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.