Dessert with the Roushes: Coming Full Circle
Centre College has always prided itself as a place where important conversations take place. From the classroom to campus organizations to involvement with events like the 2000 and 2012 Vice Presidential debates, students are encouraged to make their marks and to make their voices heard.
One of the most meaningful opportunities for students to share their thoughts takes place annually at the Craik House—in the comfort of the President’s living room.
For the past 17 years, John and Susie Roush have opened their home to each senior class for a sincere conversation about its College experience.
“We enjoy dessert and fellowship, talk about those things that Centre ‘must never lose,’ and invite them to discuss with us about ways in which Centre could be made ‘better, stronger, faster,’” says President Roush. “We conclude that this ‘exit interview,’ as Susie refers to it, is among the best things we do with our students and gives us a chance to ‘close the loop’ we began when these same individuals joined us for their first year orientation picnic at Craik House.”
The student turnout affirms Roush’s conclusions. With participation by more than half the senior class, the event spans five 90-minute evenings.
“Nobody can offer a better perspective of what works and what doesn’t than current students,” says Assistant Director of Annual Giving and event organizer Krista Rinehart. “This level of ownership is what makes Centre such an incredible school that offers such an amazingly personal education experience.”
Senior Parker Leonard appreciates the receptiveness shown to each student’s viewpoints. “I think administration in larger schools often forgets to talk to their students before making changes,” he says. “I like that Centre engages its current students in these conversations.
“President Roush said something like ‘You can attribute this to Centre’s size, but that’s not it. It’s a hallmark of ours.’ He’s right—it’s an intentional dedication to conversation between students and administration,” Leonard continues.
Senior Anne Wilson agrees. “Nothing is off limits in the discussions that take place, because everyone is coming together to figure out how we can make Centre a better place for the future,” she says.
This year’s event featured conversation that was both characteristic and enlightening. As they have in the past, students reiterated the importance of maintaining the “soul” or small-campus dynamic of Centre: accessible faculty and staff; the invaluable research, internship and study abroad opportunities; and even the tradition of receiving a personalized birthday card in your mailbox each year.
On the flip side, students expressed the desire for even more immersive study abroad options, social events that cater to a larger variety of interests and small adjustments to academic procedures and curriculum.
But, Wilson adds, most suggested changes aren’t for the seniors themselves—they are to benefit future students.
“Before the discussion opened up, the Roushes recommended that we consider issues from the angle of what we would like our children to experience if they were to come to Centre,” she says. “They pushed us to think about the extremes—what we would change tomorrow, and what we wouldn’t ever want to see changed at Centre.”
Leonard echoes those sentiments.
“Centre, as a whole, teaches you that your actions extend far beyond what you can see,” he says. “It’s important to participate in an event like this because even though you won’t experience the changes, you know that a student down the road will. That’s the first step in realizing the Centre family is real and it is strong.”
According to President Roush, the “story” these soon-to-be graduates have told is affirming in every way. “They tell us, over and over, that Centre has changed their lives for good and forever; that they treasure the relationships they have made with countless faculty and staff members; that they believe the College’s small classes, residential nature and personal attention are institutional elements that must be preserved.”
It is this personalized experience and sense of community that makes Centre such an “extraordinary place,” says Wilson. “My favorite part of the event was being able to look around the room and recognize everyone sitting with me. This event is a clear testament to why Centre is continuously ranked for having the happiest graduates in the nation.”
Rinehart says it also exemplifies the fact that the Centre community is a family. “I can’t imagine there are many places where the president and first lady welcome the entire senior class into their home for such an intimate conversation.”
While many students cherish the unique opportunity to share the things they are most passionate about with the administration, the Roushes consider themselves privileged to host such an event. “It is a complete joy for Susie and me,” says President Roush. “It is, in fact, an honor to hear them report on they ways in which they have been prepared for their lives of work and service.
“The expectations they have for their futures have been raised because they passed our way.”
By Mariah Pohl ‘15