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AU Diary: Carson Cawthon

Anderson University was not my plan A. Nor was it plan B, for that matter. It was more of an idea hovering over my subconscious, begging me to consider, “What if?”

I was bound and determined to head off to a large university, to find somewhere to make a name for myself. I wanted to be a number, a face without a name, a little fish in a big pond. And, most of all, I wanted to be great: a great writer, a great student, the poster child for spiritual maturity and intellectual ability. I wanted to start as a nobody and become somebody who nobody forgot. Surely, this kind of greatness made God proud.

I first visited AU on a chilly October afternoon in 2019 and was distressed to find it felt like a perfect fit. I was greeted with cookies and genuine, thoughtful questions about my hopes for the future. The students I met listened to the same podcasts I listened to, liked the same music, wrestled with the same doubts and loved the same Christ. I thought that, just maybe, a smaller Christian school could be right where I belonged after all.

The next night, after I returned home to Florence, South Carolina, I couldn’t sleep because of all the anxiety I felt about my college decision. In the middle of the night, I made a pros and cons list evaluating all the schools I was considering attending. One pro listed under Anderson University outweighed all the others: “Anderson feels like home.”

If you ask anyone what is special about Anderson University, they will answer without hesitation: it’s the people. And they are right.

I knew what I had to do.

From the moment I set foot on Anderson’s campus, I was treated with a love I did not earn. I did not have to work for it. It was freely given—a love remarkably similar to the love of Jesus.

Anderson University has been humbling me with its love ever since.

I have shared countless meals with professors and pastors and students and strangers. I have asked hard questions and changed my mind a million times. I have been wrong and I have apologized. And through it all, I have been carried by a current of unconditional love.

Anderson invited me to be something more than just great. It invited me to be loved. And when people are loved, they flourish.

This May I will graduate with a degree in English. In my time here, I have published writing in several national publications. I have spent time as a student at Oxford University and worked for the C.S. Lewis Foundation. I have discussed liberal arts education with a think tank in Washington, D.C. and I have served as poetry editor of Ivy Leaves Journal. But none of these accomplishments are what I am most proud of.

If you ask anyone what is special about Anderson University, they will answer without hesitation: it’s the people. And they are right. I am most proud that, at Anderson University, I have better learned how to love and be loved.

It is this education that will equip me best to nourish humanity through the cross.