This archived article was written by: Jeff Bartlett
Well, after an entire year’s residency at CEU I am continually struck by the swirling cloud of stimulation and excitement on campus and around the community. I can certainly trumpet all day about how wonderful your museum is, but there are many other themes to the CEU experience that come just as readily to mind.
OK, I can’t resist: the museum. Christine Trease has summed it up like this: “World travelers from far away lands and foreign countries marvel at what we have to offer, and the magnitude of it all has yet to sink in.” This comment comes in reference to our array of exhibit specimens from the prehistoric realms of archeology and paleontology. Rather than take up ink with the long list of unique and spectacular objects your museum contains, I’d simply urge everyone to have another look.
Even if you are not immediately impressed by the priceless holdings, or the proximity, or the price (free to you) of the CEU Prehistoric Museum, or even the recent improvements due in part to student participation, then simply consider our unique status: one of the nation’s only museums associated with two-year colleges; one (well, several actually) of the most prized prehistoric collections in the region; impressive growth, community inclusion, or however you want to slice the statistics; but above all, one of the most accessible facilities for student involvement. Museum studies and prehistory classes, internships, volunteer opportunities and club membership all put every student on campus only one degree of separation away from fantastic opportunities.
But cheerleading aside, there are a number of more “atmospheric” qualities that contribute to CEU’s high score on general great-place-to-be-ness:
Resources, resources, resources. We are surrounded and almost cradled by the riches of the earth here. It seems we can’t fall over without striking our heads on a really cool fossil or rock outcrop. We take casually as a given the surroundings that professionals can only study in textbooks, or pay hugely to see on international tours. The variety of materials, environments and vistas close at hand strike chords for anyone interested in biology, ecology, paleontology, archaeology, history, writing, visual arts, outdoor recreation, mining and a host of other disciplines.
The community. It takes an outsider, and one versed in “Minnesota nice,” to measure how congenial and collegial folks are here in the whole. That measure is surely miles and miles ahead of other places I have worked. From the supportive, positive e-mail traffic buzzing along the standard routes for athletics and academic achievements, to the crossover among different communities and offerings in the arts and activities, the sense of investment is really heartening. Even our concerns reveal an urge to pull together and make something better of the collective.
A+B. The sum is greater than the parts here. Our size and connectedness allows each member of the community to do more than simply the minimum in participation. To spend time at the museum and get to teach is the ideal situation for me. In this era of overspecialization, the chance to wear numerous hats is a rare commodity and itself a rich source of ideas and stimulation. Time and again, I’ve had to respond to the stories of colleagues with, “wow! I had no clue you did that as well!” An atmosphere like this is fun and productive.
The potential. Pick a direction and the potential for engagement is really remarkable. I have been inspired by interested students who have met with me and shared their goals, their enthusiasm and especially their seemingly boundless energy. The developing sense of ownership and involvement is not found just anywhere; it takes quite a special place to instill this character.
That’s a view from a relatively new guy, perhaps more effusive than others more used to the good things in life around here. But I suspect these themes will only strengthen with time.