Q&A: Transcending Generations

June 22, 2022 Connor Fogel

Arcadia magazine recently sat down with a Beaver College graduate, Arcadia University graduate, and current Arcadia student to discuss how the student experience has changed through the years. As these conversations demonstrate, Arcadia, true to its legacy as Beaver College, continues to be a University built on the strength and character of a personal, caring community. For generations, the institution has been home to students who have discovered their passions, experienced deep personal growth and pride, and learned about the value of friendship, advocacy, and leadership.

Stacey Downey ’88 

Beaver College Graduate 
Major: English, Philosophy & Sociology Minor 
Current Career: Program Analyst 

Q. What was your path after graduation? 
A. As a student, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduation, but I knew I wanted to do something with education or editorial work. Today, I work for the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) in the field of education, specifically adult literacy. Because of my Beaver College experience, I come to this work from a social justice standpoint. At Beaver, everything we learned and experienced was for the greater good of our world. 

Q. Why did you choose to attend Beaver College? 
A.
I wanted to attend a small liberal arts college. Beaver College not only valued but was also intentional about the liberal arts. My college experience was academically enriching and enlightening. We learned about the world, what’s happening, and our role and our sense of agency in it all. I was exposed to so many writers, books, theories, and thoughts in an analytical way that I had not had experienced ever before. 

Q. What are some of your favorite student memories? 
A.
I interviewed Dr. Bette Landman for the student newspaper. She was very accessible to us and is still an extraordinarily inspiring woman. I was so nervous to interview her, but she was so gracious. It was incredible to see her grace, hear about her vision for the College, and relate it to my experience and future. She encouraged me to join the Peace Corps, travel abroad, and to see the world. It was very special. 

Q. Did you face any challenges and how did you overcome them? 
A.
As a first-generation college student with a single parent, paying tuition was a struggle. Every semester, I visited the Financial Aid Office and a woman would work with me to understand the financial literacy of it all. We always figured out a solution. With her help, I was able to persist. 

Q. How has Beaver College changed since your days as a student? 
A.
Of course there are physical changes on campus, but what is most profound, under the leadership of President Nair, is the University’s ability to be nimble and forward focused on what the world needs from Arcadia students and graduates. This includes Arcadia’s lived values of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. I am incredibly proud that my alma mater continues to uplift students to be flexible, innovative, and collaborative while still providing them with the academic and technical skills that they need to make an impact on Arcadia and the world.

Maya Stewart ’09 

Arcadia University graduate 
Major: Print Communications 
Current Career: Middle School Principal

Q. What was your path  after graduation? 
A. Well, my plans of becoming the next Oprah Winfrey didn’t come to fruition, but I did discover an equally rewarding career. After graduation, I was working for City Year Philadelphia when I had the opportunity to judge senior projects at a local high school. I’ll never forget one student in particular, who at such a young age had overcome so much adversity. Against all odds, with the support and encouragement of his teachers, he presented his senior project and was set to graduate high school—an incredible achievement for him and his teachers. Inspired, I applied for teaching fellowships the following week. I started as a classroom teacher, became an assistant principal, and now I’m a middle school principal. 

Q. Why did you choose to attend Arcadia? 
A.
I knew I wouldn’t just be a number. I had the opportunity to make a name for myself and get involved in the campus community. I’ll admit that I was hesitant to attend a predominantly white institution. I had attended an all-Black high school, and I feared descrimination and isolation, but Arcadia was life-changing in the best possible way. It allowed me to flourish, to be resilient, and forced me to question a lot of what I thought I understood and knew about the world. 

Q. What are some of your favorite Arcadia memories?
A.
 I loved Homecoming and Mr. Beaver. During Homecoming, the Alumni Walk of Pride was lined with student programs and free activities. It was exactly like what you see on television and how I had imagined my college experience. As a Black girl who grew up in poverty, it was surreal. I remember thinking, “this is college.” I recognize now why I loved Mr. Beaver. As a principal, I see the complexities of gender presentation and the pressure kids feel. I am proud that my alma mater broke down those barriers. As I look at my students each day, I can only hope that they one day attend a university where they are exposed to meaningful experiences that transcend race and challenge the status quo. 

Q. Highlight a particular challenge you faced at Arcadia and how you overcame it. 
A.
I enrolled in Arcadia to participate in the First Year Study Abroad Experience (FYSAE), but after the 2005 London bombings, my mom feared for my safety and canceled my study abroad. In an instant, instead of pursuing my dream of studying in London, I was starting my first semester on campus. Those first few weeks were hard. All I wanted was to go home. By the end of the first semester, my mentality changed. Through the Black Awareness Society, I met other Black students and we started eating meals together. Soon, I found my role models and my little village of people who could look out for me. It was the validation and confidence that I needed to thrive at Arcadia.

Vincent Sergiacomi '22

Arcadia University Student 
Major: English
Future aspiration: Editor

Q. Why did you choose Arcadia? 
A.
At my Scarlet & Grey Day, I talked to English and Composition Instructor Dan Schall about the Creative Writing program. I could tell that he had a genuine connection with his students, and a small, engaging environment is exactly what I wanted. 

Q. What have you been involved in during your time at Arcadia? 
A.
I helped to establish Arcadia’s creative writers club, The Writer’s Bloc. We meet weekly, write, and host creative writing events. We start off each meeting with some private journaling and then follow two-to-three writing prompts. It’s an opportunity to share and get feedback from other writers. 

Q. What do you cherish most about your college experience? 
A.
I was very shy when I first arrived at Arcadia my first year, but as I got to know the people in my classes I eventually became more social, got involved, and found my people. The best memories are the little moments with friends. I thought all colleges were the same. I now know Arcadia is much more than going to class, studying, and obtaining a degree. It is a community and a network of people that I will always be connected to going forward. 

Q. Highlight a particular challenge you faced at Arcadia and how you overcame it. 
A.
The COVID pandemic was one of my biggest challenges. Part of what I really enjoy about Arcadia is the community connection, and it was frustrating to lose that when we transitioned to remote learning. We all struggled as we dealt with a pandemic, tried to finish the semester, and mourned the loss of our social lives. In the end, I grew from the challenge, becoming more resilient and appreciative of my college experience. 

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