A Major Move

Jody and I have lived in The South and on both the Gulf Coast and West Coast, but in March we are relocating to a new region of the country—the Midwest—because I have recently accepted the role as Vice President of Diverse and Equitable Student Life, Dean of Students, and Title IX Coordinator at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois.

We are very excited, but the move is bittersweet—sweetness from the deep confirmation that this is the exact right move for us, and the bitterness of leaving behind people at Lipscomb and in Nashville who in just two years loved us so well and captured our hearts, including friends, colleagues, and maybe especially, students.

Years ago, when Jody served on the board of the National Student Employment Association, she attended a conference at Berea College. Afterward, she could not stop talking about the idea of a “work college,” and as I listened, I fell in love with the work college concept, too. We actually said back then how amazing it would be if either of us ever had the opportunity to work in such a place.

Well, as you might surmise, Blackburn College is one of just a handful of work colleges in the United States, and in fact, the only one that is managed by students. Its unique arrangement promotes a cost structure that allows many of its students the opportunity to receive a college education, which reflects one of our deepest values.

When news of our transition emerged in the past few days, I thought people would not understand our decision. I was prepared to quote Parker Palmer, “Vocation at its deepest level says, ‘This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling.’” And yet, those who know us best said they completely understood. Even many who don’t know us best knew us well enough to say the same. I found that most reassuring.

So that is our major news.

I doubt many of your post-pandemic travel plans route directly through Carlinville, Illinois, but if they ever do, please let us know. In the meanwhile, I will do my best to share glimpses of our new small-town life from time to time.

24 responses to “A Major Move

  1. Stephanie Buckley

    Congrats Al and Jody! Makes perfect sense to me. 🙂 Sounds like a perfect role for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Becky Haugh Clark

    I love this. A work college – what a beautiful concept. You are perfect for this role. Congratulations to you and Jody.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Al,

    Very exciting news! I drove up to Berea one weekend because I was so interested in work colleges, as well as its fascinating legal history of forced segregation. I don’t know much about Carlinville, but sounds like you will at least be closer to Busch Stadium! 🙂

    I moved back to California over the summer and started working remotely for Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Pending the pandemic, I may someday move back East, but I’m enjoying the sunshine and the community I have for now.

    All the best to you and Jody in your upcoming move! There is something very special, and misunderstood, about small-town America. I’m sure you will find great people there to add to your ever-expanding network of friends and family.


    *Corey Rhoades* (805) 279-0425

    On Tue, Feb 2, 2021 at 4:46 PM Starting to Look Up wrote:

    > Al Sturgeon posted: ” Jody and I have lived in The South and on both the > Gulf Coast and West Coast, but in March we are relocating to a new region > of the country—the Midwest—because I have recently accepted the role as > Vice President of Diverse and Equitable Student Life,” >

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, Corey, it is so great to hear from you! We loved the time we got to spend with you in Nashville. I love that you went to Berea and are familiar with that story. Plus, I love your small town America comment — we are very excited to invest in Carlinville. We had no idea you were working for Hopkins! Our Hillary is applying to grad schools, and Hopkins is on the list! Take good care, my friend, and please stay in touch!


  4. Congratulations!!!! Love seeing former students excel in their lives ….I know that school there will be very blest yo have you both there….look forward to seeing your new town and hearing about the work there …so very proud of you …
    Ms. Terry

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congratulations!!! I know how they feel. As I did when you left Ocean Springs. Happy for you, but sad to see you leave. My husband graduated from a work high school-Berry in North Georgia. He loved it and talks of his experiences often. The Midwest is lovely-half of me is from Indiana-my dad. Praying for safe travels. 🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Al,
    From a selfish standpoint, I’m sorry that you’re moving away, but, since you are obviously pumped about it, I’m happy for you. When is the move?

    After L A and Nashville, maybe a little bit of small town culture shock, huh? It’s not even as big as Ocean Springs. On the plus side, though, South Central Illinois gets very few storm surges.

    One question: Did the fact that Carlinville is just over 50 miles from Busch Stadium where your beloved Cardinals play enter into the decision making process at all? Tell the truth.

    All the best on your new adventure,

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are moving at the first of March. And, yes, the storm surge situation in Carlinville was a major plus. Ha! And, 61 miles to Busch Stadium to be exact. 🙂 That was surely a plus!!! Thanks, my friend.


  7. Congratulations! Sorry we didn’t get to see you more often due to Covid. I believe College of the Ozarks in Branson is a work college. I was impressed by that school while living there. I hope you guys have a smooth transition. Will keep you in my prayers.

    Take care,


    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, congratulations on the new move.bIbpraya for Gods blessings for you in this new role and new landm

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Congrats!!

    Is this really about work passion or Cardinal passion!?!? Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Congratulations Al! This is so exciting! Wishing you all the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “61 miles to Busch Stadium to be exact.”
    But who’s counting, right.

    I may actually be in the area sometime around the end of April. If so, I’ll swing by and take a look at Blackburn

    Liked by 1 person

    • Please do! A historian such as yourself will be interested in several things in Carlinville: (i) the “million dollar courthouse” (ii) the site of a Lincoln-Douglas debate; (iii) the 150 Sears & Roebuck homes still there; and (iv) Route 66 stuff! 🙂


  12. Bradley Griffin

    Congrats, Al! This sounds like an incredible opportunity. I’m sad that Covid kept us from traveling back to TN in 2020 and thus prevented any runs with you. We’ll have to find new opportunities to run through IL.

    Liked by 1 person

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