I myself was part of the Aggie tribe, as a proud member of the Texas A&M University Class of 2002. But there are, as you may know, other campus tribes known as “Aggie” around the country. I’ve now been to two of those: New Mexico State and, just this last week, University of California Davis.
UC Davis, up here in Northern California (which isn’t anywhere near the actual northern border of California), was a pretty interesting place to visit last week. Here are the things I discovered just in my short time there:
- It boasts about 24,000 undergrads, plus another 6,000 grad students
- With a Davis population of only 64,000, it seems to be a true college town
- It’s in Northern California, so that adds a very unique regional vibe
- Academically, UCD apparently sits somewhere between the absolutely rigorous environments found, for instance, at Berkeley or Stanford, and far less rigorous institutions like… some other schools
- UC Davis has high college ministry involvement, at least comparatively
- The school functions on the Quarter System (so there are three periods during the school year rather than two)
- UCD is known academically for a lot of things, including viticulture and other agricultural pursuits (which is where they get their mascot name). Apparently they also lead the nation in number of biological sciences degrees conferred, and they had the first Native American Studies department.
- They call freshmen, “frosh”
- Like many California schools, there is a high Asian population
Of all the 300-or-so campuses I’ve visited in the last couple of years, we could write a similar list FOR EACH ONE. And even for UC Davis, there are probably a dozen or more unique points that somebody who was there for more than 2 days could add!
Here’s the kicker: every point in that list affects college ministry in some way or another. (Take a look – each of them could potentially impact some aspect of campus ministry work.) This is why I argue that we must approach campuses like missionaries approach tribes – because to reach the Aggies best, we’ve got to know how to deal with the large size of the school, how to navigate (and discover true needs) within the college ministry community, and even to make sure to call first-year students “frosh” and not “fish.” And again, that’s just from what I picked up in a couple of days through a few conversations!
Every campus I visit, my understanding of our need to contextualize is refreshed. I’m sure as I explore Cal State Chico, I’ll see comparisons and contrasts with UC Davis – and with hundreds of other schools. I’m an analytical dude, so all this is pretty fun for me. But even if it wasn’t, it’s vital practice for any of us who hope to reach our own campus tribes best.
So if you need to remember how to exegete your campus context, then I suggest you explore an unfamiliar one every once in awhile!
written from Chico, California
Road Trip 13: Day 8 recap
spent most of the day at Adventure Christian Church, then drove up to Chico
total mileage: 2,080 miles
T-shirt: the Cardinal tribe of University of Louisville
today: exploring Cal State Chico, then a drive over to the Bay Area (or close)