News & Stories

July 6, 2021

Reflections on Berry

By Shannon Rohrabaugh Casas (05C)

 

Editor’s Note: This column came to our attention soon after it was printed in December, just as we were celebrating our 2020 graduates. With the author’s permission and that of The Times, Gainesville, Ga., we are pleased to share it with you.

 

graduated from Berry College 15 years ago this week.

If you’ve ever been to Berry, you’re now thinking something along the lines of, “Oh, that’s a beautiful campus.”

It is, and I don’t think a year has gone by since December 2005 that I haven’t thought about how much I value the experiences I had there.

Seeing deer graze in the field along the road that led to what’s referred to as mountain campus. Worshiping in Frost Chapel, its stone, wood and metal architecture still one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Spreading a blanket out on the grass to do some homework, with the daintiest little white flowers covering the lawn.

As a high schooler, I considered a few other colleges, but I applied just to Berry. I’m sure I didn’t fully understand the financial implications at the time of private vs. public school, but I also got a good bit of financial aid thanks to my being the goody two-shoes kid who earned mostly straight-As.

In any case, it was worth every penny.

As a rising freshman, I was so excited that I remember searching the internet for anything I could learn about Berry. There was no Reddit in those days, and I don’t think I was able to learn much.

Now, you can get an immersive experience on the Berry College website to learn all about the dorms and every other aspect of life at Berry.

As a freshman, I moved into the Morton Lemley dorm, my parents and I lugging a big tube TV and awkward, bulky computer monitor and computer – because those were two different things in those days – up two flights of stairs.

I will always remember the deep purple shade of the carpet in that dorm and the learning curve of living with someone new.

My roommate and I eventually became the best of friends, living together at the campus townhomes and later Thomas Berry suites. 

Berry now has dorms that look more like posh ski resort accommodations than dorms. There are outdoor fireplaces built into the stone walls, Adirondack chairs and glass panes reaching toward the sky.

The immersive experience on the website assured me, though, that some of the dorms still look like dorms, with their twin bed, desk and drawers.

What drew me to Berry wasn’t the dorms, of course. And the beauty of the campus was only part of it. More important to me was the feel of the institution – a focus on academics and faith. 

I don’t know how many times I heard the phrase “head, heart and hands” while at Berry. The mission of education in those three areas is integral to the Berry experience. As a student, it felt like a cliche pulled out by every administrator at every event, but the mission seeped into every part of Berry.

My professors challenged me. I recall sitting in a rhetoric and writing class wondering if it was possible for my brain to physically hurt from thinking too hard. That professor, who I only had for the one class, pushed us to think through our arguments, prewriting persuasive essays by jotting down question upon question upon question and then determining how to answer those questions. There are quite a few times I’ve wished I could enroll someone in the class. No matter your argument, you should make it well. I’d take the class again, too.

 

Something seems to tie Berry students together, too, though. When I learn now that someone went to Berry, it usually makes perfect sense to me based on what I know about his or her character.
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Berry is a caring place, too. It’s not closely tied with any religious denomination, but faith is important to many of the students. I learned a lot about how to relate to others. Some of that was the byproduct of living with people of different backgrounds and personalities. Something seems to tie Berry students together, too, though. When I learn now that someone went to Berry, it usually makes perfect sense to me based on what I know about his or her character.

Berry also puts its students to work. It’s certainly got its share of required book learning, but work experience matters. 

I worked in the dining hall my freshman year. I recall showing up to class smelling like French fries after a shift frying up sandwiches. I also worked in the child development center on campus. Later I spent evenings once a week in a windowless tower of the castle-like Ford Complex putting together the weekly student newspaper. It was hard work, and I’m better for it.

I learned much in my first few years at The Times – including some of the ins and outs of planning and commission board meetings and how that affected what headline to write – but my experiences at the campus paper and in my communication classes laid a strong foundation.

Berry College laid a strong foundation, helping me learn not what to think but how to think and providing a space for me to grow into a better version of myself. I wish everyone could be so lucky as to have the opportunity of a Berry education.

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