by Morgan Smith, Class of 2011
There comes a time in every person’s life when he or she experiences that notorious sinking feeling. It starts with your stomach dropping to your feet, and ends when you finally put the stressful thoughts to bed.
I remember when I first experienced that ache in the pit of my stomach. I was sixteen, it was the beginning of my junior year, and we were discussing prospective colleges.
From the ripe age of seven, I knew that college came after high school, but I never considered which college. Throughout eleventh grade, my classmates and I traveled across Tennessee visiting universities that felt a little too crowded, or whose campuses were far too large. Call me Goldielocks, but I wanted a decent faculty to student ratio, as well as a walkable campus with a fair amount of trees and grass.
I was beginning to lose hope until a communications professor spoke to my broadcasting class about a “college by the river.” Why had I not considered Chattanooga State? My father had graduated from there almost a decade earlier, and yet, I had not realized it was an option. I could have saved myself a lot of time and energy if I had focused on the colleges in my backyard; however, it was interesting to see that each school had a unique way of achieving the same goal. Forget the location; it was all about education.
Eleven years have passed since I chose the college by the river. In the end, ChattState was the only school that I applied to, and it has made a significant impact on my life. I became an ambassador for the college and made connections with faculty and staff who still remember me. I also discovered a love of writing and producing short films, which led me to rekindle my love of writing books.
For the first few months, I went to class and raced home, but one day I passed a gathering at the amphitheater and realized that college was also about interacting with other students. I started intentionally walking around the campus, and then I saw a poster about auditioning to become a Joe/Jo. It seemed like an excellent opportunity. I signed up, went to the audition, read from the teleprompter, and anxiously waited to hear back from the Marketing Department.
Becoming a Jo (ambassador) was one of the best things that happened to me because it led me to make new friends, promote the college I cared about and allowed me to help prospective students discover a place that suited their needs.
It feels like I lived a thousand lives at that college by the river. Sometimes, I wish I could go back to those times when I went to class, gave a campus tour, and then met my friends to film or edit for a few hours. It became a second home over the years.
At ChattState, I was a student, an ambassador, an author, a film producer and editor, but most of all I was part of a network of people who cared about my success. People ask why they call it Joe’s college. How many campuses do you know where the ‘Average Joe’ is welcomed and encouraged to excel?
It has been five years since I transferred from ChattState to UTC, three years since I graduated and found a full-time job that allows me to use the skills that they helped me cultivate, and a year and a half since I became a board member of ChattState’s Alumni Association. Even now, I am thankful to be part of something that has played such a huge role in my life.