Author Archives: Emily Pierce

Office of the Campus Minister Feature

On an average day at Piedmont College, students pass the Office of the Campus Minister on the third floor of Daniel Hall. The door is usually open as students go to and from class. Some may even notice the “Free Coffee” sign on the student worker desk.

“The Coffee Ministry is highly regarded,” said Laura Alyssa Platé, a sophomore History and Religion/Philosophy double major and student worker.

The Office of the Campus Minister is coordinated by Rev. Tim Garvin-Leighton, affectionately known as Rev. Tim. As the Campus Minister, he is involved in convocation, baccalaureate, and commencement, as well as other programs around campus, such as the Adopt a Child Christmas Program, the 9/11 Memorial Service, and Ash Wednesday. Rev. Tim has also been asked to speak at events in the dorms and during student-led Bible studies. However, he believes there’s more to his job than events.

“We have a counseling service, which many students access and use, but Dawson and Evonne often refer students to me that have spiritual crises,” said Rev. Tim, “and I’m able to connect to the students, faculty, and staff in a way that Evonne and Dawson can’t around those issues, and I think that’s really important.”

This led to Rev. Tim and the student workers in the Office of the Campus Minister to foster a drop-in atmosphere. Student workers like Platé bring in puzzles that anyone visiting the office can work on to de-stress. They also make sure the espresso machine is turned on each morning.

“I feel like every department has their own version, and I’ve sampled the coffee offered just about everywhere on campus, but the Campus Ministry coffee is the best,” said Hadley Cottingham, a sophomore English major. “It’s a great place to vent. Rev. Tim is such a great person, and the student workers there are great people. I always feel like I can just unload there.”

However, Rev. Tim believes the Office of the Campus Minister is under-utilized, and that few students know about it despite its central location and the events around campus the office is involved in.

“We project and present this sort of drop-in model, having the coffee and doing puzzles, those kind of things. Students that know about that access it,” said Rev. Tim, “but I think a lot of students don’t really believe that’s the case, that they really can just drop in, or maybe they don’t understand what that means, so I wish there was a way to foster that sense more.”

Platé said she began working in the Office of the Campus Minister because she was hanging out there anyway, and said “It’s a good place to work and be.” Cottingham believes the office is an important resource.

“People need an outlet to talk about their faith, and the campus ministry is a really good place for it. Rev. Tim is such a kind and open-minded person, it’s really refreshing to be able to talk about those big questions you have towards religion and not be judged for it,” said Cottingham. “I’ve had a lot of questions about God and a lot of anger towards religion in the past few years, and the campus ministry has given me a safe place to figure stuff out.”

Platé also spoke on the importance of the office.

“There’s a lot of great resources that we have in here that students just don’t know about. That can be we have free coffee, and some students don’t realize that to we have people that are willing to talk to you in stressful times,” said Platé, “it’s not as daunting as going into Lane Hall and meeting with a counselor.”

The Office of the Campus Minister launched social media this year, as well as a Vespers service on Sunday evenings. In the fall, it will start a Care Cabinet with hygiene products and school supplies for students who are struggling financially. The Adopt a Child Christmas program has grown since Rev. Tim started working at Piedmont in 2016.

“I want to promote that just because yes, I’m a Christian pastor, yes, the Campus Ministry is sort of intentionally Christian because of our historic connections to the Christian church, but I don’t want people to see me as just the Christian Campus Minister,” said Rev. Tim. “We have more that Christian students at Piedmont. I want people to see that we understand that religious diversity, not just of our campus, but of broader society.”

Tackling Teaching

From private investigator to librarian and published author, Xhenet Aliu now returns to teaching.

“It had always been something that I wanted to get back to,” said Aliu, a librarian on Piedmo

nt’s Athens campus, “but the timing had to be right, and all the stars had to align, which they did this past year.”

Aliu began teaching her first course since graduate school this January. It is a fiction workshop course, which means students’ creative writing is read and critiqued by the other students in the class, not just Aliu. After the success of her critically-acclaimed novel Brass last year, Aliu was asked by Piedmont’s administration if she would be interesting in teaching. The answer was obvious.

