Welcome back to another exciting semester at LMU! I am especially eager to get back to work because I have a feeling this semester is going to be my best yet. For the first time ever, my class schedule consists entirely of courses needed for my major and minor. While it will definitely mean more homework and studying, I’ll also finally be able to really get a sense of where I’m headed in the future. This is also my very first semester as a resident assistant (RA). I’ve already gotten to go on a few rounds at night to check for things like excessive noise after quiet hours, and pretty soon I’ll get to do fun things like room safety checks and end-of-the-semester room check outs.
By the time May rolls around, I’m sure I’ll have some pretty interesting stories for you, but for this week’s post, I wanted to give you a recap of last semester. More specifically, I wanted to talk about the kinds of classes I took, which, for the most part, were actually subjects that weren’t directly related to my major. Being a liberal arts college, LMU has a set of required courses that all students have to take in addition to the ones that go along with their chosen fields of study. The intent is to make students more well-rounded and to give them a very broad knowledge base of several interrelated subjects. Art and English majors, for example, learn how to apply skills in science and math to their future careers, and chemistry and biology majors enhance their creativity and writing skills by taking classes in the humanities.
Because there aren’t a whole lot of people majoring in chemistry, LMU offers the upper-level courses in chemistry on alternating years. This year, for example, I’m taking analytical chemistry and inorganic chemistry, and next year the class offered will be physical chemistry. The good thing about having the curriculum set this way is that I can complete several of those other required classes at once while I wait for my other major classes to be offered. This past fall I knocked out three of those classes: American Literature and Culture, Lincoln’s Life and Legacy, and Meaning and Service in a Diverse World. While they weren’t always the most fun classes to be in, the topics were definitely interesting, and the skills and lessons I learned will go with me in every part of my college and career paths. So for this week’s blog, here’s a more detailed look at each of these classes and what I enjoyed about them.
American Literature and Culture (ENGL 310)
After completing one course in English during both freshman and sophomore year, students are required to take one final English class their junior year that focuses on great American writers. There were lots of sections I could have signed up for, but I chose the one taught by Dr. Jacques Debrot, who is the current chair of the English department and a faculty representative on the Honors Council. Dr. Debrot’s lectures were always energetic and entertaining, with lots of personal anecdotes and funny YouTube videos that put every short story we read into perspective. He also made sure that every single person was participating, especially if it was in something that put us out of our comfort zone. There were almost daily instances where we had to act out a skit or lead a group discussion, but sometimes his challenges would get pretty silly. One of my personal favorites was inspired by the story “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver, in which the main character struggles to understand the life of a blind man. One of my classmates had to cover his eyes and try to identify another classmate–by running his hands all over her face! We all got a great laugh out of it, but it also made us realize just how much we take our sight for granted. This was one class that I never dreaded for a second having to go to. I was really disappointed when the final exam finally came and I had to say goodbye to Dr. Debrot (and Avery Hall–I’m officially done with humanities classes!), but I’m truly grateful I had the opportunity to take such a helpful and exciting class!
Lincoln’s Life and Legacy (LNCN 100)
As far as non-science classes go, history has always been the hardest one for me. I took two courses of American history through dual-enrollment classes in high school, and I thought I had seen the last of history for good–until I signed up for Lincoln’s Life and Legacy, that is. But this class actually turned out to be much more interesting than other history classes. Part of this may have been because the instructor was my favorite professor whom I’ve had for every college chemistry class so far (see my post about becoming a chemistry major). But I think the biggest reason the class was so fascinating is because Lincoln’s life was pretty fascinating. He had a really tough time growing up due to the loss of several major people in his life, and he wasn’t able to go to school for very long, despite how well-educated he appeared to be later in life. He also held a number of different jobs and titles throughout his life before becoming President, including a general store manager, a lawyer, a land surveyor, and even–wait for it–a railsplitter! My favorite part of the class was learning about everything he did during his presidential term. He had a pretty tough break, considering the Civil War started essentially because he was elected, and he spent the next four years trying to preserve a country that was falling apart. After taking this class, I feel an even greater sense of respect for the man for whom this great University is named, and I’m especially proud to be a part of it!
Meaning and Service in a Diverse World (HNRS 200)
As the “HNRS” course heading designates, this class was one of my requirements for the Honors Program (see my post about the Honors Program), and it also fulfilled one of my fine-arts-and-humanities elective courses. This class was by far the hardest one I’ve ever taken, and I took two semesters of general physics! I fondly called this class “Intro to Philosophy on Steroids” because it covered all of the same material in your standard first-year philosophy class, then took things a step further. Every assignment was aimed at helping us discover our own philosophical styles and our attitudes toward epistemology, the study of different methods for obtaining knowledge. The most difficult part was deciphering the works of several famous philosophers like Rene Descartes and Friedrich Nietzsche, as the essays had been very loosely translated from the authors’ native languages, and the true meanings of some words had gotten lost along the way. We usually had around four of these essays to read per week, and for me, with all the required readings in my other classes, it was a little difficult to keep up. But while the class was incredibly challenging, I still enjoyed every second of it. I can now look at any situation and determine which epistemological approach is being used to find an answer, and the skills I learned here are helping me as I begin work on my honors thesis project.
It was fun to dive into the humanities for a bit, but I am so glad to finally be back at home with my science classes. Reading and writing can be fun, but I’ll take doing a ton of math problems or studying for a big chemistry test instead, any day! (Go ahead, tell me what a huge nerd I am 😉 ) If you’d like to read about what it’s like from the opposite point of view, you can go read English major LMU Erin’s post on having to take math and physics. Feel free to leave any questions you may have for me in the comments section below, and click on the button on the left side of the page to subscribe to my blog and get updates whenever I post!