Here at CWRU, we have a program called SAGES – Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship. SAGES offers Case students a series of small, interdisciplinary seminars that extend throughout the undergraduate curriculum. All students – from engineering to communications to language majors – participate in SAGES. In the first two years, we take three different SAGES classes across a variety of disciplines. During junior year, one takes a SAGES departmental seminar, usually within their major, and, in senior year, completes a SAGES senior capstone that demonstrates the intellectual agility that the SAGES program aims to foster.
SAGES classes at Case really are interdisciplinary. In the summer before freshman year, I put together my class schedule without SAGES, adding my biology classes, chemistry classes, and whatnot. Then, in the middle of August, I chose three SAGES classes that interested me from a set of classes that fit into my schedule. Then, one was assigned to me. This semester, I am taking a “Life of the Mind” seminar, which is what most seminars are generally called, with a concentration in music. We are currently studying Beethoven, his creativity, and the role that his impending deafness played in his music. I have been a piano player for the past fourteen years, and this really interests me, despite the fact that I am not an English or music major. For me, SAGES is a way to be able to take something different in an area that interests me but does not directly apply to my career goals. Next semester, I am hoping to take a class called “Nonprofit 101”, where I’ll get to learn about the administration and “behind the scenes” of both local and nationwide nonprofits. As a member of the planning committee of Relay For Life, part of the American Cancer Society, this is something that really interests me.
Another amazing part of the first-year SAGES classes is something called “Fourth Hour”. Generally, a SAGES seminar involves three hours of class a week (for example, my current class is from 8:30-9:45 on Tuesday and Thursday). However, the first seminar that a Case student takes, in their first semester as a freshman, involves a differently scheduled “Fourth Hour”. This is an opportunity for learning outside the classroom. It’s a way for professors to teach their students, many of whom are not from the area, about Cleveland and what it has to offer. For example, I have been to the Planetarium at the Natural History Museum in University Circle, something that is right on CWRU’s campus. Another “Fourth Hour” was reserved for a presentation on music and the mind, and yet another was for seeing a special performance of the Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall. It’s an amazing opportunity for freshman like me, not from the area, to learn some of the things that both Cleveland and Case have to offer, and to do some pretty awesome things along the way.
As we enter the final two weeks of class, my brain has more or less turned to mush. For the next two weeks, I have two final papers to complete, three exams, and a whole bunch of other things to do. This is all before studying for finals, and definitely before the wonderful amazing summer break that pretty much needs to happen immediately. I came to the realization that I had hit a brick wall in my motivation when I reveled in the fact that it was 75 degrees and sunny in Cleveland yesterday by doing a grand total of absolutely no homework. Yeah. Productive weekend, you might say.
It's a fair expectation that everyone will suffer from a little bit of burnout eventually. Students at CWRU are notorious for being awesomely overinvolved, often to the point of sleepless nights and jam-packed days. For many of us, this kind of scheduling offers an adrenaline rush that can only come with doing things you like, doing them well, and doing them with great people. Every now and again, we even like the things that drive us nuts (super difficult classes or extracurriculars that ask more than we expected, etc.) because getting through them proves to us that we can survive and come out better for it.
Eventually, though, there comes a point when intrinsic motivation runs out. You know you need to complete X, Y, and Z because you want the good grade, but the study schedule you stuck to for the first couple months of the semester has fallen through and you've resorted to doing only the work that needs to be done tomorrow. This is a slump I am all too familiar with. I haven't quite figured out how to master the slump yet. But a few things do keep me on track.
The first is reminding myself why I'm doing the things I'm doing. If it's schoolwork, I remind myself that I really want to get into a Senior Year Professional Studies program and finish a Master's in five years. It's a big dream, and it keeps me pushing even when I don't think I have it left in me to push.
The second is reevaluating the extra stuff. I love my extracurriculars. Nine days out of ten they keep me from going crazy. They give me something besides papers to write, info to burn into my brain, and projects to complete. I appreciate them because they're fun; let me do things purely for the sake of doing them. At the same time, every now and then I get in over my head. When I take on too many leadership roles, I have to step back and ask myself why I'm doing each activity. If something has lost its luster for me, I know I have to cut it out. It can be hard when it means explaining to friends or giving up hobbies I used to love, but there comes a time to focus on what's important for the long term.
Finally, I really have come to appreciate relying on friends for accountability. It's a two-way street: I remind them to get working on their poster, they remind me that I have a paper due in week. I let them know that the notes are up for a class, and they give me times they're available for studying together. This has gotten better with time as I know more people in my classes and I build friendships that help us both keep school in mind.
It can be tough to find motivation, especially when you know that the next week or two is all that's standing between you and a few months of freedom. Hopefully, though, it will be enough to remind yourself why you're here, and you will be able to look back with pride on the work you did, even when it was tough.
As I sit in the stacks on the 3rd floor of the Kelvin Smith Library, I realized that I'm probably too sleepy to write my 10-page SAGES paper. Thus, I decided to do something else that's relatively productive. Originally I was going to interview one of my friends, but college kids are busy during finals, so you'll have to forgive me. I know I promised to interview more of my friends.