“I taught creative writing when I was in grad school, and I taught at conferences and things like that, and I had been wanting to get back into teaching, so, you know, it worked out,” Aliu said.

After graduate school, Aliu struggled to find a job with an English degree, and eventually became a private investigator in New York. She said the firm mostly investigated hedge fund managers and other financial types.

“I really learned how to do research. We had to do a lot of database research in particular, but I didn’t like the things I was researching for this job because I had no interest in the financial world… So, I started looking into library schools,” Aliu said.

Aliu waited until she found a fully-funded program, and eventually got her librarian degree from the University of Alabama in 2013. By this time, she was living in Athens and still working for the private investigation firm. Two years later, a librarian job opened up at Piedmont on the Athens campus. Now she juggles her library responsibilities with teaching.

“It’s been good. I mean, I don’t know anybody who’s like I have time to get everything I want done in my life done, so I don’t have any unique complaints,” Aliu said, “It’s busy. I’m only teaching one class, but I’m also still working full-time at the library, and I also teach classes at the Y and I’m also trying to write.”

Sophomore English major Hadley Cottingham signed up for Aliu’s course to work on her creative writing concentration, not realizing it was a workshop course. However, Cottingham said she has already learned a lot the past two months.

“I love Xhenet’s class. I look forward to every class period, and it’s a class where the work never feels like work,” Cottingham said. “She’s an amazing professor. She has great advice for writers, and she knows what she’s talking about.”

Aliu will be teaching more courses at Piedmont in the future. She talked about a new introduction to creative writing course that she is going to teach.

“There wasn’t a kind of class that you could take that gave you a sample of all of them so that you can figure out which of the genres you’re kinda most interested in pursuing,” Aliu said. “It’ll be fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. That’s also useful because there’s a lot of the craft of each that is helpful for the other genres.”

Cottingham had nothing but enthusiasm discussing Aliu’s current course. When asked if she would take another one of Aliu’s courses, the answer was a resounding “yes.”

“I would absolutely take another creative writing class if she has one. I love getting feedback and learning things I can use in my writing,” Cottingham said. “I have so much inspiration and creative energy again, and this class is a huge reason why.”

Emily Pierce- reading, writing, and racism

By the end of my senior year of high school, I was certain that I wanted to be a middle school Language Arts teacher. Now, my last semester of my undergraduate degree, I am certain that I do not.

In middle school and high school, much of my free time was spent writing, and I always loved my Language Arts classes. I entered Piedmont College as an English Education major, but I will be leaving this May with a B.A. in English, plus whatever a minor in Social Justice shows up as, and heading off to graduate school for, yes, more English. It took me a while to realize that the K12 education system was not for me, though I retain my intense respect for educators. The same semester I first spoke at a literary conference, SAMLA, I changed my major. Luckily, I had enough English credits to not be too far behind.

Since changing my major, I’ve had internships and other professional opportunities appear from out of the blue. I got to be the guinea pig for the Lillian Smith Scholars Program here at Piedmont as well as for Reforming Arts’ (a non-profit that provides liberal arts education at Lee Arrendale Prison) internship program. This past summer I stumbled into an internship with Georgia Humanities and got to work on the upcoming Lillian Smith documentary. In February, I’m giving a presentation on Lillian Smith’s Killers of the Dream at the Southern Studies Conference. I am also working on submitting a paper to be published.

Throughout the past couple years, Lillian Smith and her work have made a huge impact on me, and much of what she talked about could have been said yesterday. I have seen the impacts of institutionalized racism on the news and in day-to-day life, but nothing hit me so hard as my internship with Reforming Arts, getting to be in the prison and work with these women one-on-one. Mass incarceration has become a big social justice issue for me, and I have changed from “Miss Community Service” in my high school’s pageant to being someone who marches and affects change. I am writing my capstone on Lillian Smith’s work and the personal, societal, and historical traumas of racism.

These opportunities, combined with the influence of Lillian Smith and the love and support from my family, church family, friends, and boyfriend, have shown me that I made the right decision, and I know that I’m ready for whatever comes next.