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Strengthening the Mind-Body Connection

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Issue:  Winter 2009

Author:  Greg Wallace

Almost everyone has had that experience — you’re running, or swimming, or working out in the gym. Your mind is relaxed, you’re working hard, and thinking of nothing in particular — when the perfect solution to that exasperating problem magically materializes in your mind.

There seems to be a deep connection between physical fitness and mental fitness. Each supports the other — neither exists as well alone.

We at Grinnell believe so strongly in this mind-body connection that athletics and fitness have become significant elements of the liberal arts experience here — for all the members of our community.

This firm belief in the value of a sound body and a disciplined mind has been around at Grinnell for a long time — in fact, President George Augustus Gates said it in his inaugural address in 1887: “First, a sound body. … I believe thoroughly in the cultivation and encouragement of college athletics of all sorts. In the gymnasium and on the campus, games and sports, rivalries, field days are a tremendous education power.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

President Gates placed a sound body first among the elements of a complete education, and students at Grinnell College today are living proof of this statement’s continued relevance. The women and men who compete and participate in intercollegiate sports, club sports, and personal fitness programs at Grinnell today are engaging in a vital part of their liberal arts education. Participation in athletics doesn’t detract from what goes on in the classroom — on the contrary, many scholar-athletes say the time they spend on their sports makes them more disciplined and focused in their studies.

A dedication to wellness and the quality of life is another of the hallmarks of life in Grinnell. I’m proud to say that it’s reflected in my title: director of athletics and recreation. Students, faculty, and staff (and alumni back for Reunion and other alumni events) can take advantage of the state-of-the-art wellness facilities offered in the new fitness center, including an extensive assortment of strength-training and cardio equipment. Next year, Phase II of the Athletic and Fitness Center will be complete, opening up many new opportunities for the college community. Townspeople, too, can become members of the fitness center, and through membership with Grinnell Parks and Recreation they can utilize the pool and racquetball courts.

We’re really excited about the new facility, created through a unique partnership by two renowned architectural firms, Cesar Pelli and Associates and Sasaki Associates Inc. Those of us on campus watch the construction site north of 10th Avenue as it changes on an almost daily basis. Our new state-of-the-art fieldhouse and natatorium will give our teams a great venue for competition, but they also offer a place for intramural teams, spectators, and people who just want to stay in shape. Many students participate in activities such as dance and club sports, including Ultimate Frisbee and water polo. GORP, the Grinnell Outdoor Recreation Program, offers students many opportunities to take part in outdoor activities such as sailing, climbing, and kayaking. Through all these pursuits and more, students have fun while they stay in shape, burn off stress, and make new friends.

Community is a key word in any discussion of athletics and recreation at Grinnell. I see the new Athletic and Fitness Center as a gathering place for the entire community — students, faculty, and staff — where we can meet and get to know one another in the “friendly confines” of the College’s beautiful new facility. In my life I’ve seen that a little sweat and healthy competition can remove many barriers to friendship — I believe that Grinnell’s athletic facilities can bring people together and strengthen our already tight college community.

Grinnell’s richly storied athletic history is something a lot of alumni know well from their own student experiences, whether as competitors or fans. Athletics provide a way for Grinnellians to stay connected across the generations. I am grateful that the College, its trustees, and its alumni have remained committed to our new facilities even through recent economic upheavals, and I invite everyone to help us bring this project to a successful conclusion. If you can make a gift, please do so (http://www.grinnell.edu/car/dev/pioneerfund/ways). You will be a part of a centuries-long tradition of athletics and the liberal arts.

 

Fall Semester: A Wednesday Abroad on the Grinnell-In- London Program

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

7:30 a.m.: Roommate’s alarm goes off. Some vague memories of her getting up, and then I’m unconscious.

8:58 a.m.: Other roommate’s alarm goes off. Grr …

9 a.m.: My alarm goes off. Shower.

9:40 a.m.: First cup of tea of the day. Catch up on all of the American blogs.

10:30 a.m.: Walk to class. I close my eyes when I walk past the bakery with the Technicolor icing cupcakes so I won’t stop and buy one.

11 a.m.: Intro to Shakespeare. We continue discussing last weekend’s all-expense-paid fieldtrip to Stratford-upon-Avon to see Patrick Stewart and David Tennant perform in Hamlet. Mostly we girls discuss how attractive David Tennant is. The guy next to me keeps nodding off, and I want to smack him with my book. I debate whether I could compose myself once again before he had a chance to look around.

