A love letter to vocation and homemade brownies

Amanda Gravelle
May 4, 2022

I’m sure many of you saw the emails advertising the ALIVE program filter through your inbox. If you’re anything like me, you may have given it a quick glance before trashing it, or maybe you just deleted it straight away. However, a program I initially wrote off ended up being one of the most consistent sources of comfort in my life during my sophomore year.

I had the privilege of being one of the guinea pigs for the ALIVE program here at Augustana. This program was built to bring together a group of sophomores in Swanson Commons during a year typically filled with the chaos of reevaluating classes, majors, and entire life plans. As members of the ALIVE program, the other guinea pigs and I lived on the same floor of Swanson (for the less expensive cost of Erickson!), met once a week on Sunday nights, and were tasked with exploring our own vocations and eventually helping facilitate that exploration for others. I initially thought that a program built for reflection and vocational exploration didn’t sound particularly exciting, especially not to an overworked college student who barely had time to sleep.

It turns out that I was right - this program wasn’t exciting. And I found that this lack of excitement, this sense of regularity and normalcy, was exactly what I needed. From bonfires at Dr. Mahn’s house to homemade brownies in Dr. Crouch’s apartment, the ALIVE program’s weekly meetings forced me to take an hour or two once a week to just sit, breathe, and reflect.

College students are pressured to always be productive. We have to constantly run around doing homework, pulling all-nighters, partying, meeting people, and getting involved. It’s so easy to let this constant stream of activity become so normalized that we don’t know how to truly rest and reflect anymore. Even as a liberal arts school that requires students to take a variety of classes, Augustana falls into this trap of hyper-productive surface level exploration rather than genuine reflection. How can students possibly have the time to figure out their passions and motivations when they barely have time to sleep?

That’s where the ALIVE program comes in. What seems at first to just be another club that looks good on a resume, this program actually works at addressing this vocational issue. The entire first semester was dedicated to coming together as a group and discussing each other’s lives, interests, and motivations. By creating such a reliable, warm space set aside for the kind of mindful rest needed for genuine reflection, the ALIVE program has helped me to reevaluate my entire life plan and learn more about my own motivations in a non-judgemental setting.

Second semester moved towards encouraging that exploration in others through the creation of individual programs, designed and run by smaller groups of ALIVE members. While this semester was intended to help others explore their own vocation, it also had the added benefit of informing me of my own - I learned that I absolutely do not want to become an event planner. Stressful planning aside, this semester has given me the chance to interact with entirely new groups of students and faculty and get involved in a truly meaningful way on campus.

I’d like to avoid the stereotypical declaration that the friendships that I’ve made here will last me for the rest of my life, but it is true. These people have seen me on the verge of tears, have witnessed me devour four s’mores in a half hour period, and have sat on the floor of the hallway, keeping me company while I folded laundry. We’ve traded outfits and made pancakes and read books and played games. And while I’m looking forward to living in an actual apartment next year, I’ll miss the Sunday nights filled with reflection and the smell of homemade brownies.

The ALIVE program is open specifically for sophomore students to explore their place in the world, develop close relationships with faculty and ALIVE student fellows, and get to live in Swanson at the price of a standard double room. For more information, contact Keri Bass at 309-794-8613.

Amanda Gravelle

Amanda is currently a sophomore majoring in Art History, Engineering Physics, and Environmental Studies. She's also involved in the orchestra as a cellist, is the vice president of the Augustana Physics and Engineering Society, holds a position in Sigma Pi Delta, am a member of the ALIVE program, and a member of the APS Idea mentoring program.