By Joel Weckerly, Student Reporter
Upon walking through the Campus Center on any given weekday about 10:50 a.m., one might come across a small difficulty-actually walking.
The pre-Chapel crowds in the Campus Center give students little room to roam or check their mail.
But no one really seems to mind.
The huge crowd found in and around the mailboxes has different groups and subgroups of students, all of which appear to be enjoying their time in the presence of their peers.
The scene is always the same and is one of the ways to show how important relationships are at ACU. Whether the relationships are friendly or intimate, they are all an essential part of a student’s time at this university.
“Someone can earn a degree at any university,” Mark Lewis, coordinator of Spiritual Development, said. “But at ACU, each student has the opportunity to earn that degree while living among fellow students, faculty and staff who call upon the name of the Lord.”
Therein lies part of “The ACU Difference,” a commonly used slogan. A student can earn a top-notch education while at the same time forming life-long relationships.
“I came to ACU for an education,” said Dr. Carl Brecheen, professor of Biblical Studies. “But the most important thing I found here was my wife. The second-most important thing was my friends. Those will have a longer-lasting impact on me than even my education will.”
Brecheen, who specializes in relationships, said that friendships are the foundation for all relationships, a value shared by many students.
Karin Meyer, sophomore international studies major from Plano, is one who has been strongly impacted by her friendships here.
“My friends here are wonderful,” she said. “They’re blessings. I’ve learned to really value the close friends I have here. Sometimes I just stop and think, ‘I am so blessed to be here.'”
But why do the friendships hold so much value to students?
“Being here shows me how important people are,” Meyer said. “If you come from a small cookie-cutter town, you only see so many people. But here, there’s so many different types of people, and you get to see how each one has something different to contribute to your life.”
The friendships have had even more time to develop for graduating seniors like Jason Hindman, marketing major from San Antonio. Hindman said upon his departure from the school, he will miss all the friends he has made there.
“In some ways I’m excited to graduate and leave Abilene,” he said. “But in a lot of ways it breaks my heart because of all the friendships I’m leaving behind.”
Some ACU students have made tight bonds as a result of pledging social clubs, a big part of the school’s social infrastructure.
Jessica Mathews, junior elementary education major from Fort Worth and a member of Ko Jo Kai, lives with four of her club sisters. She said being a part of club has been beneficial to her.
“We have so many girls and so many things that we do together to bring about bonding,” Mathews said. “I also love the fact that there’s always someone there to pray for you.”
Then, of course, there are intimate relationships that some argue the university is plagued with these kind; others say blessed.
“I’ve grown a lot through this relationship,” Waldrum, who has been seeing his girlfriend for two and a half years, said. “I just played around my freshman year and part of my sophomore year. After I got together with my girlfriend, the relationship helped me to get rid of my old ways. I’ve matured a lot through it.”
A main argument against intimate relationships at ACU is that too much pressure exists to be involved in them.
“It’s what’s in at ACU,” said Lyndsay Jackson, junior elementary education major from Austin. Jackson is currently in a four-year relationship and said she is in no hurry to tie the knot. “Getting engaged seems like a trend or a reward a lot of times. I think a lot of people are in too much of a rush to do it because of the pressure.”
Brecheen, however, disagrees that expectations to date exist.
“I don’t think there’s too much pressure,” he said. “I think all of us need to care what others think but not be controlled by it. In fact, I think ACU students probably don’t date enough.”
For others, the idea of tying the knot after college doesn’t seem logical.
“I just don’t understand how you can focus on school, build friendships and find that special someone all in just four years,” Mathews said. “It’s fine to date, but I guess everybody’s different.”
While vastly different, the one idea most students can agree with is the value of a close relationship with God.
“Intimacy with God is the most important relationship we can find here,” Meyer said. “As great as relationships are here, none of them compare with the one we have with God. He’s the only one who’s never going to let us down.”
Lewis has first-hand experience with this. Three years ago, his daughter, who was 13 at the time, became very ill and was sent to a hospital in Lubbock for treatment.
“The whole time we were there,” he said, “we were prayed for, sent notes and given calls and visits beyond count. After we returned, I was literally surrounded by concerned students and co-workers. God provided us with strength through the people around us to keep us trusting, to keep us going.
“We all have the chance for a unique experience here,” Lewis continued. “It’s difficult for most to replicate.”
Just ask any of those students in the Campus Center before Chapel.