1 p.m.: Walk home.

1:30 p.m.: Turn on the wrong burner of our electric stove. Wait for a long time for my skillet not to heat up.

1:48 p.m.: Move skillet to correct burner. Make lunch. Watch a rerun of Doctor Who while eating lunch. Mmmm … David Tennant.

2:30 p.m.: Second cup of tea of the day in the basement of a Starbucks-esque coffeehouse. Edit umpteenth draft of a screenplay I’ve been working on in my free time.

4:30 p.m.: Head out for our History of London walking tour of the East End. Do homework while sitting on the Tube.

5 p.m.: Class meets at Old Street Station. We explore the remnants of the 19th-century furniture factories and learn how the working class was exploited. All of us end the walk disappointed that we didn’t live in that era. Just kidding.

6:30 p.m.: My five flatmates and I fight over who gets to make their dinner first in our two-person kitchen.

7:25 p.m.: All six of us head out to the Duke of York Theatre where we join the rest of the program to see Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, starring Michael Gambon and David Williams. I’ve never heard of the second name, which reveals my ignorance of British pop culture.

10 p.m.: We all leave the play very confused.

10:05 p.m.: One of my flatmates and I wait at the stage door to get Michael Gambon’s autograph. We get David Williams’ too, although we still don’t know who he is.

10:40 p.m.: I look up David Williams on Wikipedia.

11:30 p.m.: Start going to bed. One roommate and I whisper for a long time while the other roommate who has to get up at 7:30 again tomorrow throws pillows at us.

Molly Rideout '10 is an English major from Madison, Wisconsin.

Lovin’ the Loggias

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

Loggia: n. (loh-JA) A roofed outdoor walkway attached to the side of a building. Sometimes described as an outdoor hallway. See Grinnell College campus.

 As you walk around the clusters of dorms on Grinnell campus, you notice that they all have one thing in common: loggias. Like many students, before I came to Grinnell I had no idea what a loggia was. When I saw the word written I pronounced it “log-ee-UH.” But now I realize just what a brilliant piece of architecture a loggia is, a structure not only useful for keeping the snow off your head during those cold Iowa winters and for serving as a pretty addition to campus buildings, but one that is simply essential to campus culture.

Each dorm cluster — north, south, and east — has its own loggia, but the loggias are each a bit different. North Campus dorms have a traditional loggia, with open sides and a fl at roof, right up against the building. South Campus has what is sometimes referred to as an “enclo-ggia” because the loggia is an enclosed corridor with windows instead of open sides. Traditionally, South Campus was home to women, and the enclosed loggia allowed for girls to move between each other’s rooms after the loggia doors were closed to all male visitors. East Campus has what I call a “faux-ggia,” because parts of it aren’t attached to the side of a building at all.

If you ever want to know what’s going on around Grinnell on any given weekend, you only have to check out the loggias. At any given time, the loggias are plastered with fl yers advertising parties, activity clubs, used textbooks for sale, campus speakers, and student performances. So staying up to date with campus activities is as easy as glancing at the pillars and walls of the loggias while walking back to your dorm.

The roofs of the loggias are as important to Grinnell as the walkways. Warmer weekends aren’t complete without a party or get-together on the roof of a loggia, with music, dancing, and sometimes even a grill-out. During the week, people will sit out on the loggia roofs to talk, do homework, and get some sun. Unfortunately, loggias can only be accessed by climbing through certain second-fl oor windows, but hanging out on the loggias is so fun and pleasant, it’s worth the scrambling around. Consequently, rooms with loggia access go quickly during room draw each spring.

Finally, loggias are the stage for some pretty entertaining activities. Last winter the modern dance troupe held their performance in the East Campus loggia, dancing up and down the walkway, with the audience seated at the entrance. Over the semesters, I’ve witnessed mud fi ghts, impromptu guitar performances, and rap battles in the campus loggias.

Without the loggias, the Grinnell campus wouldn’t be what it is. It wouldn’t look like it does, or have the social activities that the loggias enhance. And, oh yeah, it’s a lot easier to get around in the winter without having to trudge through the snow.

Kat Atcheson ’12 is undeclared and from Overland, Kansas.

