Amy Everhart, director of alumni affairs, is a staff advisor for the senior class gift. She is an Albion alumna ’08 and fondly remembers her class’ senior class gift. Her graduating class left a plaque with a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. about speaking up for what is right. Everhart said the senior class gift is a longstanding Albion tradition.
“The first senior class gift was in the 1800s,” Everhart said. “Our rock on the Quad was a senior class gift at one time. It’s a tradition that’s been around forever. I think that’s kind of a cool aspect of this project is to know that you’re a part of history for the college.”
This year, the graduating class of 2023 will be the first graduating class who was impacted by COVID-19 throughout all four years of their time here – the pandemic caused classes to go virtual in 2020 – the second semester of their first year. The class has chosen to leave an impression on Albion via a two-part gift.
Kalamazoo senior and senior class gift Chair, Emily Hainer, said the first part of the gift is a mural. The mural will involve photographs, poetry or anything reminiscent of seniors’ time at Albion and will be hung next to the career closet in the Ludington Center, a resource at the Career and Internship Center supplying business clothing for students who may not have access to it. Each senior has access to submitting pieces of art or photos for the mural.
The mural will be designed in part by Cassidy Porter, a senior from Albion. Porter is an art minor and joined the senior class gift committee this semester. She said that the senior class gift committee wants the mural to incorporate all seniors’ perspectives on their college experiences.
“I think the goal and the hope is to kind of collage it and make it into the year 2023 visually,” Porter said.
Porter’s involvement with the mural began because of her passion for art. She said art has always been a part of her life.
“I started doing art when I was a kid and kind of kept going with it in a way,” Porter said. “Art is definitely influential in my life.”
Porter said that the second part of the gift will involve the career closet. Seniors can earn graduation cords by donating business clothing. Porter said she is a business major and understands the need for this clothing, especially for interviews which many seniors will be experiencing shortly post-graduation.
“Business clothes can be really expensive,” Porter said, “So having that option on campus is going to be really nice and beneficial to the whole college community.”
Hainer said future students at Albion will be able to use the career closet’s space. She said the class of 2023 wanted to physically contribute something back to the campus that all students could use.
Troy Kase, the director of the Career and Internship Center, said he has worked closely with the career closet since it was opened around eight years ago. This is his first year being involved with the senior class gift and he said it’s incredibly rewarding that students view the career closet as a positive resource.
“It’s giving everybody a chance to represent themselves as a professional – when they show up to that interview, show up to that first week on the job or at an internship,” Kase said. “It’s equity.”
The career closet is a physical resource that the seniors are leaving to underclassmen, while the mural ties in themes of sentimentality. Hainer said that the senior class wants to be remembered for their resilience.
“We went through a lot together, and we’re still able to maintain being super busy and super active on campus,” Hainer said. “I hope that other classes look at that and use it as an inspiration to continue doing what they do.”
COVID-19 influenced students of all ages, but being a first-year in college when the pandemic hit was especially difficult, Porter said. She said that her class had to be adaptive and able to go with the flow.
“In a way it did make me more flexible. It made me kind of think a little bit more like, ‘What do I want to get out of my education?’” Porter said. “‘What do I want to get out of life more in general?’ At any moment we could have another pandemic, we never know.”
Hainer said that despite feeling as though she lost two years of schooling, looking back she is proud that she and her class got through it. The mural will leave behind the idea that despite the hardships this class has faced, they’ve persevered.
“Having something that I can look back at and be like, ‘Yeah, I made it through four years of college and didn’t give up.’” Hainer said. “I feel like it’s really important not just for myself, but for everybody who faced the same things.”