The D.C. metropolitan area has notoriously bad traffic that I hadn’t anticipated, so I was late to lunch with Viktor Maco ’06, his girlfriend, and their daughter. We ate delicious Indian food, and then took a stroll to a nearby café. We sat down and drank multiple cups of coffee each while my dog, Rufus, barked at passersby.
I think when you’re on the outside, even after Antioch, you can go back into the real world and become disillusioned again, but there’s a moment while you’re learning all these things where you see how massive and possible it is to make change—and then Antioch really started to click into place for me. Because if you think about it, it’s set up perfectly—especially if you want to introduce radical change, if you want to really implement your ideas. At Antioch obviously you study for a semester, or two semesters, and then everybody breaks apart and they go out on their co-op and they learn whatever they learn about, and then you come back. And that’s the magic thing. You come back and you have the ability to share all this information, and go back and do it again. If we were a little bit more disciplined and a little bit more organized, you know, you could really take advantage of that constant going out into the world, not just your state, but different cities in the United States, different countries. It’s amazing because just that kind of loose structure of leaving, learning, and coming back and sharing and then doing it again… the possibility and the momentum that you can get doing that is pretty incredible. The downside to it is that we’re always very fractured at Antioch. There’s so many different little groups within the subgroups within the subgroups with whatever they’re passionate about. The unity is in that we’re all opposing something; we’re all fighting something, but the lack of unity is all our own little agendas. I hope that something they’re trying to instill in people now is to really bring their co-op home. Even if it’s a crappy experience, being in corporate, you know… having to Xerox stuff and get people coffee, you’re at least exposed to what those people’s lives are like.
Sarah Silliman ’01 and I met in her Brooklyn home on a beautiful Monday morning. She made us coffee and we talked in her sunny backyard. She asked what my itinerary for the day was, and when I told her I was going to see Shelby Chestnut ’06 afterwards, she said “I know Shelby! I see her on the train.” It’s funny that even Antiochians who may not have gone to school together know one another and stay in touch.
Growing up in Yellow Springs, the last place on earth that I wanted to go was Antioch—partially, I didn’t think about it, my parents weren’t involved in the school, it wasn’t really in my sphere. But once I hit that time of wanting to go to school, I wanted to travel, I wanted to see different places. I applied to a lot of colleges on the west coast, and then slowly Antioch crept into my vision, because it was an opportunity to travel and do a lot of different kinds of things and shape what I wanted to do. And not just go to one place, but go to many places. At that time, it was one of the few places that really valued practical and applied learning. Not just that you did it for one summer, but that it was really a part of your evolution. It has a reputation and a standard for actually using your experiences in new ways. When I entered, the last thing on my mind was studying economics, but Antioch kind of wove all the experiences that I had within the classroom and then back out. It wasn’t like they were directly related, but it was a journey that I felt really brought me to a certain place I don’t think I would have been able to choose when I just walked in the door my freshman year.
I met Gustavo Monje ’05 in his house in Alexandria, Virginia, and interviewed him in his beautiful Reiki and Tarot-reading room. He talked about his aspiration to become a spiritual life coach, his job as a professor of developmental English at Northern Virginia Community College, his music, and his time at Antioch.
Antioch was like the beginning of my life. I had a wonderful high school experience, too, with some close friends, but when I went to Antioch I realized so much of the world that I didn’t know about—so many ideas that I’d never learned about, so many forms of thought and analysis that you don’t get in school. So at college I got exactly what one would hope to get at college, which is to be introduced into the world of ideas, and to learn how to think critically, and to be given the tools to not just analyze society, but also change society and advance society and empower, especially people who are disempowered in society. At Antioch I became very socially active and conscious. It was just heaven. My professors were so kind and giving and were really present in their jobs and what they did. They really just found potential in all of us and gave everybody like a special boost, you know? I think there’s a reason why we’re so committed to Antioch and so nostalgic about Antioch. Because, not only the mission of the school, but also the town, the Glen, the history of the school. And like all great things, it’s not just what it is that makes it special, it’s who it attracts that makes it really special. Antioch wouldn’t be special if it wasn’t for all of us that became a part of it and made it what is.