If I were to summarize my week into a single phrase, It would be "don't sweat the small stuff." Remember earlier I blogged about the incident involving my knee (which by the way isn't healed yet)? I got injured because I was afraid that I would be late for clinicals. Looking back, running on icy pavement at 6:30AM in the winter morning was not very smart. In the big scheme of things, being late to clincials would not have meant the end o f the world. But because I didn't see it that way at the time, I risked my health, got injured, ripped my scrubs, and probably need to get an x-ray. Was being on time worth it? No.
As it is finals week, I just wanted to remind everyone not to sweat the small stuff. Get a lower grade than you expected? Don't sweat. That single grade in your whole college career will not drastically change your life. There are so many more opportunities out there, like... finding happiness in the love of your life, or something gushy like that.
I say this because this week, I was sweating profusely about the small stuff. Every single class I'm enrolled in is on the borderline. For example, I got an email today from my English professor with my grade and his regards. This was his email:
Hi, Kevin: You fall into the category of “an A on the final paper means an A in the class,” so I’m going to put some pressure on you and encourage you to make this final essay your strongest piece of writing this semester.
How does that make me feel? Stressed. Is it good for my body? No. How many white hairs am I going to go home with? Enough to make me look 10 years older.
But something else happened today. I had lunch with my brothers. It helped me realize that there are so many things out there that matter more than a few grades: Things like brotherhood, friends, family, happiness, lasting memories. Those things cannot be changed or replaced. Grades, however, can. You can do better next semester and raise that GPA, whereas if you sacrifice those that are close to you, there's no guarantee that you'll get them back.
So, for all you who are sweating about finals, don't. Go out, breathe in the nice-fresh-Cleveland-air, hang out with your friends. Life's more important than grades.
Spring time is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year to work in Tomlinson Hall here at Case. The gallery and hallways are always jumping and filled with visiting students and their families, which is great for those of us who do more behind-the-scenes work in the Office of Undergraduate Admission (and not just because sometimes there are extra snacks around we can munch on).
Spring time gives us a chance to finally see the students we’ve worked hard all year recruiting, and sometimes a chance to meet students and families in person who we had previously only met via e-mail or the phone. All of Case’s spring programs are great, and like Bob has already mentioned, visiting campus is a great way to really see which of your many college options is truly the best fit.
What I really want to talk about though, is a program this year for admitted liberal arts students (coinciding with Case’s Humanities Week 2006 the theme of which was “Childhoods.” Check out this lineup!) called… wait for it… Liberal Arts Weekend! I had the privilege of helping out with the program this year, and it was a complete blast from beginning to end. What I like about the program is that it really highlights what it is like to be a humanities major here at Case and the nowhere-else-in-the-world opportunities that our liberal arts majors get to take advantage of all the time. Lemme hit some of the highlights:
Students each had a SAGES-style seminar taught by some of our outstanding faculty members, Jonathan Sadowsky from the history department, John Orlock from the theater department, Darci Brandel from the English department and Alan Rocke from the history department.)
Students and their families (and some UGA staffers) had a great lunch with some of Case’s humanities faculty members (complete with delicious asparagus and great conversation, especially at my table!). Mark Turner, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, spoke during dessert about the history of liberal arts at Case and the SAGES program.
Our student tour guides and some faculty braved the rain to show off our beautiful campus. (To the left, check out tour guide Sean giving a tour to some parents along with History Professor Ken Ledford.)
Probably the highlight of the day was the reading by author Anne Lamott and follow-up discussion moderated by Florence Harkness Professor of Religion and Director of the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities Tim Beal. Anne Lamott’s reading was laugh-out-loud funny and her conversation with Prof. Beal, as well as her answers to questions from the audience revealed (if you’ll pardon the cheese) the humanity that makes her such an amazing author. For anyone interested in any type of writing (or as Anne pointed out, any creative endeavor) let me recommend Anne’s book, Bird by Bird, which is full of insight into the creative process as well as some hilarious anecdotes from Anne’s life. (The pictures are of visiting students waiting for the lecture to start, as well as Tim and Anne’s discussion. Quality isn’t the greatest, darn flash!)
I could go on with highlights and tell all about what a great time the UGA staff had hosting the event, as well as what a great time our current students, faculty, prospective students and their families had, but let me cut to the chase: While this schedule seems almost too cool to be true - days chock full of invigorating seminars, opportunities to meet with faculty outside of class, and lectures by world-renowned authors, musicians, scientists, researchers, politicians and civic leaders - days full of chances to extend learning outside the classroom are every day for students of the liberal arts at Case! Don’t believe me? Check out some of our students’ blogs, or slap this puppy on the portable listening device of your choice. Case Western Reserve University offers students the chance to create their own curriculum by building their own major, traveling abroad, and spending time at some of the coolest cultural institutions in the world like the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Playhouse Square, Severance Hall, the Museum of Contemporary Art, all with mentorship from our top notch faculty.