Sense of Place

Horsetooth ResevoirThis morning I find myself sitting in the Wild Boar Coffee Shop in Fort Collins, Colorado, reflecting on the concept of space and place.  It’s not unusual that I am thinking about these topics, as lately, it seems that all of the articles and definitions I am reading exist around these concepts.  Only three days ago I was sitting on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana, Illinois, ruminating on the same ideas.

As I think about these spaces, and my dissertation, and comps, and the many things which are always on my mind these days, I cannot help but think about the point at which a space feels like home to me.  This sense of place, as written about by Clemons, Banning & McKelfresh in 2004, 2005, and 2006, is key in a concept of feelings of belonging to an environment and security within it.  This concept resonates with me for many reasons, key among them being my reflection of self when in an entirely new environment.  Which leads me to state that I am, unequivocally, not good in new environments.

This probably has to do with my sense of security.  Interestingly, however, on only my second time at the Urbana campus, my sense of place and sense of security was greatly enhanced from last year.  This may have been a result of knowing and recognizing places, spaces, people, or the fact that I was not the sole representative from my campus (aka, I had an entourage)… Yet, when I pulled into Fort Collins last night, despite still feeling at times like nothing is where I left it upon my last visit, I had an immediate sense of being at home.  My sense of place here may be heightened by the fact that I’ve lived here for a couple of years.

More and more, however, as friends have come and gone from my life and I have recognized that my sense of place is greatly enhanced by the people who are with me in each place.  It’s why I was watching for people I recognized at the conference last week, why I called one of my best friends while driving to campus this morning, and why I want to help others feel oriented to spaces when introducing them to the space.

We now kick off our final week together in Fort Collins, Colorado.  While I am certain class will be challenging at times (it is our capstone/practical comprehensive/other course), mostly I am looking forward to having these individuals together with me.  These are the folks who have been part of this first part of our doctoral degree program and who I know will be there for me in the next few years as we take our comprehensive exams, write our proposals, and ultimately, do our dissertations.  Not to get too sentimental, but these folks have become my sense of place.  They give me a sense of belonging.  And security.

This may be our last week in the same physical space, but the creation of our relationships and place via a virtual space provides an entirely new sense of space and place.  I’m looking forward to our interactions, consumption of beverages, and overall development of strategy for comps in the next week.  As I take a sip of my coffee and eat my chips and salsa for breakfast (deliciousness), I’m reflective of the greatness of these individuals today, this week, and in the coming years.


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