I met with Melody Mackowiak ’06 in her apartment in the D.C. area. Before I arrived, she texted me and said that she’d be outside waiting, and easy to spot because she’d be wearing her Antioch College Bootcamp For The Revolution t-shirt, and she was not lying. We had a really engaging conversation about the college’s closing and the amazing culture that she lived in while she was at Antioch.
Antioch opened so many doors for me, there’s nothing negative I can say about it. When I go back, I feel like I’m in my little utopia. It’s like this special place that only those of us who went know. I mean I have goosebumps talking about it. It will always hold a special place in my heart. I will never forget the experiences that I had there, and the growth, and the hard times. You had to push through those hard times to make it. I was student there when the KKK came and it was frightening, but it was one of those experiences that, as a campus, we came together and literally protected and supported each other. And then GenderFuck—I had no idea that people could be that open with who they were, and I discovered who I was on so many levels through Antioch parties. I learned how to party at Antioch, and more than that, I learned how to keep myself safe. There’s no way that I could have lived in this part of the country for the last seven years if not for having the experiences I had at Antioch. I learned how to weather any storm. You know, co-op really helped me to learn how to budget and how to make a dollar last. I am not scared to move anywhere with nothing. I moved to the East coast with $200 to my name. At least my Antioch, the place that I remember, is a place that you could be who you were and you were safe and you were protected, and people either accepted it, or they didn’t, but they respected it. And that’s what I’ll hold in my heart.
It was a rainy Saturday night when I took the L train to Brooklyn to meet Alessandra De Meo ’87 and Mark Greenfield ’86. We had tea and coffee, and Alessandra told us about her time at Antioch, and her current life as a teacher for the New York City Department of Education, grades 7-12. We ended up walking over to the Williamsburg mini-mall with its 80’s jams and bookstore that smelled very strongly of fresh books.
I think what’s really amazing is this kind of network that is formed through jobs, where Antiochians leave a path for the next person to come. So we all know this place, and we’re all connected to this place, and then there’s generations to come that are connected to this place. And so I think it’s like you build this network around the country that’s amazing, where you can then have these shared experiences that really link you together. Like The Farm, for example, I did not have that co-op. I was like “okay, I don’t know what I’m gonna do, I’m going to San Francisco.” I didn’t have anything set up. And then I landed there, and that became my job. They said “oh, you’re an Antiochian, come in; we’ll find something for you to do,” and that turned out to be an amazing experience. I learned so much. Antioch was definitely a special place for me. Mostly, I made friendships for life. And I consider myself an extremely resourceful person. A big part of that was Antioch. The resources were very limited, but we made things happen. You just work with what you have. I really loved the kind of trust that students and professors really put in each other—”let’s see what we can do with your work and let’s be open about it.” All those things… I feel like years later really affected me as a teacher—that Antioch model of education.
I met Shelby Chestnut ’06 at Island Bubbles, a laundromat in Brooklyn. We walked down the street to a little juice bar where I interviewed her about her Antioch experience. I was particularly excited to interview Shelby because I’d seen her speak at a panel on race at Antioch in my first year, and she seemed incredibly on-point about… well, everything. Plus, everyone knew who she was and told me I must interview her during my travels. She did not disappoint!
Antioch prepared me to be a change-maker in society more so than any other thing in my life. The things I learned there I still utilize to this day and I’ve been out of Antioch a decade now. I think the people that I met there—faculty, staff, students—were and are some of the most important people in my life and in my development. And I think within higher education sometimes there’s this idea that it’s sort of this bubble world that you have to leave, and it doesn’t encompass the real world, but I think the structure of Antioch, and I think the ways in which people are devoted to Antioch really allows it to be an extension of society. What you’re dealing with there is no different than what you’re dealing with in a work setting or living in a community. The faculty that I studied with were some of the most progressive, dedicated minds that I’ve ever met, and I still hold them in very high regard and am close to most of them. And students too—the ways in which we sort of grew up together and learned to be critical of ourselves and of each other and what we expected out of society is something that, I think if it existed in more places presently, we wouldn’t have some of the oppression that people face. In my current job I work at a crisis organization, but it’s no different. Every day there’s some issue that needs to be addressed and some issue that needs to be fixed, and people joke that it’s what I’m good at, but it’s really because of what Antioch taught me.
