Campus Voices

Little Monumental Moments

The following essay was shared by the author at Southern Virginia University’s Inaugural Founder’s Day forum on March 8.

Joanna Porter (’24)

I found Southern Virginia University by accident, but I am convinced divine intervention led me here. The Lord knew there was no place where I could learn and grow as well as I have on this campus.

During my time as a student, SVU has meant a lot of things to me, but if there is anything that my time at SVU has taught me, it is that the little moments are what help us grow, and what we will remember. I’ve learned “that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.” (1 Nephi 16:29).

My freshman year, Fall 2018, SVU was scary. It was the exciting kind of scary, like the
adrenaline-filled feeling you get at the top of a roller coaster waiting for the drop, but scary nonetheless. It wasn’t my first time away from home, but it was my first time on my own. All I had to my name was a phone with spotty service, a suitcase, and two bins of textbooks, pencils, and notebooks that were quickly replaced by my iPad. Coming to SVU was the first decision I had made all by myself and, by my 18-year-old reasoning, was the most important decision that I had ever and would ever make.

Soon I settled in and made friends over a game of ultimate frisbee in the quad. That year, filled with poetry about sweaters in my College Composition class, coming to terms with the fact that the Craton dorm washing machine ate all my left socks, and an eventful trip to New York City to sing at Carnegie Hall with SVU Concert Chorale, had so many little moments that fostered so much personal growth I hardly recognized myself. To me, SVU is a place where I can truly be myself.

Joanna Porter
Joanna Porter reading her essay in University forum.

After a brief academic hiatus to serve my mission, I returned to Southern Virginia in the Fall of 2020. Here, even in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, SVU was a shelter from the uncertain storm of life. It allowed me to feel normal and important as I combated isolation from my friends and the sadness of COVID sending me home early from my mission. Here on campus, there were no pitying looks, no judgmental words, and no claustrophobic depression.

Instead, I found undying support from my friends and professors that lifted me up. I had many
socially distant heart-to-heart conversations with my friends while watching sunsets from the
parkway, and spent hours in Professor Cheney’s virtual office hours learning that I am capable of
doing hard things, even if those things are math. These moments helped me realize that SVU is a place that I can go when I feel like the world doesn’t want me.

After that realization, I really hit my stride. I declared my major, learned how to pay rent, and felt truly independent. I also discovered my love for economics and decided that Professor Zeb Riley is my best friend, he just doesn’t know it yet. He is one of the many professors who have impacted my time here.

One of my favorite little moments here at SVU, highlighting the relationships I have formed with my professors, takes place in Dr. Sorber’s Western Civilization I class in my third fall semester. Dr. Sorber and I share one main thing in common: we are connoisseurs of bad jokes and even worse puns. So, of course, every class period was a challenge for me to see how many class-content-related puns I could slip into questions and class discussions. One chilly morning, in our outdoor classroom, we were reading Beowulf and I inserted a comment with not one, but two situationally correct and horribly out-of-context puns that caused poor Dr. Sorber to shoot his nice hot drink out his nose in an attempt to conceal his laughter. To me, SVU is a place where I can have fun while learning.

Joanna Porter and Professor Sorber

This is my final year at Southern Virginia University, and it has been bittersweet. I find it amusing that I started both my freshmen and senior years with fear—fear of change, fear of the unknown, and fear that I am not enough. However, even in this uncertain time of overwhelming anxiety and panic, I have felt infinite love and inexplicable peace. I have learned that it is the little moments, and the people you meet along the way, that help you grow. Here, I have found those moments.

My professors have had such a huge impact on me and I will never be able to describe how grateful I am for their unending support. Their smiles and the small “you can do it” emails sent to me by professors like Professor Konstantinova, Dr. Cox, and Professor Todd Brotherson have helped me persevere when life seemed impossible. They have earned a permanent spot in my heart and my photo library. The friends that I have found here have lifted me in my lowest moments, like when I burst into tears in the Landrum basement and received many hugs and inspiring words from Dr. Nielsen and my music major friends. They have also celebrated my achievements with me and listened to me talk incessantly about my many strange essay topics.

Southern Virginia University isn’t just my school—it is the place where I learned who I am and who I want to be. It is the place where I learned that I can do hard things. It is the place that taught me how to be brave. It is a place I love that has changed me forever, and changed me for the better. To me, SVU is all of those little monumental moments, and SVU is my home.