From Our Eyes showcases Wilkinson students’ first-hand accounts of their undergraduate and graduate experiences. This issue features the reflections of Alexander Ballard, a graduating senior History, Political Science, and Economics triple-major, and the 2020 Recipient of the Cecil F. Cheverton Award, the highest undergraduate student honor at Chapman University.
I would say my story began one night in late April 2017, where I sat nervously waiting for an email. I told myself that no matter what happened, I would be okay. Win or lose, I had campaigned my hardest, and that was what mattered. Finally, when the notification flashed across my computer, my heart jumped a beat. I opened the email and read:
I did it. I had been elected Student Government Association Senator for Wilkinson College. Little did I know that my journey with Wilkinson was only just beginning.
As I started my first term as Wilkinson Senator, I was simultaneously looking for an on-campus job for the upcoming year. I received an interview for the job I really wanted: a student worker in the Wilkinson College Dean’s Office. I figured that working there would allow me to learn more about the College and make important connections vital to my SGA position.
I remember wearing my red button-down shirt and khaki pants as I walked into Roosevelt Hall for the first time for the interview. One week later, I was sitting at a desk in the Dean’s Office at the start of a job that I would grow to love. I would be assisting the Wilkinson Dean and the Dean’s staff with their projects while getting a glimpse of the entirety of Wilkinson.
It’s been three years since I started working in the Dean’s Office. I have made invaluable connections with staff members, faculty, and other students, like former Wilkinson Senator, now 2020-2021 SGA President, Philip Goodrich. My time in the Dean’s Office even helped me be a more effective senator. Being able to constantly interact with the other Wilkinson departments helped me to advocate for funding for Wilkinson students and serve on faculty committees. Even past the end of my term, I only saw new avenues to improve the experience for my fellow students. Looking back, I never would have imagined that these amazing opportunities would have opened themselves up by immersing myself in Wilkinson through the Dean’s Office.
Academically, one of the experiences that really shaped my undergraduate experience was having the opportunity to engage in independent research. In my third year, I spent several months on my independent research project studying how the imposition of Eurocentric borders in Africa fueled both intra- and inter-state conflict. I then traveled to Boston to present my project at a national conference. This was another incredible academic experience that encouraged me to share my research experiences with others, while also becoming inspired for future projects by the other presenters. And it would not have happened if I didn’t have things like SGA or the Dean’s Office to give me the confidence to take it on.
As I approach the end of my last college semester and embark on a new adventure at law school, I can’t help but look back on my time at Chapman. It’s not easy to distill my entire college experience into a short reflection, but I can say with confidence that every moment I spent in college –– every path I forged, every obstacle I overcame, and every memory I made –– was worth it.
I am proud to be a Wilkinson student and I appreciate how many wonderful lifelong friends I have made throughout the past four years. None of my growth and achievements would have been possible without the support of my mentors and peers in Wilkinson College. For current and prospective students, I would encourage you to take advantage of any opportunities you have to challenge yourself and meet others. As I learned, you will never know what amazing growth awaits you until you try.
The Cecil F. Cheverton award recipient is a senior elected by a vote of the full Chapman faculty. A gift of the class of 1929, the original bronze Shepparton award cup remains on exhibit in Argyris form along with the successor, a silver bowl. Upon these trophies are in grave the names of all Shepparton awardee since 1929.