I met Kaycee and Jess in their house in New Mexico, which had the most treacherous driveway I’ve ever experienced—but it ended up being absolutely worth it. They had beautiful sunflowers in their front yard, and a house so cute it made me want to move to New Mexico. The adobe style houses are built to keep the inside cool, even at high temperatures. When I walked in from the hot New Mexican summer, I assumed they had the air conditioning cranked all the way up, but when I asked, they informed me that they didn’t have an air conditioner. Impressive! Jess was nursing their newborn, Shell, and Kaycee had just made waffles, fresh breakfast milkshakes, and coffee that she happily shared. They talked about their lives in New Mexico, a battle they were having with a 6-foot snake that kept eating their chickens, and of course, their time at Antioch.
Since getting my master’s recently and going back to school, I’ve realized how thankful I am for all of the critical thinking skills that are easy to take for granted. I don’t think that most people are taught to do that kind of critical thinking and power and privilege analysis, that feels pretty second nature to me in all the work that I do. That’s something that I would never want to give back. I’m really thankful to Antioch for that. The people that I had the opportunity to study with, professors as well as students, are some of the most remarkable people that I’ve met in my life so far and continue to be, and continue to do work that I just think is so powerful and brilliant. We have friends that we’ve stayed in very close touch with going on 10 years now. We live all over the country and we still collaborate and run work stuff by each other. The kind of institutional challenges that we presented, and that we were presented with, I feel like developed relationships that have been really vital throughout my adulthood.
We were there at a very tumultuous time. We participated in some institutional criticism that afterwards was chalked up to being very detrimental to the institution. I don’t think that that was the case. I think there were already some really big underlying issues. But we were definitely involved in a very loud conversation, about race, specifically, and power and privilege in general. I really appreciate that, even though there was push-back, there was space to have that conversation. That wouldn’t have gone down in the same way at a different institution. Even though things kind of fell apart in some ways in response to it, there was the space to do that, and I appreciate that as a learning experience. I feel like that applies very directly to any work that you want to do in the outside world around colonization— around, not just systems of oppression, but the history and reality and current impacts of oppressive systems, and I really appreciate that experience. I don’t think it’s one I could have gotten elsewhere.
Michael Bare, Antioch class of ’02, lives in San Francisco and works in public health for two national LGBT health organizations. I met him at his apartment on Nob Hill, which had a terrific view of the city (peep the iconic Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill in the photograph). He was preparing to bake a cake for his partner’s brother, who was visiting for the week, but he took some time to have a conversation with me on his gorgeous, sunny rooftop.
I didn’t feel like I was going to a college where it was Grade 13. I felt like I was going somewhere where I was treated like an adult. I was given the opportunity to have experiences both academically and in co-op that just branched the whole theory-practice divide. That’s what I wanted, the whole social justice framework that Antioch was built upon, and the way that reached into everything that they did. That’s one of the reasons I went there. Going to Antioch definitely improved my vocabulary to be able to talk about social disparities and to talk about the impacts of social justice. Going there allowed me to travel, which is something that most young people want to do. It gave me the opportunity to really study a broad array of things that I didn’t think I was interested in before I got to Antioch. It exposed me to all kinds of viewpoints and cultures that I had not experienced prior.
Niko Kowell ’08 currently works at TRANS: THRIVE in San Francisco, California. I met with him after interviewing Michael Bare ’02 just around the corner from Niko’s office (which had the vibe of a place where somebody works a lot). On a chair was a pile of boxes full of pasta packages. “You like pasta?” I asked him. He told me that it wasn’t necessarily that he had a particular fondness for pasta, but that the kitchen was full and he was keeping food in his office for clients of TRANS: THRIVE. We talked about Antioch, old and new, and about some of his more formative co-op experiences.
I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t gone to Antioch. Antioch allowed me to grow in a way that I’m not sure I would have been able to do in Cincinatti. It allowed me to experience other things and not be afraid to go other places. Now I feel like I can pack my stuff up and move to wherever, and I’m not worried about it, because I know what it takes to get an apartment and get a job and make new friends and try to get into a new community, and it’s not scary. And when I was 19, that terrified me. So I think Antioch really allowed me to grow as a person, into the type of person that I wanted to be, that didn’t have this fear around who I was and where I could go and what I could do.