Resilience in the face of adversity

Chandler Webb (XD, 2021)

I knew my time at the Brandcenter would be inherently challenging—full of hard work, exploration, growth, and continual learning. However, I had no way of knowing the exact course my life would take during these fleeting sixty weeks. They say to always plan for the unexpected. Yet, no matter how much I prepared for what I thought might happen, it was the thing that I couldn’t anticipate that ended up occurring.

My first semester at Brandcenter was full of new things—a new city, apartment, friendships, experiences, and professors. I spent most of my time getting acclimated to a new life in Richmond. I immersed myself in learning about experience design from my professors, classmates, and myself. By winter break, I felt like I was finally standing on my own two feet—catching my stride.

Yet, the day before 2020, my feet were suddenly swept out from underneath me after my father passed away in a car accident. The unexpected loss of a loved one has a ripple effect. A domino falls and sets in motion a great deal of change—it destabilized every aspect of my life. Brandcenter faculty and staff were more than accommodating and understanding of my situation. I received simple yet powerful messages like, “We are here when you are ready.” They supported and validated my decision to delay my return to school.

After my return, professors like Caley Cantrell and Andrew LeVasseur continually checked in on me. They took time out of their busy schedules to make space for me. One of the hardest things while grieving was reaching out and asking for help. In the past, I had always been capable of handling everything myself. I am thankful for their wisdom and guidance in helping me through the hardest year of my life.

Being away from family and living in Richmond was difficult, yet it was comforting to have a network of friends that felt like family. Additionally, spending time at the Brandcenter and being around creative people was stimulating and a good distraction.

Upon reflection, my Brandcenter experience has been full of hard work, exploration, growth, and continual learning—it just didn’t happen the way I imagined it. My advice for new and prospective students is to have an open mind and be optimistic. You can choose to have something define you, or you can use it as a catalyst for growth. Change is scary, but I’ve come to find it can also be a healthy thing. From change, I’ve learned that I am resilient and adaptable; I am capable of enduring and achieving great things. I couldn’t have learned this lesson without the endless encouragement and support from my Brandcenter community. Lean into the people you connect with, because I wouldn’t be where I am today without my classmates—my best friends. This is a network of people you will have for years to come.

Chandler Webb (XD, 2021)