Kaitlyn Hakenson is a former Editor-in-Chief of The Retriever. Class of ’14.
For those who have had the privilege of attending UMBC, visiting campus post graduation can bring about a certain amount of nostalgia and alumni pride. Having visited numerous times myself, I can attest to the presence of those sentiments. However, at least for me, it never really feels like looking back on fond memories, but rather simply reentering the community to which I still feel an intense sense of belonging.
My first week of classes as a freshman passed pleasantly and without difficulty, but it wasn’t until I joined The Retriever Weekly that I truly felt like I was part of the UMBC community. I remember walking into this room full of people, not even entirely sure if I was in the right place, hopeful at even the chance of some real journalism experience.
What I didn’t expect was to be almost immediately integrated into an organization where I had the incredible opportunity to connect and be connected to my fellow UMBC students for my entire undergraduate career.
Suddenly I went from a timid freshman who barely knew anyone outside of Susquehanna Hall, to a confident, informed member of the university community. Through the articles, photos and layouts we painstakingly produced long into the night each Monday, we were able to share the events, accomplishments and stories we look back on now with such pride.
As I progressed from writer to editor-in-chief, I learned valuable leadership, communication and organizational skills that I was able to use throughout and beyond my time at UMBC, but more importantly, I was able to find my niche with an organization that provided me with endless opportunities for growth.
UMBC created the type of environment that allowed me to put down roots and carefully cultivate the person I am today. Looking back, I feel that the growth that UMBC students are able to achieve, whether personal, academic or otherwise, is what helps to foster that unique sense of belonging.
As UMBC celebrates its 50th Anniversary, it is important to reminisce about these types of experiences that have shaped its students, faculty and staff. However, it is equally important to look to the next 50 years and consider how this community can continue to grow, innovate and make a positive impact. In doing so, we ensure that those who attend UMBC in the coming years are able to thrive in an environment to which they feel like they belong.