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The Carroll News

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Alissa at the apex: remembering a passionate professor

Alissa Van Dress
Campus Editor Alissa Van Dress encapsulates the memory of a kind economics professor.

“Hi, my name is Alissa Van Dress. I am a junior studying English with a concentration in Professional Writing, with minors in Business, Creative Writing and Spanish and Hispanic Studies.”

Recently, I’ve delivered that long-winded introduction to many new students. Of course, when meeting new people, introductions are customary. After I finish my mouthful of a prologue, the usual reaction is “Wow, you have a lot of minors” or “Wow, you are involved.”

Those two most common responses are candid. Indeed, I have declared a handful of minors and I am quite involved in numerous clubs and organizations at John Carroll. Some people have asked me, how do you do it? Honestly, I am unsure how to answer that. A happy-go lucky attitude and great time management skills, maybe? What others rarely ask me, though they imply with their shocked expressions, is why do you do it?

At first thought, I am inclined to answer, “I like to keep busy.” While that is true, there is more to the story as I found myself asking, why do I like to keep busy? This turned into a snowball of questioning, which precipitated my pursuit to answer just why I do what I do. Well, after the passing of a beloved professor, I have gleaned from my introspection.

On Sept. 22, I received a text message from a close friend that my freshman economics professor passed away on Aug. 29. She was one of my favorite professors at John Carroll. I was in the last class that she taught before she took an emergency leave.

Out of my educational career, this was the first class where I experienced outward bullying– and I never expected it to occur in college. I will never forget the intentional glares that I received when my hand went up to pose a question or the mockery that transpired not to my face, but in front of my face. Since I sat in the back of the room, I watched and heard it all before me as if I was a fly on the wall. However, it was my reality three days a week and my name was the central topic.

Despite the treatment, my professor encouraged me to cultivate the passion that I have for learning. She nursed my confidence all while maintaining her compassion and kind smile. During her office hours, she wondered why I wasn’t an economics major. I looked at her like she was crazy. Why would a writer study economics? Here I was, coming to her for help because I struggled in the class. Why would a struggling student study that field? Perhaps my professor saw potential in me, not because of my bare knowledge of economics, but because of my unfettered passion; perhaps she was reminded of her own passion.

My point of this column is not to wallow in embarrassment or regret, but to reflect on the growth. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what my weekly column was going to focus on. While I normally like to plan in advance, this one sprung up on me. I almost decided to skip my column this week but I’m glad I went with my gut. I knew that I needed to dedicate this piece to the warm-hearted professor who empowered an 18-year old, broken girl.

After all this, my answer to, “why do I do what I do?” is simple: I do it for the people like her. I live to make the ones whom I love proud. I strive to inspire others as those loved ones inspired me. I intend to spread goodness in a messy world and to remain unaffected by pettiness, but instead forgive and move on. That is my why. And, I hope to help others as my economics professor has done for me.

I will complete my studies in remembrance of Dr. Lindsay Noble Calkins and pass her precious wisdom and soul along. This is how her presence will live on.

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About the Contributor
Alissa Van Dress
Alissa Van Dress, Campus Editor
Alissa Van Dress is a junior English major from Amherst, Ohio. She has a concentration in professional writing with minors in business, creative writing and Spanish and Hispanic Studies. Previously, Alissa served as the copy editor at The Carroll News. In addition to her current role as campus editor, Alissa is a JCU football and basketball cheerleader, a writing consultant at the JCU Writing Center, works as a digital engagement ambassador for the JCU Carroll Fund, and serves on the visual arts committee for The Carroll Review. Also, she is honored to have co-founded the Theatre Club at John Carroll University. Other than writing, some of Alissa's favorite hobbies include musical theater, vocal performance, fashion, dance and cheerleading/acrobatics. After graduation, Alissa plans to write for children's entertainment.

To contact Alissa, email her at [email protected].

Comments (2)

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  • G

    George LewandowskiOct 2, 2023 at 3:49 pm

    What a wonderful tribute. The best that any student can offer.
    Dr. C would love it!

    • A

      Alissa Van DressOct 16, 2023 at 9:47 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words! She lives in our hearts. I will never forget her.