Forrest Robinette '16

Forrest Robinette ’16

Major: English (literature concentration)

Hometown: Knoxville, Tennessee

Awards and honors during your college career: Deans’ Scholar for the Class of 2016, Frank W. Whitlock Prize in Drama, Faculty Honors

Extracurricular activities: member, president, The Moveable Joints; writing associate, head tutor, Writing Associates Program; staff member, editor-in-chief, The Trinity Tripod; member, Honor Council; Student Admissions Associate

How would you describe yourself as a first-year student? Two words that jump to mind are “high-strung” and “busybody.” I was so intent on having the perfect first year of college that I never took a moment to relax. In each of my endeavors, I constantly asked myself, “Is this what I should be doing? Are there better ways I could be spending my time?” This excessive self-awareness held me at a distance from all of my involvements. Most importantly, it prevented me from living in the moment and from finding the joy in what I was doing from day to day.

How would you describe yourself now? I hope, in contrast to my first-year self, I have become more relaxed. My time at Trinity has shown me that the most meaningful experiences often come about in the least expected ways. As such, I try to enter each part of my day without expectations. Let’s say I’m dreading an upcoming meeting for a group project. I will try to go into that meeting with an open mind because “who knows?” Something beautiful might happen.

Which course has been your favorite? Why? My favorite was “Poetry Workshop,” an unassuming title for such a great class. It was an advanced creative writing seminar of seven students. Every week, each of us would write a poem, which would then be workshopped by the class at large. It was a time in which I was acutely aware of just how talented my peers are. To read and respond to the writing they produced each week was an absolute pleasure. And it was likewise thrilling to hear their feedback on my work.

Which professor has influenced you the most? Why? I would have to say Professor Chris Hager, my adviser in the English Department. I’m hoping to have a lifelong career in education, and it was Professor Hager who showed me the almost otherworldly power that a great teacher can have. I took his class on Herman Melville in the spring semester of my first year. After five months of intensive study of one of America’s most difficult authors, we sat down for our final class meeting. Professor Hager said, “This is the only time I will lecture this semester” and proceeded to read a statement in which he artfully tied together every thread we’d been following in our study of Melville before expanding those conclusions to address the very nature of life. I will never forget the awestruck expressions of my peers. When he finished reading, he closed with a simple “thank you,” and we wandered out of class, temporarily in a daze as our world view had just been shaken.

Forrest1What is the most important thing you have learned at Trinity? How to properly use a semicolon. Just kidding. At Trinity, I’ve learned that bold curiosity is consistently rewarded. My most meaningful experiences here have come about when I leapt, head first, into something new and unknown. Whether it was auditioning for a play after having not acted for years or submitting a piece of writing for publication throughout campus, the only times in which I’ve been truly disappointed in myself were those when I acted out of fear of failure. Trinity offers a nurturing environment in which students are encouraged and often rewarded for taking risks. I recognize that the real world might not be so forgiving; however, I want to keep the spirit of exploration, which has served me so well at Trinity, alive long after graduation.

What has been most important to you outside of class? Far and away, it would have to be The Moveable Joints. I was admitted to the group in the fall semester of my first year and immediately felt moored by a family. In practice, we often say that the most important skill of improv is listening. To have a group of friends who truly listen to you, in worlds both real and pretend, is a sensation like no other.

What is your favorite Trinity memory … so far? In my sophomore year, I was working with an IDP student in the Writing Center. She had brought in several poems that she was preparing to submit for her creative writing class. I learned that her mother had recently passed away, and the poems addressed her grief in the wake of this loss. As I was sharing my feedback to the first poem, she began to cry. I tried to stay professional, but I quickly found myself crying as well. The other tutors on the shift must have thought, “What is going on over there?” After we both regained our composure, we worked through the remaining poems and had an amazing conversation about the meaning behind them and how that meaning was being translated to the page. This is my favorite Trinity memory because it reminds me that even complete strangers can find meaningful connections when they are open with one another.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years? Career-wise, I hope to be working in public education, either as a teacher or as an administrator. I believe that shortcomings in the American educational system are the root cause of much of the inequality we’re seeing throughout the U.S. today. As such, I hope that, by way of my career, I can be part of the solution to this issue. Otherwise, in 10 years, I hope to be living near my family. Being 800 miles from my mom, dad, and brother has been harder than I imagined when I decided to attend Trinity four years ago. Talking on the phone is no substitute for seeing them in the flesh.