Dear Freshman Me: Get to Know the People
Written by Callahan Stoub
Dear Freshman Me,
Allow me to introduce you to Mr. Moeggenberg: the man in the basement of Central Hall whom most people know as the director of financial aid. What fewer people realize is that he also loves getting to know students and matching them with personal, donor-supported scholarships (I can’t wait to introduce you to Joan). This past summer, Moeggenberg stopped by the Contact Center, where I worked, asking for student volunteers to help with a new financial aid website. I decided to “be a guinea pig,” as he called it. As I sat down to sign into the experimental student portal, I jokingly asked him what the accompanying scholarship amounted to for my assistance. We laughed and struck up a conversation about what we did over the summer, from visiting family to appreciating the beauty of campus in the warm July sun. As we parted ways at the end of the meeting, he said, “It was good to officially meet you, Callahan. Don’t be such a stranger anymore.”
One thing I came to realize is that the staff members here are friendly people who want to have conversations with you as a person, not just in a professional meeting all the time. Sure, it’s important to talk about real business, but take a moment to ask what someone likes about their job or what hobbies they have outside work. When I stopped by Moeggenberg’s office last week, we discussed what the common cliche people use to describe the unique campus culture—“It’s the People”—means to him. He described it as “a family dynamic,” then proceeded to tell me about a student who graduated three years ago whom he’d received an email from that morning. Not only did he recognize the name, but he knew where she moved after college, what she was doing with her life, and whom she married. While other schools’ financial aid departments may focus solely on keeping the paperwork up-to-date for each scholarship, grant, and loan, here Moeggenberg focuses on “creating a culture of gratitude.” Very rarely does his office have to track down an ungrateful student on campus. On the contrary, every year students create hundreds of handwritten thank-you notes voluntarily through the annual Day of Thanks event hosted by the Student Activities Board. While reflecting on this unique quality of Hillsdale, Moeggenberg said, “I don’t take for granted our funding, our students, our donors, and I am honest when I say that you and others who knock on my door are always pretty serious about their education, about their vocation, about their faith, and about their life.”
I think I stopped by his office at one point before I knew how to have a casual conversation. That was short and awkward. It took me years to move away from solely visiting offices for five minutes of formal business and into the realm of informal conversation stretching out to half an hour about what books professors are reading right now, what staff members did over the weekend, or what we both love about Hillsdale. Now I know how to see people as people instead of seeing people as offices.
Let me help you out with a good conversation starter: ask Moeggenberg about racquetball. He and a couple of other staff members usually play a few games over lunch break, and I’m sure he’d be more than willing to tell you about some tips, tricks, and greatest hits. Next year you’ll even take a racquetball class (more on that later), so you can thank him in advance for his insider knowledge about the swing, timing, and angles of the sport. With a sly smile, he’ll tell you how he beats tennis players who then walk off the court stunned that their skills do not translate from one racquet sport to the next. From here, I’m sure the conversation will take off, and eventually you’ll walk out of his office with a better understanding of “It’s the People.”
Callie Stoub, ’21, hails from the Southwestern corner of Michigan, best known for its beaches along Lake Michigan, and studies history. When she’s not reminiscing on her time at Hillsdale, you may find her diagramming sentences for fun or experimenting with creative omelet recipes.
Published in November 2020