Dear Pitt Family,
If no one were at Pitt to say goodbye when you leave, did you really leave at all? After nine years serving Student Affairs, I am leaving my University of Pittsburgh family.
My fiancée got her dream job in Dinosaur, CO, and we decided it was the right time to start a new chapter in our lives. But it is hard to start a new chapter when it feels like the last one will remain unwritten. As I sit alone in my office in the William Pitt Union, I look out at the Cathedral of Learning and think of all the people that made my time at Pitt so special.
Many of you have no idea who I am, but I know you all. You are Pitt students, compassionate and competitive. You are Pitt staff, selfless and nurturing. You are Pitt faculty, brilliant and decorated. The alumni and friends are often champions of all we accomplish as a community.
You may know my work, although you will be hard-pressed to find my name on any of it. I have written countless social media posts over the years for Student Affairs. Our student workers and I created #PittNow (you’re welcome /s)! I have worked on teams that brought moments of joy to our community through celebrating student achievements and helped bring the community together through campaigns like Let’s Talk. I enjoy reminding my PhD-candidate-fiancée that thousands of people read my Tweets, yet only a handful will ever read her dissertation.
I realized during my time at Pitt that the words we use and the conversations we create have real power to shape a community. I was blessed to work on the It’s On Us campaign that got so much notoriety that Vice President Biden visited Pitt in 2014 as part of a national college tour. Every single undergraduate student has now seen the bystander intervention film shown during Welcome Week (formerly Orientation Week) that I helped write, direct, and edit. That is the most powerful feeling in the world – the thought that something I worked on may have encouraged a Pitt student to stand up for another person in this community.
Beyond the projects, the real amazing thing about working in Student Affairs is the students themselves. We have a tight-knit group of student workers, and I myself began my career as a student worker. The memories of our dip days – where we all bring in dips and have a creative marketing session – will not soon be forgotten. Outside of the office, I have worked with amazing student orgs. Serving as an advisor for Pitt Dance Marathon these past five years has reminded me again and again that the work that we do is not for ourselves, but for something greater. I have laughed and cried with these students, and I would not trade that for anything.
Yet how can I reflect on the successes and joys while overlooking the tragedies? I remember where I was when I received the call that the first student I ever hired passed away in his sleep. That morning, I walked to Heinz Chapel, sat alone in the ninth row, and wept. Seeing the way his friends and family celebrated his life reminded me of everything good about this community, and to this day I know we should all “live a Fuller life.” I remember exactly where I was when I heard about the Tree of Life tragedy, but I also look back to that powerful moment when the community stood arm-in-arm together on the grass outside of Heinz Chapel. It feels wrong that when I leave campus today, I will walk past the Cathedral and Heinz Chapel without a familiar face in sight.
I know I am not the only one who feels that I will never have closure from my time here at Pitt. I have so many memories of my last weeks as a senior at Pitt – taking photos in my regalia by the Panther and having a last hurrah with friends. It breaks my heart to know that so many of you will never have those experiences. And as I slip off into the night to pack my bags, I feel the same sadness knowing I will never say a proper goodbye to the people that have meant so much to me.
However, as I look to the future, I already see the Pitt connections. The exact Dippy the Dinosaur outside of the Carnegie Museums originally resided in the small town of Vernal, UT, the place I will soon be calling home. In many ways, I am lucky. My family is from Pittsburgh, so I will assuredly be back soon. I will be getting married at Heinz Chapel on October 10, 2020 (10/10/2020 is a pretty awesome anniversary, I know!). During that happy day as I exchange vows in the chapel with my future wife, I am sure there will be fleeting moments of sadness as I reflect on losing a friend. It will all be fitting, as Pitt is a place that has brought me so much joy and heartache in my life.
To the many colleagues, friends, and people I have smiled to on Forbes and Fifth, I will remember our moments together fondly. I wish I could have had the chance to say goodbye, have one last beer, and laugh like I was going to see you tomorrow. Instead, I will go home and watch movie marathons or whatever else I am supposed to do during our collective quarantine. To any seniors feeling the way I do, I invite you to share your story. Write a letter to your friends and neighbors that you may not see again for a long time, or simply give those friends a call. Thank you to each and every one of you. Without you, my time at Pitt would not have been the same.
Dear Pitt Family,