two inspirations for finally fleshing out this post:

“If we pay 40k for college a year, and take an average of 8 classes, that’s 5k per class. How can the value of our education be quantified? It’s wrong to think about our college education in this way, but isn’t this interesting to think about?” – mchow

“I think the best part of having my writing classes is that they’ve forced me to delve deeper into topics that i’ve been interested in and yet did not have the capacity to develop my thoughts in” -daeunk

High school education is often so standard, and as “stressful” as course selection may be, the variance among students’ academic trajectories is never that great if they attend the same high school.

However, given the wealth of opportunities at college (social, extracurricular, intellectual, etc.), I find myself constantly revisiting this question: “How do I make the most of my time at college?” Throughout my first three semesters at Pomona, I have watched my answer, and subsequent decisions, evolve. This constant shifting and revising makes it especially difficult for me to pin down goals that I confidently commit myself to sticking to, and I often feel like I concentrate intently on a few goals at once only to find myself questioning their validity a few months later.

I think college offers two broad types of capital: physical capital and social capital.

Glossy college brochures always brag about their labs and research facilities and that’s an undeniable advantage of being a college student. I know that at Pomona, I can just swipe into the art building and access really fine design software and printers, and that I don’t have to worry about assembling my own lab equipment if I were to take a science course.

Glossy college brochures also tout the opportunities for students to learn “outside of the classroom” and “beyond the textbook” and “through scintillating discussions with peers and faculty.” However, what does this mean for me? After having not taken any seriously rigorous humanities courses in the past few semesters, I finally decided to take one of Tannenbaum’s philosophy courses. I think that one can easily read the books that a class requires, and one can easily listen to online lectures, but what is truly invaluable about the classroom experience of studying something like history or philosophy or english is if the professor can brilliantly moderate discussion and curate content for the course in a way that helps you make the most of the thoughts of the authors and your peers and how your ideas interact with theirs. The curation of content means that someone else has sifted through a massive amount of content to handpick highlights that speak to the course, something that I could not do on my own. And the experience of having a brilliant moderator of discussion means that your professor can help you get the most of that experience of learning “beyond the textbook” and through “scintialating discussions.”

My first interaction with Tannenbaum was during the first-year book discussion. She went around the room and asked each of us for our thoughts on certain passages of the book, and she wrote our ideas on the board. With every subsequent comment or connection drew lines from one idea node to the next, pulling out shades of connections I could have never thought of on my own, and the visual representation of the connections between the ideas was such an effective way to lead this discussion. I then bumped into her during the Sotomayor talk, and the following email describes what happened :

Dear Professor Tannenbaum,

Thank you for encouraging me to ask my question at the first-year book discussion today. I’ve always felt too insecure to ask my burning questions for fear that it would be one that the general audience wouldn’t be interested in. Your encouragement meant so much to me!

Here is the question I ended up asking Professor Hollis-Brusky:

“In light of your thoughtful reflection on Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, how do you identify talent and potential among students with varying degrees of opportunity and preparation? And how does that inform the way you (and how you may hope your fellow faculty) proceed to help your students?”

I think that if I actually had the time to sit down with her over a meal, she could have provided a more specific answer. But the act of asking made me very curious as to how other professors would respond. I am sending this email to you out of a curious energy, and really haven’t thought through how I’d like to go about starting these sorts of conversations with other professors. I have become very curious about affirmative action from the perspective of students’ experiences once they are enrolled in a school, and professors’ treatment of them definitely plays a huge role of their experience.

On a different vein, what do you think is “fair diversity”? Pomona prides itself in being more and more “diverse” every year, but I don’t see that as necessarily positive because I wonder if it makes us overlook certain less visible “diversities” and I wonder what kinds of students are no longer gaining admission to Pomona as a result of our movement towards “diversity.”

Also, I would love to meet with you over a lunch sometime, if your schedule allows for that!

Thank you for inspiring me from my very first faculty-lead discussion at Pomona until now.

Her response:

Hi Sophia, it was nice to see you again!

“Thank you for encouraging me to ask my question at the first-year book discussion today. I’ve always felt too insecure to ask my burning questions for fear that it would be one that the general audience wouldn’t be interested in.”

Did you notice that many people clapped after you asked your question?!

“I think that if I actually had the time to sit down with her over a meal, she could have provided a more specific answer.”

Maybe you should think about asking her to lunch. In any case, how about you and I have lunch and talk about it and the other questions you raised in your e-mail? Are you free for lunch on Friday 9/4 at 11:45am? We could meet at my office and then head to the dinning hall. J.T.

Our lunchtime conversation was the hardest thing my brain has ever had to work for. She broke down each of my comments and asked what I really meant to say, and we had the most honest and insightful conversation about Pomona College “PC” culture, in light of this The Atlantic article.

goals for spring 2015:

– cut down on solo piano; do a lot of preparation work

– daily habits: wake up at 7, eat breakfast and eat well, schedule at least 1 meal with someone a day

– speech and debate?

– plan out a cappella rehearsal and concert schedule

– attend J’s bible study

– cs52; last req in the sequence. study before class and review, know your profs and just get yourself to office hours please

– discrete math & econ stats; again, study before and after class

– philosophy; this is going to be a super hard class so make sure to do revisions early and get comfortable meeting with prof all the time

– politics; figure out if you like politics hahahaah

– go out to eat on weekends, save the homewor you can save for later at night and just go out and do stuff

– go to at least one 47 things trip


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