Berea Spotlight

Quincy Robinson: holding on to his learning mojo

Posted on by Doug Widner

“I’m from Nashville,” Quincy Robinson, class of 2014, said. “I have five older siblings and four of them have been to college. My mother went to a junior college and earned a Medical Assistant certificate and my father went to college for a year.” Higher education was not a novel idea in Quincy’s family; it was more like an expectation.

Berea was a well-tuned destination for college-bound Quincy because his academic achievements in high school were laudable and his family’s ability to pay was limited. He applied and landed here with suppositions soon to shift.

“When I got here I was thinking of majoring in accounting or finance. I was very money-oriented. But back home on break my godmother pointed out I’d been tutoring her and her class mates in their math courses at their community college. She suggested that I should consider math. I’ve always worked with kids and got to thinking becoming a math teacher might be a good fit for me. Next year (2014) I will graduate with a double major: mathematics and teaching and curriculum with a certification in mathematics. I will be able to teach grades 8 through 12 in Kentucky…”

And Quincy may or may NOT decide to do that. “I’m told it might help if I get some teaching experience before I go to graduate school.”

But there’s another part of Quincy that suggests any sort of break between undergraduate and graduate school might be dangerous. “You get out there and you start making money and that feels pretty good. Then you think about going to graduate school and you say to yourself, ‘Do I want to be broke again?’ It might be very hard to say yes to that question.”

Quincy claims his “learning mojo” — which might diminish if he takes time off between getting his Bachelors and pursuing a graduate degree — is something he got from Berea College. “Academics at Berea are very rigorous,” Quincy said, “and it was tough for me at times, even in the subjects I liked. But here I’ve been surrounded by support and encouragement. One of my majors, math, has been a struggle for me, but the math department was very supporting. Even in the down periods when I was near ready to give up, they wouldn’t let me. James Blackburn-Lynch has been one of my most influential math professors in terms of encouraging me to stick with the major. I witnessed in his classes how teaching math can be an enjoyable experience.”

Though Quincy might eventually forget about his rough patches with math, there is another aspect of academics at Berea College he will never forget. “I’ve studied abroad twice. The summer between my sophomore and junior years I went to Spain and Morocco. I had a blast. I studied Sufficism and Islamic religious traditions. It was awesome. Spain was gorgeous. Then this past summer I had a life changing experience in Ghana. We studied African art and music there. So I’ve got this little studying abroad experience under my belt and I’d like to get more.” In fact, Quincy confided he wants to set foot on six continents before he turns 30. “That includes Australia, but I admit Australia is going to be a stretch.”

qr-pic#2Work is work, and at Berea College the student labor program is, for many, a serious first immersion in that fact. “My first job at Berea was facility assistant [janitor] in Knapp Hall — home of the Education Studies Program. Since then I’ve worked in the Black Cultural Center and am currently the office manager there. I think that working at the Black Cultural Center — and, now, the Carter G. Woodson Center as well — has developed me as a person. I’ve been in leadership and supervisory roles there and worked directly in program planning and projects.

“Students will get grumpy about the wages paid for their mandatory labor here. I wish all of them could listen to Professor Andrew Baskin address that subject. I won’t try to paraphrase him, but he talks about the outrageous debt many college students — but not Bereans! — shoulder when they graduate: tens of thousands of dollars. One of my brothers owes $40,000 to student loans. A Berea student couldn’t imagine leaving college with that much debt. Bottom line is this: Working at least 10 hours per week doesn’t add up to a fortune, but leaving with a bottom line that’s barely in the red, if at all, amounts to a fortune saved. As my mentor puts it, ‘You can either play hard now and work harder later, or work hard now and play harder later.’”

Since arriving at Berea, Quincy has married. He and his wife, Allyson, moved into the Ecovillage in January, 2013, and anticipate staying there until Quincy graduates in the spring, 2014. But when asked about the dorm life he used to have, he smiles, chuckles and says, “I loved dorm life. I think at one time or another I lived in almost every male residence hall on campus. I met all my close friends in those buildings … learned about mutual respect and caring for each other even if we didn’t socialize together. We were all working hard, studying hard and we became like a family. All my dorm-mates were a part of my support system and I was a part of theirs’.”

When asked what he likes most about Berea College, Quincy said, “I love the progressiveness of thinking here … and the fact that Berea is a place where you can cultivate your individuality. There’s a lot of freedom and opportunity here to do what you want to do. If you have an idea you want to act on, and you look around you, you can always find people willing to help you.

“I’ve become aware of life in a different way at Berea. You might call it ‘interconnectedness’ or ‘common bond.’ No matter what you look like or what kind of culture you come from, we all laugh, cry, bleed red blood. There are fundamental things about the human experience that we all share. Being at Berea College — including those study abroad opportunities — has helped me broaden my sense of what it means to be human.

“Through my labor and student life I’ve been involved in so many things — but they were all collaborations requiring communicating — and I’ve gained confidence in my own ability to contribute, supervise, shoulder responsibilities and lead.

“Still, I think developing who you are is a continual journey. It won’t be over when I leave here.”

Even though making it to Australia before he’s thirty is, in his own words, a “long stretch,” those who know him probably won’t bet against it.

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