Act Your Shoe Size

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

“You know, now that you’re starting college, you’re really an adult. You’ve got to be grown-up now.” How many of us have heard that from those *cough* well-meaning adults in our lives? To some extent, being an adult at Grinnell is necessary; for most of us, it’s our first time out from under parental rule.

Upholding Grinnell’s policy of selfgovernance takes a certain amount of maturity and responsibility from everyone. But just because we Grinnellians are on our own doesn’t mean we need to be adults … at least, not all the time! When I came to this Little College on the Prairie, I made sure to bring along my inner child (along with bed sheets, textbooks, and enough ramen to feed a small army) and boy am I glad I did!

While the main reason I came to Grinnell was definitely the first-class education I am receiving, it’s impossible to be in class all the time — so how do I fill my spare time? Grinnell provides a million and one activities for its students throughout the year, and a lot of them appeal to the little kid inside each of us. From showings of The Lion King and Kung Fu Panda at the Harris Cinema to study breaks featuring sidewalk chalk and finger paints, Grinnell welcomes us to embrace our child-selves. We have a Quidditch club and held a “Relive Your Childhood” themed Harris dance party complete with Goo-Goo Dolls music and Pokemon cutouts on the walls. We have a theatre group called the Neverland Players that performs plays based on stories written by Grinnell elementary school students. There was even an event earlier this semester sponsored by the Active Minds of Grinnell group to encourage everyone to embrace their inner child and let go of the stress of midsems; prominently featured at the event were crayons, macaroni and cheese, and Mulan.

I was worried when I left for college that I would have to leave my childhood behind forever and completely embrace adulthood, and I just wasn’t ready for that. But here at Grinnell, Little Kat is welcome, and that sense of playfulness and childhood is one of my favorite things about the College. While I do make sure to be professional in academic settings, outside of class, I feel no need to be old before my time. It’s a good feeling. Since classes can sometimes be stressful, it’s one less worry to not always have to be a grown-up.

Whether or not it’s a way of life or an occasional stress-reliever, acting your shoe size instead of your age is definitely fine at Grinnell, and what better way to do that than to bring along your inner child? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go eat a “Kid at Heart” panini from The Spencer Grill and go play on the campus swing set.

Kat Atcheson '12 is undeclared and from Overland Park, Kansas.

Hands-On Learning

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

“Culture is hard to study because it is so huge.” OK, I get that. But it’s one thing to read it, to hear it. But Professor Kesho Scott doesn’t just say it — she shows it.

“Put your hands in front of your face,” she commanded us at the class’s first meeting. “Culture is in your face.” We’re so close to it, our view is dominated by the tiny fraction we can see, making it impossible to study it with any perspective. The goal of American studies, as Professor Scott explained it to my Intro to American Studies class (25 students with their hands covering their faces), is to pull that culture away from your face. Up close, we may only be able to see the details — the wrinkly lines crossing our palms, the small portion of the world we inhabit. But as you pull your hands away, the larger picture becomes clearer.

Professor Scott’s “hands-on” approach to teaching seemed awkward and silly at first. But concretizing this abstraction made an impossible concept manageable. Within a week of the start of class, we were trained: “Because class, what is culture?” she would ask. “It’s in your face!” we’d respond.

But we weren’t done acting out the abstract yet. To illustrate the social pressures inhibiting rebellion, she instructed three guys to lie down side by side on the floor. “Now, stand up, rebel!” she ordered. They stood up, a bit confused.

As soon as they were up, she told them to get back on the floor, and then told six of us, C myself included, to sit on the three men. We were understandably hesitant, but she insisted. Once we were in place, she told the students on the bottom to rebel again. With six people on top of them, this was a no easy task. Eventually they gave up, unable to dislodge us.

As we made our way back to our seats, Professor Scott explained what this exercise had to do with social change. It isn’t some nebulous force (“The Man”) that squashes rebellion. It’s us — the omnipotent weight of the expectations of society dictating compliance and obedience.

It’s one thing to be told that society works collectively to ensure that its norms and mores are observed. It’s another thing entirely to experience it, to be the one holding down your classmates. Throughout the semester, Professor Scott’s interactive method — she calls is “guerrilla teaching” because it has a way of bypassing your defenses — explained this and many other key concepts of American studies. As a senior, I can now observe and analyze abstract concepts in my higher-level classes without getting too caught up in the fingers and the fingerprints of culture and learning.

