Oberlin: A Spa for the Soul

Raquel Olivo

To the Editors:

I attended my first Alumni Council Executive Board meeting in November, and was struck by a comment made by my colleague Cindy Brown, who chairs the Nominations Committee. Cindy described returning to Oberlin as a “spa for the soul” and I couldn’t agree more. For the past year and half I’ve returned to Oberlin on different occasions. First, I attended Alumni Council Weekend in September 2009, as a member of the Oberlin Latino/a Alumni Association. Next, I returned to celebrate my 10th reunion, during Commencement/Reunion Weekend in May 2010. Then, I attended another Alumni Council Weekend in September 2010. In the meantime, I was selected as an OLAA liaison to the Executive Board of the Alumni Council.

As the November meeting approached, I was unsure of what to expect going into a weekend full of meetings with alumni from different eras and parts of the country. I guess I thought it would either be a complete fiasco, with everyone trying to vocalize his or her opinions on issues, or it would be a formal series of meetings without much interaction or inspiration. Happily, my expectations could not have been further from the truth. I am happy to report that I was met by a group of dedicated and unique individuals who welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to become involved at my own pace. We worked through some difficult challenges and then laughed together when it was time to be silly. Gathering with a group of volunteers who are motivated enough to take a weekend out of their busy lives, simply out of their desire to help advance Oberlin’s name, was inspiring.

Throughout the weekend, I tried to pinpoint what exactly it was about returning to Oberlin that was so cathartic and cleansing. There is just something energizing about being around a group of highly intelligent individuals, who are so dedicated to upholding Oberlin’s mission of Learning and Labor, for the past and future alums. It makes me think of the saying: “To share some happiness, you have to come from a place of happiness.” This is what many, if not all, of my Executive Board colleagues possess and project: an overwhelming sense of peace and joy with who and where they are — physically and emotionally — and what they do in life.

For the next three years, I will serve as OLAA’s liaison to the Executive Board, and one of my duties will be to provide information from my organization to the Board. The goal is to keep the Board aware of what is happening in the affiliate group, and help the affiliate group become more connected to the governing body of the Alumni Council.

In October 2011, OLAA is planning a reunion to bring together Latino/a alumni who span many decades. I cannot think of a better group to have as a support system throughout this endeavor than the Executive Board.

In the coming years, I’ll have many more opportunities to interact with members of the Board, as well as alumni from all walks of life. As I do, I will keep in mind the adage that if you want someone to understand and love what you’re doing, you have to understand and love it as well. This is what I learned in November, and I hope to share that message, and joy, with others.

-Raquel Olivo
OC ’99 Oberlin Latino Alumni Association liaison to the Alumni Association Executive Board