Room to Grow

I want to share some personal advice I gave to the incoming class of 2019 at the very beginning of the year. I told them to do this one thing: misbehave.

I want to share some personal advice I gave to the incoming class of 2019 at the very beginning of the year. I told them to do this one thing: misbehave.

Now, it was not exactly a crowd pleaser right away, especially among parents, but let me explain. I am a dancer. I have danced my whole life, and I find a lot of inspiration not only from this art form but also from choreographers, one of whom is Wayne McGregor. He says, “The technicities of creativity can be taught and shared … you can find out things about your own personal physical signature, your own cognitive habits, and use that as a point of departure to misbehave beautifully.”

I believe that this concept can also be applied to academics and the overall experience at an institution. Just as McGregor encourages his dancers to move outside of their normal range of movements, I believe that it is important as students to take classes outside of what feels comfortable and challenge your cognitive inclinations. And this is what I have done in my time here.

I am a political science major, yet I have taken a biology class about arachnids, learned how to play the ancient game of Go in a game theory class, and studied abroad in Morocco while learning Arabic. All of these experiences challenged me to try new things and push the boundaries of my abilities. This is what a liberal arts college like Lewis & Clark offers.

It is immensely important that when you are making your decision of where to go to college that you do your research. I hope all of you have done your research on this place because some pretty impactful things have happened here recently.

As student body president, and as a member of this community, I think it would be out of place for me not to mention the events that took place in the fall on this campus and campuses around the country around race, diversity, and inclusion.

This college is not perfect—no institution is. But just because a place has room for improvement does not mean that it should be ruled out.

When I was looking at colleges, I was looking for the “right fit.” But I think that language needs to be altered slightly. You see, when I was growing up, my mother could not afford new dance shoes for me every year, so she bought shoes that fit with room to grow. And this is how I believe you should look at the admissions process: look for a college that fits you but gives you room to grow.

I wish someone had told me this. Because if there is one thing that I have learned this past year in working with students on campus, it is that when you work to better someone else, you better yourself. The change must start from within. The same goes for this institution. When students, staff, faculty, and administrators seek to make this institution a better place, we all individually became a better people and, thus, a better community.

So when you are looking at colleges, look for the imperfections and the flaws—not as reasons to cross a place off your list, but as opportunities, as places for growth. I spent many years in Girl Scouts when I was younger, and one of their mantras was to leave a place better than when you found it. This is the mentality I see in my peers and myself. They aim to make this community better because they care for it and its future. I know this to be true.

On April 5, we had our first Lewis & Clark Day of Giving. Our challenge was to get 1,000 donors in 24 hours. Guess what? We crushed it with over 1,700 gifts—hundreds of which were from current students. Why would students give when they do not have much right now? Students gave not only because they believe in this place, but also because they have an investment in future generations. I gave for the future athletes, the future musicians, the future activists, and the future student body president. I gave for you.

The students who enroll at Lewis & Clark do so for many reasons, and that’s what makes our student body diverse. But students also come because they want to implement positive change in this world. And why wait for graduation when we can do it now? Why wait when we can leave this place better than when we found it? Why look for the college with just the right fit when you can have one that gives you room to grow by helping it grow? Why do what is always easy and comfortable when you can misbehave? These are the questions I pose to you.

While I am beginning to reminisce and preparing myself to graduate, I have been experiencing a lot of emotions. I am sad to leave this place; comforted to know I will always have a community here; and hopeful for the college’s future generations.

As guests to our campus today and as possible future Pioneers, welcome to Lewis & Clark.

Daniela Lopez BA ’16 served as president of the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark during 2015–16. This piece was adapted from her remarks to newly admitted students on April 9, 2016.