Katie Pimlott '10 is an English major and American Studies concentrator from Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Art We Won’t Forget

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

Directly in front of me as I sit in The Spencer Grill, four banners hang from the second- floor balcony. Eighteen feet tall and four feet wide, the banners are covered in pictures, hundreds of them. Volunteer students and staff hand-ironed the photos on with transfer paper, and the banners went up on Oct. 9. The next day, the student newspaper, the Scarlet & Black, published two articles describing the project. This is the end of the story.

It started last spring, when homophobic slurs were written outside a gay student’s door. Later, many GLBTQ students received malicious messages through campus mail. In response, students organized rallies on campus with participants banging pots and pans, and one student made a documentary on the situation. But in my opinion, the largest reaction was the pure volume of posters and flyers put up around campus in support of the gay community. They were everywhere: dorms, the campus center, and academic buildings. Many are still up today, but most are gone, as all posters disappear after a certain amount of time. I knew it was going to happen, and though I couldn’t stop it, there was something I could do.

I photographed them. With a camera and an afternoon, I went around most of campus taking a picture of each and every poster I could find. All told at the end of the day, I had about 230 pictures. Now I had a personal collection, a digital preservation of the campus’ support. At home months later, I went to the local photography store and developed a set of the prints — not a full set, because I didn’t have enough money on me, but maybe a hundred. When I got home, I cleared the dining room table and started to organize the pictures, quickly covering the entire table. It was cool, it was impressive, and it was only half of what it could be.

Fast-forward to the beginning of this school year. I asked around and was told to contact Elena Bernal ’94, special assistant to the president for diversity and achievement; I hoped to make this a campus-wide art project. I e-mailed her and started the long process of creating a general concept. Going in, I had a preconceived idea in my head of a display consisting of one print of each photo, which I calculated would cover about 23 square feet, given the dimensions of my prints. With Elena’s influence, and with ideas from Tilly Woodard, curator of academic and public outreach at the College’s Faulconer Gallery, it got bigger. Much bigger.

A date was set when students from all over campus could come and help if they wished, ironing and cutting out the pictures from the transfer paper. Volunteers completed much of the work. The date of unveiling was set for October 11 — Coming Out day during campus’ Pride Week. College staffers weren’t able to erect the artwork that Saturday, and Friday was too busy. So turns out, our work needed to be finished two days earlier than expected. And it was.

One of the final art pieces was a photo of a common poster that said, “Hate Free Grinnell,” in the same colors as Superman’s costume. Set on the sheer fabric of the banners, it ruffled in the breeze whenever someone opened the door. As I watch here in the grill, students sit mere inches from one of the banners, and a little while ago, someone grabbed it to get a better view.

This accomplishment is real, it is tangible, and it was possible because of the energy of the students who created the flyers, my commitment to preserve the message, and the administration’s support. To me, this says something wonderful about the community we have, and it says we actively work to maintain it.

Jakob Gowell '11 is an English major from McMinnville, Oregon.

Random Acts of Music

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

Grinnell College is not a music school, and does not have a large music department. But someone forgot to tell the students.

Last semester, I had the treat of working with Simone Fontanelli, an Italian conductor, composer, and classical guitarist — and one of the best clinicians in Europe. The Grinnell Symphony Orchestra flew him in for a week of guestconducting. The week culminated in one of the best concerts I can remember from our ensemble. Playing a program of all Italian music (Rossini, Boccherini, Cherubini, Puccini, and other rhyming names) under the baton of a native Italian was quite an experience.

The College recently finished restoring the historic Aeolian Skinner organ in Herrick Chapel. I’ve heard it in a few concerts now, and it sounds amazing! For me, the highlight of the organ’s Rededication Weekend was a concert by Kevin Bowyer, an organist from Scotland who specializes in “impossible music” — music previously considered impossible for a human to perform. The College somehow commissioned a work by American composer John Zorn (who no longer accepts commissions); the piece is so weird, radical, and near-impossible to play that Mr. Bowyer said he was afraid he might break the College’s organ. I had the daunting task of turning pages for Mr. Bowyer during the show. You know it was an impressive performance when the guy turning pages gets compliments for surviving the ordeal and simply being able to follow along! As it happened, the instrument was not damaged.

Separate from the official Department of Music, music at Grinnell can be unofficial and is always cooperative. Campus bands work with the Freesound student group to coordinate equipment and practice space, which is now being soundproofed. Sometimes they even open for bigger bands hired by the Concerts Committee for some weekend entertainment, and there’s always the Freesound compilation CD that magically appears every year.

