Sustaining Society

Making MEM Connections
by Stuart Iler -- March 7th, 2013

As May approaches, I find myself thinking back to the Nicholas School graduation ceremony last year. On that day, along with dozens of my friends and colleagues, I transitioned once again from school into the working world, closing a chapter in both my professional and personal life.


In hindsight, I am amazed at how quickly the MEM program flew by. Of course there were semesters — particularly the most difficult ones — that felt like they would never end. But they did; and as a student, I found myself last May where I had aimed to be all along: at graduation, both excited for the future and nostalgic about the past.


During my time in the program, I was struck by the many places, disciplines, and professions from which my collective Nicholas School colleagues came: countries from one side of the world to the other, and backgrounds from English to engineering. We were brought together for a brief two years, then dispersed — and I’m sure that our paths after graduation have been, and will continue to be, just as varied and exciting as the journeys that led us to Durham in the first place.


And now that I have become a Nicholas School alumnus, the meaningfulness of those interweaving journeys — both mine and others — seems to have been amplified. In fact, I was particularly struck by this feeling a couple of weeks ago, when I had the pleasure to attend an event hosted by the Nicholas School Triangle Alumni Chapter.


Triangle-area alumni gather at Fullsteam Brewery.


While mixing and talking with fellow Nicholas School alums at Fullsteam Brewery, I realized that just as my MEM ’12 colleagues and I had come and gone at the Nicholas School, so had many friendly and talented people before us; some were there with me that night, wearing nametags on which were written graduation years spanning ’99 to ’09. But beyond that, it occurred to me that out of all of the Nicholas School students in the world, I had only met a few: just those who happened to enroll when I did. At the same time, all of us share a common bond through our chosen careers, and that creates the foundation of something larger than ourselves.


And so, after those conversations at Fullsteam, I have become even more intrigued by the presence of my fellow alumni, here in Durham and elsewhere. I am intrigued by these people’s paths, and by the connection we share to a place and to a school, even though most of us were never there together. And although I wonder if we would’ve been friends — in a fictional world where all Nicholas School students graduate in the same year — I am sure that through alumni events like the one I attended, there is a good chance we can still meet and connect. And as the one-year anniversary of my departure from the Nicholas School approaches, I look forward to many more years of making those connections.


From the left: Greg Andeck, Kristen Hironimus, and Stu Iler.

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