May 8th, 2010 was a day of mixed emotions in the Miller household. It was on that day that Jenna Miller (#4 in the line of great Miller gals) graduated from the College of Saint Benedict (CSB). While we are immensely proud of her double major in Psychology and Spanish, she leaves a tremendous void in what has been a 12 year continuous presence of Miller girls on the CSB campus!
Here’s how it all began back when I was a Senior in High School:
I began the College search the summer before Junior year, spending hours upon hours at the Library looking through the Barron’s guide to the Best Colleges Book. It was a glorious, information-filled summer and I could rattle off the retention rates of any school you listed (yes, I was borderline scary). The information started pouring in via the mail that fall and I had narrowed my list down to 15 schools by the summer before junior year.
It was then that we began THE CROSS-COUNTRY COLLEGE CRUSADE (VIA CAMPER). Oh yes, it is hard for me to believe that they all agreed to this, but I convinced the entire family that we should take a cross-country tour with our pop-up camper to look at Colleges for me. My sisters were less-than-thrilled when they learned that they’d be sitting in the car as Mom, Dad and I went on 6 tours over the course of a week. Boy were they champs, thanks girls!
I would not, could not stay in MN because I was destined to be an international gal and needed to spread my wings. Mom and Dad said that was fine and dandy, but I had to apply to a few local schools as well. We had no prior connection to St. Ben’s, but they insisted that it be one of the ones I applied to (we’d heard there were good scholarships). And so I humored them knowing that I’d NEVER go there because anyone and their brother could get in (in my opinion) and I was going to a big name school that was far, far away.
Fast forward to December when the acceptances started rolling in. There was a good mix of schools that I had to choose from and CSB was among them. I was adament about not going there, but once the significant scholarship came in, I was required to book a visit to campus. And that’s when everything changed.
I went up and spent an overnight with my friend Caroline, who was a first year student. I went to her classes, stayed in the res halls, and tried the cafeteria food. And yes, I had toured a lot of Colleges by this point, but there was something entirely new and magical in the air at St. Ben’s. It was intoxicating. Everyone hugged each other and smiled, people held doors (even for me, a lowly high school student!) and monks and nuns moved around the campus on their old-school bikes. I was completely enchanted by this twilight zone world that felt too good to be true.
And so in the span of 24 hours, I changed my tune and started singing the praises of CSB, my chosen College. As I look back, I can now see that this was the first time that I practiced intuitive decision making and went for what was good for my heart, not what my head thought I needed. I have no doubt that this fantastic decision I made as a 17-year-old changed the trajectory of my life.
St. Ben’s rocked my world. From going on service trips to being a CSB Senator, planning campus events to managing 50 first-year women; each experience changed me and introduced me to a new part of myself. There were new spiritual role models, feminist friends that I was in awe of, an emerging sense of purpose and the desire to make MY impact. Independence came in the form of 5 months abroad in Greece and Italy and personal insights often showed up in 2 AM conversations with a roommate. There was no right and wrong, just the constant pursuit of trying to understand myself and my world better.
It was only a matter of years before Emily felt the same pull I did and submitted her application. Beth was 2 years later, followed by Jenna 3 years after that. I couldn’t have been more proud of their decisions. How many sisters can say that they share a unique bond of this nature? I love imagining the time when we’re old and gray and we can reminisce about our shared experiences at our beloved Alma Mater.
It’s true, I’m going to miss my on-site connection to the pulse of campus life. Yet deep down I know that the experience was bigger than that. It was a visceral, transformational 4 years of my life when I fell in love with learning and realized I was capable of anything I set my mind too. It is a shift I hope everyone experiences at some point in their life and I thank God that my sisters were blessed with a similar experience. Now it’s just a matter of convincing my future daughter to carry on the tradition…