The College’s Public Events Committee brings in groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo from South Africa, Inti-Illimani from South America, or the Tallis Scholars from Britain. For jazz fans, this year brought saxophonist Sonny Fortune. Even he couldn’t compare to legendary trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Not only did they put on a great show, but Marsalis and a few band members also jammed with student musicians afterward in Lyle’s, our campus pub.

Often it’s the unscheduled and unrehearsed performances — the random acts of music — that make my day. A few weeks ago, when the weather started getting nice, I left Bucksbaum Center for the Arts to find a harpist practicing in the courtyard. This in turn reminded me of one of my first days at Grinnell, when I finished practicing and walked outside to find a group of students playing bluegrass under a streetlamp after 11:30 p.m.

A couple of weeks ago after I left a (music) class and headed to lunch, I entered the campus center to find a large crowd gathered in the E-mail Lounge. String musicians were setting up for what appeared to be a spontaneous concert, and I found myself a little sad that I wasn’t joining them in the cello section, but I still enjoyed listening. As they were playing the Mendelssohn Octet, others in the crowd will remember me as the complete nerd yelling the request: “Fourth movement! Play the fourth movement!”

Matthew Imber '11 is a Music major from Overland Park, Kansas.

All the Fun Stuff

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

The presiding officer’s heavy wooden gavel comes smashing down on the table as the opening theme to Lady Gaga’s new single blares from my computer speakers. My friend and I flinch, sigh, and exit the YouTube window, shaking our heads at yet another failed attempt to spice up the beginning of the Joint Board meeting between the Student Government Association cabinet and senators. We’ve got three new resolutions on the table and four budgets to approve, so we know it will be a long Wednesday night. With hours of debate ahead of us, why not start off with a catchy song?

This is my way of thinking, but perhaps that’s why I was selected as the All-Campus Events (ACE) coordinator. When people want a quick answer for what I do, I just tell them it’s “all the fun stuff.” Although I had never been on student government before applying for the job last spring, it seemed like the right position for me. With a budget of around $25,000 per semester and a funloving committee, I work to allocate this massive amount of money — more than I could ever imagine having in my own bank account! — to the students who come to me with ideas for events.

While I am primarily responsible for making sure all of Grinnell’s beloved traditional theme parties get organized, I’ve taken it upon myself to come up with a few new themes as well. This fall, I organized a pig roast-luau called “Noynk” in honor of Robert Noyce ’49, one of Grinnell’s most esteemed alumni. He planned a similar party during his time at Grinnell. Noyce risked expulsion by stealing a pig from a nearby farmer when he hosted the party in the 1940s. I chose instead to order my pig from a pig farm — less rebellious, I admit, but altogether safer. The event was a community building success, and after sending invitations to all Grinnell’s faculty, staff, and students, it was wonderful to see so many different members of the College community bring their families to campus for an afternoon of conversation, games, and way too much food.

Now that we’re halfway through the year, I’m feeling settled into my position as ACE coordinator, though I’m still adjusting to that gavel and the strict rules of parliamentary procedure. My high school student government certainly didn’t take things so seriously! But my high school student government wasn’t taken so seriously, either. The 10 members of cabinet meet with the College’s administrators weekly, alternating between the Office of the President and the Office of Student Affairs. Our organization as a whole has a budget of about $350,000 per year. Besides the All-Campus Events committee, there is also the Student Programming Committee, which distributes money to student groups; the Service Committee, which provides funding for community service groups; and the Concerts and Films Committees, which work to bring performing groups and movies to campus.

With such a wide purview, perhaps it’s no wonder we don’t have time to watch a music video at the beginning of our weekly Joint Board meeting. But as we’re heading down to the campus pub for trivia night after all the important decisions have been debated, re-debated, and finally concluded, I hear someone whistling the Lady Gaga song behind me. Out of curiosity, I turn around, and the presiding officer winks at me as he walks by.

Mairead O'Grady '10 is a Music and French major from Milton, Massachusetts.

 

The Lovable, Loquacious Residents of Lazier Fourth

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Until I came to Grinnell, I had lived with my parents in Kansas City. Living in a dorm in the middle of rural Iowa has been quite a change for me. College was the first time I had to share a room and the first time I lived among my peers for any extended period. I was a bit nervous the day I moved in, knowing my living space would be drastically different from what I was used to. My floor would be my home for the next year. And what a home it has become!

