Looking back: An Alumni's Reflection on their years at Gardner-Webb

by Dillon Stadther

When one asks me about why I chose Gardner-Webb, I’m very honest with them. GWU was not my top choice school. I applied to five (5) schools – three private liberal arts schools, a large public in-state, and a small public in-state. I was accepted to all five and received scholarship at two – my top choice and GWU. As the initial college decision is largely financially-rooted, I decided that I would attend GWU. At first, I was hesitant to make this college decision. However, once I verbally committed to my decision I felt very at peace.

Anyway, let’s fast-forward through my four years. I’ve since graduated and upon graduation, I spent a fair amount of time reflecting on my education. Was GWU worth it? Academically? Socially? Spiritually? These questions are nearly impossible to quantify.

Academically, I received a solid education. I had to push myself, but really that’s what college is about. It’s not the professors’ job to learn for you; they are merely facilitators and resources for your own journey for knowledge. I searched for learning opportunities outside of Boiling Springs. I received admission to two NSF-funded summer research opportunities – one at UCLA Department of Engineering during the summer 2013, and another at UConn Department of Computer Science during the summer 2014. These two experiences contributed the most to my technical acquisition of knowledge through my formal education. While GWU did not directly provide these opportunities for me, they did however encourage me to seek personal advancement outside of their educational boundaries. Due to these factors and others (which I don’t have the time to include), GWU Academics checked my box.

Socially, I am no butterfly. I managed to maintain a unique relationship with others during my stay at GWU. I was vaguely known about by many people – if not by name, by description. I was quiet, confident, and athletic. I rarely had much to say (except to my close friends or if you caught me with just the right topic), but when I had something to say, it was worth my time. I didn’t have any expectations for college in the social aspect. I didn’t go to school to have the modern American college experience, filled with parties, late-night hangouts, and copious amounts of pizza and junk food. I went to college to get an education and along the way I met some awesome friends, many of which I have maintained contact. Socially, college is what you make of it. Many students transfer out of GWU because it’s not “social-enough” for them. While I cannot fully speak to the validity of this statement, I can say that GWU provided me with plenty of valuable friendships of which bring me much joy. Therefore, GWU (again) checks my box.

Spiritually, I should trace where I started and where I am now.  I didn’t enter GWU as bold Baptist set on fire for God. I was very far from that. I battled with aligning my analytical mind with religion. During my freshman year at GWU, I considered myself agnostic – I believed that there was a higher being, but did not know who I believed that to be (nor did I really care). I then stopped searching for answers. Searching did not provide any solutions to my problems with religion. A couple of years later, I reflected on my opinions of GWU from a religious point-of-view, while gathering firewood on the Honors Program’s Fall retreat (known as Big Sweep), and I realized that I in fact did accept that God existed and that he had done so many great things for me. This realization continued to grow through my remaining time at GWU to where it is today. I am still no evangelical Christian, nor do I regularly attend church, but nevertheless I confess that I am a Christian. While GWU did not necessarily provide me the tools for this self-realization, the people which make up GWU did provide a diverse and nurturing environment to allow me to grow as an individual and discover my beliefs in my own time. Again, GWU checked the spiritual growth box.

I can say with confidence that Gardner-Webb University was worth my time, efforts, and funds. I gained a strong foundation and drive for learning, a stable and secure sense of how to best spend my time and relationships, and the environment to finally define my religious beliefs. GWU may not be the right place for everyone, but it was definitely the right place for me.

Dillon Stadther: Class of 2015. Computer Science major. Mathematics minor. Honors Program graduate. Currently resides in Raleigh, NC. Employed by Republic Wireless (a Bandwidth Company) as a Software Developer for Analytics. Enjoys playing racquetball with his coworkers and bouldering at Triangle Rock Club in Morrisville, NC.