Whether a student, professor or faculty member, every Raven has their own AU story. Perhaps yours is a legacy story or maybe one of paving your own way. People from different states, countries and continents have made AU home over the years. AU is more than just an institution or a college campus. AU is made up of the people who call this place home, and the stories of what brought them here are what keep AU alive.
As we continue to grow in community together, every individual “My AU Story” becomes a small snapshot of our AU story.
This is the second installment on a series sharing the stories of how students, faculty and staff came to at AU. The first part was published in the Oct. 10 issue.
Sophie Rolph is a junior from Walla Walla, Washington, studying elementary education and Peace and Conflict Transformation, and is the coordinator of the Student Peace Initiative.
Rolph moved more than 1,600 miles from her home in eastern Washington to come to AU.
“It’s interesting how in just one country there are so many cultural differences, and how people and their stories can be so different. Here, I’ve found people who share my interests and people who have different interests, and we can connect in different ways,” says Rolph.
For Rolph, being able to live in a faith-based community has been an enjoyable change of environment.
“I like the culture of Anderson and the Midwest more than where I’m from. In Washington, there’s a culture of ‘be free’ and attitudes of ‘do whatever you want’ and ‘believe whatever you want.’ At my high school there weren’t many religious people. It’s nice to go to a school where most people are Christians and where faith is really incorporated into the school. There are a lot of opportunities on campus to enter into that through chapel and Bible studies.”
At AU, Rolph is able to step into her passion for social justice.
“I’m a PACT minor, and I love it. Where I’m from, social activism is a big thing. I’ve noticed that in coming to a city that’s not very big, there’s not a lot of social activism here. I became passionate about it in Washington, and I feel like I can bring that part of who I am here and start spreading it in Anderson.
“I feel like AU gets disconnected from the community of Anderson, and I’d really like to bridge that gap, create connections and help the community. I love getting involved in the community. I’m part of Heart for Kids, and I enjoy working with Erskine Elementary to tutor kids there.”
Professor Thomas Tijerina
Thomas Tijerina is a professor of sociology and Peace and Conflict Transformation at AU.
“I was never planning on going to college until a couple of weeks before I went,” says Tijerina, who started his AU journey in the spring of 2009. Tijerina graduated from AU just six years ago and has been teaching here for three.
Before moving to Anderson, Tijerina lived in Defiance, Ohio.
“I came to Anderson after my wife and I got married. I worked with at risk youth in Defiance and helped implement afterschool programs for high schools. From morning to night, my life revolved around teenagers.
“When I came here, I wanted to jump back into youth work. I had lived in Anderson for a month and was trying to find a job, but I didn’t have any higher education, so it was hard to just walk into a new city and get a job. So, I asked myself, ‘Why not just go to school?’ My wife’s family really had a great experience at AU, so that really influenced my decision to come here.”
Tijerina is passionate about community development and helping the city of Anderson. Tijerina has started a non-profit boxing gym, was involved with the Anderson City Market and started a community garden to help bridge gaps of need in Anderson.
“Doing sociology, community work, urban ministry classes and trips to New York and D.C. changed my passion and my motivation and the way that I wanted to serve people.
“AU played a role in that because everything seemed to be fitting together at the right time,” he said. “Along the way, I had professors who pushed me to learn a lot and were really good at challenging me. I feel like everything I was doing in the community grew exponentially after my learning opportunities helped me to have a healthier attitude.”
For Tijerina, the relationships he has formed at AU have been an enjoyable and influential part of his life.
“What I enjoy about AU is some of the other faculty that I connect with on a personal and intellectual level,” he said. “I feel like I’m learning from some of these faculty members as much now as I was in undergrad.
“People here have really put their time into me, and that’s why I try to put time into students. I enjoy being able to walk alongside them and witness them become more positive, assertive and inspired about what they want to do. It’s nice to help them find their path and help them discover more about themselves,” Tijerina said.