The past year has been an exploration of how humans can remain connected despite a lack of physical proximity. On April 10, Southwestern Adventist University demonstrated this determination during Alumni Homecoming 2021—an entire virtual event which managed to create meaningful memories and bring together SWAU alumni from around the globe.
Shayla Friesen (‘05) remembers arriving at SWAU as a freshman, 16 years ago. And while the campus felt familiar, since her sisters and parents had all graduated from SWAU, hers was a different experience to theirs.
“I grew up in Central Texas, and my family were the only Adventists there,” Friesen says. “Going to SWAU was my first experience in an Adventist educational environment, and the atmosphere was very different from my past education experiences. It felt like a family, and it wasn’t a tough transition for me at all.”
Though she fit right into the SWAU culture, the spiritual atmosphere was a big shift for Friesen.
“I have fond memories of a lot of classes and professors, but I particularly enjoyed religion courses because I wasn’t used to having spiritual topics intermixed with academic learning,” she says. “Those classes challenged me to learn about God in different ways, and I really appreciated that.”
Laura Groessel (‘15), too, found herself immediately comfortable on the SWAU campus as a freshman. She had attended academy in Keene, and already had a relationship with some of the staff from her high school days.
“For me it was home,” Groessel says. “As soon as I arrived on campus, I knew I was loved and cared for.”
During her time at college, Groessel was deeply impacted by several of her professors–some of whom she refers to as her “adopted parents.” They held her accountable, challenged her, maintained high expectations, didn’t compromise and pulled Groessel out of her comfort zone.