MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Over the next several days, high school seniors will walk across the stage, flip their tassel to the other side of the mortarboard cap and become an alumnus. College students have done the same the past couple weeks. In this season of graduation, Rick Tuomala wondered: Why are people so loyal to their schools?

It is only a four year period of our lives (for most people). But that experience happens during a key part of life, according to social psychology professor Dr. John Tauer.

Tauer was a University of St. Thomas student; now he’s a professor and a head basketball coach.

“From age 14 to 22, those are times psychologists would say our personality grows, develops, evolves,” Tauer said.

“We had each other, that’s why we have such a strong bond with each other,” said Mike Iacarella, a student at Edison High School in northeast Minneapolis, who also runs the Edison Community and Sports Foundation, plays in the Edison Alumni Marching Band and teaches business classes as an employee of the high school.

Oh, his wife is a classmate, too.

“We hooked up at reunion, and it went from there,” he laughed. “I’m tied to the school.”

We wear our loyalty on our license plates, take college pictures at weddings and wear our White Bear Lake shirts on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Tauer said that the choice of college is also one of the first decisions we make as individuals.

“There’s hundreds of studies on cognitive dissonance,” he said. “The more we invest in anything, the more we have to justify.”

Also, the presence of sporting events as community-building moments is unique to the time when we have nothing else to do but go to class and go to football games.

“You talk about a school that wins a national championship — that’s locked in your mind forever,” Tauer said. “We talk about BIRG, basking in the reflective glow of others. We love to be around success.”

And just by graduating there’s success, so it’s no surprise we’re so loyal to those places, those friends, that period of time.

“I think it’s the connectivity,” i think humans are drawn toward that,” Iacarella said.


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