AUSG President Taylor Dumpson spoke with incoming students at the beginning of each Eagle Summit session about her AU experience, the campus climate in the wake of the May 1, 2017 hate crime and how they should enter AU with a blank slate.
Hey Y’all! My name is Taylor Dumpson, my pronouns are she/her/hers, and I am the American University Student Government President for the 2017-2018 academic year. For many of you, this will be your first introduction to what life is really like as a student at AU.
Three years ago, I was in the same spot; eager to be away from home for the first time, nervous about making new friends, afraid that my poor sense of direction would leave me stranded on the metro somewhere, yet, enthusiastic about the the adventures that would await me. Yeah, I got lost in DC once or twice, and yeah I got a little homesick but the beauty in all of that was knowing that everyone in my entering class was going through the same thing. The most exciting yet nerve wracking part about coming to college is the fact that you have no idea where you will be at the end of your time at AU. If you would have told me in the summer of 2014 that in three short years I would be a 2017 Newman Civic Fellow as a result of my campus leadership and civic engagement and that I would be the first, black woman student government president at American University, I would have laughed at you and walked away. As you sit before me, I ask you to never doubt yourself as you never know where life might take you.
During the next chapter of your life here at AU, you will be pushed and pulled ways you never imagined were possible. You may think that I am talking about academically, and I am, but only in part. Look to your left and to your right, in front of you and behind you; these will be the people that will push and pull you in your time here. Amongst the Class of 2021, you will find your closest competitors, and confidants alike. Right now, you are probably sitting here thinking “there’s nowhere else I’d rather call home for my college experience; American University is perfect, from its location, to networking opportunities, to study abroad options, to faculty expertise” and I’m here --- to burst your bubble. Yes, AU has all of those things, but our university is far from perfect. As a senior, Law and Society Major in the School of Public Affairs, I tell you with an open and honest conscious, that if you come to AU in August with the idea that this is a perfect university by the time you go home for winter break you will be disappointed. All institutions of higher education are a “work in progress” and you must not believe that AU is exempt from that.
This fall, you will be joining a student body, that is passionate about everything from the divestment of fossil fuels to intersectional feminism, from immigration and refugee protection to religious freedom, from sexual assault awareness and prevention to mental health and inclusivity. You will be joining a community that is vocal about issues that concern its constituents, whether they are members of the majority or the minority. You will be joining a community that is recovering from acts of racial, religious, and gendered bias related incidents and hate crimes. You will be joining a community that is active in the pursuit to foster an empowering and uplifting campus culture. You will be joining a community that is patiently awaiting fresh minds, ready to be molded and shaped into the leaders of tomorrow. You will be joining a community that is ready for your leadership, dedication, and commitment to the university’s mantra “Ideas into Action. Action into Service.” You will be joining a community that is looking forward to welcoming each and everyone of you. You will be joining a community that encourages you to learn just as much inside the four walls of the classroom as you will out in the city, volunteering, interning, and getting involved in activism.
You will find that your professors and your peers will be equally as influential educators throughout your time at AU -- learning doesn’t just happen from the front of the room to the back but also from the back to the front.
Many of you are coming to AU with a clear vision of who you are, what you want to do after college, and a plan to get there. To those of you this resonates with, I say, hold on to that plan but don’t be afraid to try something new and to deviate from the course. Some of you are coming to AU with an idea of where you want to end up but haven’t yet decided where you want to focus your energies, to this I say, dive into your passion and follow that towards your dreams. And to those of you who might be feeling overwhelmed with trying to figure out the next four years of your life, what you want to do after you graduate college, and just want to do this college thing, know that this is completely OK! You don’t have to have the answers right now, in fact, I’d be surprised if you had it all figured out by the end of your junior -- truth is, I have no idea what I’ll be doing this time next year and I graduate in the spring! That’s the beauty of college -- being able to explore a place new to you, learn new things, meet new people, and find your life’s calling.
As you come back to AU in the August, remember, you are a blank canvas and that the work of art you will create with your experiences over your college career, will be entirely up to you to design, so paint it anyway you want -- join a club or organization, lead an alternative break, volunteer in the community and most importantly -- be yourself, and and the end you’ll have a one of a kind masterpiece. I can’t wait to see each of you grow in your first, and my last, year here at American University. Enjoy the rest of your summer, relax, and see you in August!