Titi Nguyen/Podcast Editor

As I entered senior year, reflecting upon my time at Oxford College and at Goizueta Business School, I found myself challenged by two questions with answers that could not be found in any case study, textbook or lab assignment: What defines the college experience? How do you know you attended Emory University? 

The answer I eventually settled on was celebration. Frankly, it’s easy to find celebration at Emory, given the diverse and talented students, award-winning distinguished faculty and endlessly-supportive University staff. For some of us, celebration took the form of cooking with friends during cultural holidays, successfully defending an honors thesis on our academic passions, or any Business and Society Institute course, reminding us that even if you’re “delighted to announce” an incoming role at a major corporation on LinkedIn, it’s still possible to “do good” in the world.

I found celebration in OAM 434, the Psychology of Leadership course with Dr. Steve Nowicki and Dr. John Paddock. OAM 434 was unconventional. Despite being a Goizueta class, our professors had no experience with “Blue Ocean Strategies” or “LIFO-FIFO.” Dr. Nowicki is a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus of Emory’s Department of Psychology. Similarly, Dr. Paddock is a licensed psychotherapist and psychoanalyst who runs his own private practice. While we only met them twice a week for 75 minutes at a time, our class learned so much about ourselves and how to celebrate our time at Emory. 

The class always began with a string of numbers representing the days until graduation, number of classes passed and number of classes to go until the end of the semester. This countdown continued throughout the semester, reminding us to slow down and prioritize how we wanted to navigate and honor our interpersonal relationships as we neared the end of our time on campus. After all, the first step of meeting a deadline is knowing when the assignment is due. 

Nowicki described relationships as a series of choices, beginnings, deepenings and endings. We made our initial choice by coming to Emory University after receiving the congratulatory admission letter in the mail. We began our relationships by taking the commemorative Class of 2023 picture on the quad, competing with our newly made friends in Songfest or the Oxford Olympics and quickly joining extracurriculars on campus. When it comes to deepening, the past four years have been a whirlwind as we tried to make the most of our circumstances in a post-COVID world and attempted to make up for all the memories and opportunities that we missed.  

However, we found true deepening by celebrating the little things, like Cookies in Candler, grabbing midnight pancakes after the Jack Harlow concert, and having our class dismissed early by Lord Dooley. In each of these joyous memories, it’s the relationships we have built that stand out to us and will continue to last.   

Paddock challenged our class to take interpersonal risks and reflect creatively on our relationships and their endings. We were asked to capture images of what we felt most grateful about regarding our Emory experience, representing what we’ve learned and memorializing how far we’ve come. We conducted record pulls where we picked a personally meaningful song with a friend and a song unfamiliar to them to discuss how it relates to our relationship and its end. In the time we had, Paddock urged us to “Hurry up and stand still” and “To drink the clouds and smell the roses” as we approached May 8th— in other words, to make the most of every moment and to end our relationships well. 

And now, we’ve reached the ultimate deadline: graduation, a celebration of the end of our time in Druid Hills. Here, our last images at Emory will soon be of us walking across the stage where we will be handed our diplomas and our last song will be “Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance.” As we find ourselves baking under the hot Georgia sun on the University quad, sweating through the baggy black polyester of graduation gowns, I’ll wonder, what defines the college experience? How do we know that we went to Emory University? 

The answer I’ve found, with the help of Dr. Nowicki and Dr. Paddock is celebration; celebration of the relationships we have built here and will continue to build, of choice, of beginning, of deepening, of ending and, in the future, beginning again.

Eleanor Liu is from Lexington, Kentucky and double majored in business and psychology. At Emory, Liu served as President of the Oxford College Student Government Association, Vice President of Finance of the Emory Student Government Association and Chair of the Goizueta Undergraduate Business School Leadership Conference. Liu will be working in asset management at UBS Group AG in New York City after graduation.