nomination Committee put me up for a nomination for such a strange show. But I was nominated along with three other incredible actresses from Aquinas. AQ held all four slots for Lead Actress in a College Production, and I got to stand up on stage with two of those girls, accepting the award for the fourth actress. It was incredible and overwhelming to stand on that stage and recognize such an incredible woman, with two other incredible women.

As I write this, I get chills. Each of those three women have had a profound impact on not only my acting career, but my growth as a person. Sarah, nominated for her role in “I Hate Hamlet” has been a firecracker who has provided such warmth and acceptance of rebellion while teaching me the importance of laying it on the line. Kendra, nominated for her role in “Up” has been an inspiration as she continues to get a 4.0 GPA in college with a baby and taught me that putting your soul on stage is always worth it. And Taylor, awarded for her role in “Shout! The Mod Musical” who was one of the five who picked me up. She taught me the importance of red lipstick, pride in your past, and the overwhelming power of the theatre.

As the Grand Awards continued the rest of the night, time and time again the we laughed and danced and shouted and supported each other. I am always astounded by the support and love found here at Aquinas, but the love and support found in the Aquinas theatre community always blows me away. We have found ourselves in love with a competitive industry, and everyone supports, pulls up, and loves each other. We learn, we teach, we learn some more, and we always walk away better for it. I have gained so much as a person from this pocket at Aquinas, and I am so excited to continue to be a part of it, to continue to revel in it, and to continue to pull others into this lovely, lovely world of self-love, self-confidence, the Arts, and of Community.

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