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Living and Learning at WaM: A guest post by Queen Oluwafemi Stevenson

Posted by on Monday, May 29, 2017 in News.

Queen Oluwafemi Stevenson graduated from Vanderbilt University in May 2017 in Communication Studies.  She was also a News & Communications Intern in the Office of Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships.

According to one of my RAs, I was the very last resident to officially check out of Warren and Moore on Saturday, May 13th, 2017, the day after Commencement. While Safiah Hassan was looking over my room around 8:45 PM, ensuring that my trash can and recycling bins were intact and that my walls contained no unauthorized punctures, I had facetiously offered that I was probably the last person to leave Kissam. She looked at me and said, “No, you actually are.”

Graduating seniors were supposed to vacate Warren and Moore by 1 PM. All residents lost card access to the buildings by 5 PM, a reality that left me feeling not only inconvenienced (though it was absolutely my fault for failing to move out on time), but also deeply saddened. WAM residents will tell you that after 8 PM, serious frustration sets in when the only way we can get into our buildings is through the drawn-out process of checking identification with front-desk security, then making the extended trek to our rooms, as opposed to conveniently swiping through the doors close to the courtyards.

But for some reason, losing card access to Kissam in general rocked me to my core. For the past year, it had served as my home — the place where I came to rest my head, and walk to breakfast in the rattiest of t-shirts and slouchiest of sweatpants and feel perfectly fine about doing so. For the two years preceding this one, it had served as my unofficial home — I was there so often to study and eat meals that residents and staff actually assumed that I had lived there.

In Spring 2016, after my ResEd ballot for a single proved unsuccessful, I decided to write an impassioned letter to Kissam’s area coordinator. In it I included my unparalleled appreciation for the WAM community: how helpful, warm, and welcoming the staff was (and is), how thought-provoking and topical the programming was (and is), and of course how delectable the food was (and is). I didn’t hear anything until the beginning of the Fall 2016 academic semester, when the most iconic email I’d received in my lifetime landed itself in my inbox and proclaimed that the ResEd staff had a single room for me in Kissam if I wanted it. I had never responded to a Vanderbilt email so quickly in my life.

In the eight months that would follow, I grew into a stronger, happier, more reflective, and more present person. My senior year at Vanderbilt was the best year of my life so far, and living in Kissam laid the groundwork for such a fulfilling, fruitful end to my Vanderbilt undergraduate experience. I formed new, engaging, and enriching friendships, friendships that pushed me to think outside the box and to enjoy life’s most mundane moments, such as studying in the same common room spot for weeks at a time. In Kissam, I learned how to slow down and stay still, two actions that Vanderbilt students particularly struggle with. WAM’s open, airy Great Rooms provide unparalleled space with which to sit, ignore your emails, and think — think bravely, think deeply, and to think with peace. I can’t count how many times I did just that — I loved sitting in the Great Rooms and letting life’s big questions float around me, instead of consume me.

I believe the most significant transformation I had due to living in Kissam was learning how to take chances. While I have always been outspoken and extroverted in personality, I’ve also been particularly safe, sheltered, and pretty reserved in character. That changed this year. For example, during this spring semester, Warren and Moore offered a trip to the Mammoth Caves about an hour and a half north in Kentucky. Such an opportunity wouldn’t have even interested me a year ago, but this time, I decided to sign up.


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One of several busses that transported WaM from the Mammoth Cave visitors center to the cave entrance. Photo by Douglas H. Fisher

I won’t lie — I was scared. Upon entering the caverns, I was greeted with an immediate, unforgiving 200-foot drop. Each step down was more frightening than the last, and there were moments when I completely stopped, heaving and hyperventilating. But I had to keep going, because there were people behind me. Below were what seemed like endless depths and even though I was protected by guardrails, I could barely look over. Stalactites and stalagmites surrounded me; unknown moisture plopped onto my head the entire way down.

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Below were what seemed like endless depths and even though I was protected by guardrails, I could barely look over. Stalactites and stalagmites surrounded me; unknown moisture plopped onto my head the entire way down.” Photo by Douglas H. Fisher

Halfway through the descent, I started making parallels between this cave trip and my senior year. Each featured a degree of uncertainty; each drew out my fear and tested my faith; in each, many people had gone before me, and many people would go after me; and in each, I knew I had to keep going. I’m not usually one for nature, but joining this cave visit was one of the best, if unexpected, decisions I’d made my senior year, and of course I have Kissam to thank.

Now, as I write this at home, memories over the past year flood my conscious — some joy-filled, some surprising, and of course, some challenging and disappointing. For all its perfection, Kissam wasn’t able to wipe away the hard moments, and this year I had many. Even though my senior year was my best year at Vanderbilt, it was also simultaneously one of my most difficult. But I am proud of the person I became while I lived there. I am proud of the way I learned to view challenges as opportunities, and how to ask for help when I needed it. And I am confident that these perspectives will serve me well in the post-college world.

To many, the Warren and Moore Colleges at Kissam may just be a cool-looking collection of buildings. Or just a place to get the best food on campus. Or even just a dorm. To me, Kissam was one of the best blessings to happen to me during my time at Vanderbilt. I can’t ever fully express the level of gratitude I have for the community I gained while there — the absolutely amazing Kitchen staff, who not only blessed me with food, but also more importantly blessed me with their outlooks on life, their experiences, their laughs, and ultimately their wisdom; the security officers, who were there at all hours of the night and would sometimes grace me with cool conversations about anything and everything; the RA staff, who truly became my friends in earnest; and of course, my fellow residents, who taught me more than I ever thought I would get to learn in a dorm — excuse me, living and learning community. (I guess that’s why we call it that.) I am endlessly and breathlessly grateful for my time in Kissam, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

With all that said, you can see why I was so reluctant to move out in the first place.
Queen Stevenson
Vanderbilt University CAS ’17
Communication Studies
News & Communications Intern,
Office of Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships | Vanderbilt University

Standard disclaimer: This post reflects the opinions of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Vanderbilt University.

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