Forced Meandering: The Path of Davidson Senior Allison Cowie

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They say that at Davidson, there’s no direct path. Or at least that’s what my friends and I say as we debate the quickest way from down the hill to Main Street. Davidson’s full of picturesque, red-bricked walkways that take you through shaded lawns and sculpture gardens, past historic buildings and Dorm Row, and even—if you wander long enough—to a meditation labyrinth (an even greater maze of twists and turns). Where these paths do not take you, however, is on the quickest route from A to B. Door-to-door efficiency clearly wasn’t a priority in our campus’s landscape design.

Chambers BuildingLike everything at Davidson, though, I’m pretty sure this forced meandering is intentional. Just like we’re encouraged to try out different academic disciplines and hold off on declaring our majors until our sophomore year, taking the scenic route compels us to slow down and appreciate where we are, even when—especially when—where we are isn’t our final destination.

As I’ve wandered my way from freshman beginnings to senior last hurrahs, what I once mistook for lack of direction was actually exactly what I needed to find my own path—first, from my dorm room to Chambers, and then through Davidson and beyond.

The paths I’ve followed at Davidson have been many. Academically, my professors have made my Davidson experience incredibly rewarding. On top of what I’ve learned in the classroom, perhaps the most valuable learning I’ve experienced has come from visiting office hours or having coffee meetings. From our discussions on Spanish literature to Commons lunches at the mesa de español, the Hispanic Studies Department in particular has become a family of mentors and advisers.

The Chidsey Center has also played a key role in helping me chart my own course. As a Chidsey Leadership Fellow, my program directors and cohort members have helped me find my footing, so to speak, on the path I’ve been carving out for myself from Davidson into the world beyond. This program has made me a more capable, confident leader by helping me see myself and identify my strengths in new ways, and has brought me to a group of 15 incredible classmates who bring out the best in Davidson, every day.

Cowie and a group of friendsMy favorite path at Davidson, though, has been the one that’s led me to my closest friends. From Second Belk to apartment living, I’m still with my core four. Over four years, we’ve never had a single class together, but our diverse interests make our friendships stronger. Our conversations are straight out of a liberal arts brochure—a sprinkling of biology lessons, math theorems, literature analysis and critical race theory in between brainstorming semiformal dates and where to go for dinner. Wherever our various interests take us, navigating the Davidson experience together will keep our own paths intertwined for a lifetime.

I’d be lying if I said I’ve never cut across the lawn to make it to class on time, but even so, Davidson’s seemingly roundabout footpaths strike me as the perfect manifestation for the merits of a liberal arts education. By routing me toward the unfamiliar, Davidson has made me embrace uncertainty head on, and has given me the tools to reckon with the unknown and make it out on the other side. Without my professors, mentors and friends, I would not be on the path I am today—a direction that feels perfectly my own, because that’s exactly what it is.

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Allison Cowie

Allison Cowie '18 is a Spanish major and economics minor from Palo Alto, California.

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