Welcome to Lazier Fourth, inhabited by my best friends on campus. My floor, though technically coed and including students from every year, somehow ended up with a large percentage of first-year girls. There are six of us: Annie, Grace, Zoë, Maria-Elena, Briel, and me, Kat. The six of us bonded almost immediately at New Student Orientation and we soon began to spend mealtimes and weekends with each other. We go to movies, Harris parties, and out to eat in town together. We have sleepovers in each other’s rooms, and we went stargazing one warm fall night. And we provide support for each other when things get a little rocky in our lives, from drama with significant others to bombing an exam.

We all want to major in different things; in terms of extracurriculars, we run the gamut — theatre performances, dance groups, the Feminist Action Coalition, the Grinnell College Quidditch Club, Vox, and the softball team. As for our potential majors, they range from anthropology to theatre to the sciences to English. Variety is the spice of life, and here on Lazier Fourth, we’re as spicy as chili peppers!

Of course, other people live on our floor as well. Caroline, a senior, is a biology major now applying to graduate schools. Lizzy and Liza are best friends on the tennis team who also room together. Jarrett, a first-year boy, lives across the hall from me and volunteers at the Stonewall Resource Center. His roommate, Sam, is a second-year on the debate team. And Ryan, who lives down the hall, is an international student from Indonesia. Together we have study breaks as a floor, ranging from baking cakes to painting henna designs on our hands.

And what floor at Grinnell would be complete without an SA (student adviser)? On Lazier Fourth, our SA is Mairéad. She has taken the time to get to know us, not just as fellow students at Grinnell, but also as friends. She often visits with us in the evenings, swapping stories and offering advice. Mairéad also arranges study breaks —fun ones (decorating T-shirts), and educational ones (learning about the benefits of adequate sleep). In short, our SA is a vital part of the Lazier Fourth family.

While I know that no place can replace my childhood home in Kansas City, I’ve come to think of my floor as my second home, with a whole slew of amazing siblings living here with me. Having such a floor family here at Grinnell has made leaving my own family easier, and I know that in the years to come, I will look back on the friendships I shared with my floormates quite fondly.

Kat Atcheson '12 is undeclared and from Outland Park, Kansas.

Learning about Learning

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Change often happens without notice. One day, I’m just a student, taking classes, thinking about ideas — and suddenly the school year is nearly over, and it hits me just how much I’ve learned, grown, and changed in the last nine months. One of the courses that influenced me the most was Education 101. It challenged my ideas about what knowledge is and how it’s acquired, and revitalized my desire to work in public education.

One of my favorite lessons from EDU 101 was learning how to think about my own learning process. Our professor asked us to observe our own learning in one of our other classes for several weeks (recording everything in a journal, of course). We were also asked to interview the professor of that class, and write a few short essays about our findings in the meantime. I chose my introductory English class, Literary Analysis.

As a prospective English major, I was enthusiastic about certain aspects of literary analysis and hypocritically frustrated by other elements, skilled at writing but not-so-skilled at critical reading, and alternately irritated and inspired by my professor’s ideas and teaching style — I made a good case study for myself.

At first, I simply took notes on what the professor did and what happened in class. Thinking about my own learning, in the moment, was more difficult than it sounded. What was I supposed to notice, anyway? If the teacher was talking, I was probably learning something, right? Eventually, I learned to notice not only what was going on in class, but also my immediate responses to class events. I also learned to evaluate the situation as a whole.

Suddenly, my education took on a whole new level of personal meaning. Whether I was comparing stories to hurricanes in English, figuring out how vectors work in physics, or relating McDonaldization to my own life in sociology, I knew how to think not just about the subject at hand, but also how to think about how I was thinking about it.

This is exciting — why? Is it the material itself, or the way it’s being presented? Usually, I am most excited by ideas that are directly relevant to my experiences; does this fall into that category? How can I make sure I stay excited about this subject? Or, I just don’t get this. Am I thinking about it the wrong way? Maybe a more visual approach would work better? Or something more mathematical? How do I usually understand math? Would that approach work here, too?

One of the ideals I hold dear is that education should be personal. EDU 101 changed my worldview of learning forever by providing me with a clear sense of self-perception and agency in my education.

Sara Woolery '11 is an English major getting an Education certification from Malvern, Iowa.