I loved college. I loved college so much, I went back and got my Master’s. And now I TEACH college. So every late August, when it’s time to get back to school, I get to don my backpack and my thinking cap with the rest of them. It’s a ritual I’m happy to keep in my adult life.
There are two college campuses in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. One is the Devos (satellite) campus of Grand Valley State University (my alma mater) and one is the campus of Grand Rapids Community College (where I now teach). I’m an alum of one and a professor of the other.
Because of that, I get to enjoy the amenities of both. And I split up my day between them.
In the morning, I went to GVSU to enjoy the quiet and the solitude of the Steelcase Library. It was the week before classes started, and the campus was bustling with new students, but since they didn’t have anything to study yet, the library was empty. Tall ceilings, antique chandeliers, and a large stained glass window makes the room feel more like a church, and encourages silence, reflection, and reverence.
I always get nostalgic when I’m on this campus, because this is where I spent a lot of time with my husband. In our senior year, we would eat our breakfast of bagels and starbucks coffee in the Student Services building before heading in opposite directions to our classes. It’s a place where I’m comfortable, I’m familiar…I’m home.
Built in 2000, the downtown campus of GVSU is still young and fresh and beautiful, which also makes it stick out among the river’s skyline. It’s shiny and new and impressive. It keeps aquiring land and building new facilities from scratch, sprawling out along the riverbank. With its neon blue sign, it’s nearly impossible to ignore.
GRCC’s campus is much more integrated into its surroundings. If it weren’t for all the young kids with backpacks, it would be easy to miss.
GRCC’s campus had a more gradual growth, acquiring existing buildings one at a time. The buildings are all old and quirky. Many of them are built out of poured concrete, creating a hardscape of gray against the blue sky.
It is literally built into the city landscape; the college sits on the slope of large hill in the center of the city. Buildings have been cut into the hill to sit level, and slanted sidewalks leave students breathless as they struggle up the incline with heavy textbooks.
The campus is cramped; there’s nowhere to expand. So even though the facades of the facilities stay the same, the interiors are always changing, always updating, always evolving. As I would imagine the students are doing–while they may look as they did when they graduated high school, every year at GRCC changes their insides, updates their way of thinking, and helps them evolve into responsible and intelligent adults.
I haven’t been at GRCC long, but I’ve already learned to appreciate what it contributes to the city of Grand Rapids.
To ask me which college or which campus is my favorite would be like asking me to choose my favorite child. GVSU is like a newborn baby. It’s beautiful and perfect, but it’s just starting out. GRCC is like a teenager. It may have some years on it. It may not be so cute anymore. But it’s constantly figuring out what it is and adjusting to the world around it.
Lucky for me, I don’t have to choose.
*Photos of GVSU courtesy of their [website](gvsu.edu). For more information about GRCC, visit their [website](grcc.edu).*