Route 30

It’s the second week of National Poetry Month and I’m recovering from a whirlwind of a trip to my beloved alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg (UPG). 

Dear Readers, I have to say that the trip was bittersweet in many ways.  I graduated from UPG in 1995, and I only visited campus once after graduation (sometime around 1998 or so, I think).  So I arrived at a campus that was very different from the campus I once attended.  New buildings, new facilities, new roads.  I was disoriented for a moment before I found a building that was familiar to me. Many faculty members are now gone too — retired.  When I looked at a list of faculty names and offices I barely knew anyone. 

Still, I had a wonderful time.  I was on campus to read at the first ever Alumni Reading and Launch of Route 30, a collection of works by UPG alumni. Lori Jakiela (who has a new poetry book out, Spot the Terrorist!), Director of UPG’s writing program, hosted a wonderful event.  I also caught up with my old advisor/mentor Judy Vollmer and the professor of my fiction writing classes, Stephen Murabito. 

Finally, I got the chance to meet many other alumni of UPG and listen to their wonderful work.  In the introduction to Route 30, Jakiela paraphrases Kurt Vonnegut by saying that “real writers are in the places you’d least expect to find them.”   The writers in this anthology may be college graduates, but the subjects of their works are in very real places. 

This morning as I type this post, I’m thinking about how many writers seem to want to teach at big colleges with big names.  As a community college professor, I run into this idea a lot.  In the world of academics, those who teach at community colleges are often considered Black Sheep of the Academic Family — and if you teach in a rural community college, you are really in trouble! 🙂  But then, I look at UPG as a prime example of how a group of dedicated faculty can make such huge differences in students’ lives.  UPG is not a big campus.  When I was there, most of us were struggling working-class, first generation college students, and I don’t think  the student body has changed that much.  Still, the little program has seen many success stories (and no, I’m not tooting my own horn — I’m talking about the others who were present).  As educators in the humanities, what more could we ever want than to be part of those success stories?

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