Fueled by his Erskine experience, Pete Savarese moves forward

Pete-with-secret-society-signs-cropIn 2016, Erskine’s Pete Savarese marched across the stage at commencement after a long journey through five years of college and seven surgeries. And he wouldn’t trade it for the world.

“I think for me, for my personality, I really needed a small school. I definitely needed an environment where I could know everyone,” he explains. He knows some people want a big school, but that was not for him.

“I would have been lost and only had a few friends. Instead I left school with eight or nine hundred friends!” he says. “Any time I am asked what made Erskine such a great place to be, I always have one answer—the people that make up the Erskine family.”

Considering this, he concludes, “I think the biggest advantage I received from Erskine is a mindset that every person counts, every person is valuable, and every person around you deserves your time and effort.”

Read the full story: » Fueled by his Erskine experience, graduate moves forward (Erskine News)

Intro To Summer Research

Some people use the summer to relax at the beach or on a cruise; others find a summer job at a camp or in their hometown in order to make some extra cash.

I returned to Erskine, as one of three students who are working underneath the Biology Department to study the toxic effects of titania nanoparticles on freshwater organisms. The other two students, Zach Bowens and Reid Windmiller, are studying the common water flea Daphnia magna, the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, and a microscopic animal called Philodina acuticornis. My research is on four different algae species that are frequently found in North American freshwater environments. This past week, I am simply culturing the algae and finding each species’s exponential growth period during which I can conduct the actual test that includes titanium dioxide.

IMG_20160606_143830726

The algae is cultured in Erlenmeyer flasks kept under a light table.

IMG_20160606_143746220_HDR

Using a spectrophotometer to track algal growth.

This kind of work may seem mundane, but in reality, I find myself enjoying almost every aspect of my time here. I was afraid that being the only girl in the student group would be depressing and lonely, but Reid and Zach, as well as other students who are at Erskine for Chemistry research, always keep me in high spirits, both inside and outside of the lab. We have so much fun together, whether we’re grocery shopping together, ambitiously singing the Australian national anthem in Australian accents, or cashing in free sandwiches at Chickfila.

Screenshot_2016-06-06-14-21-48.png

From left: Reid Windmiller, Rebecca Reiter (me), and Zach Bowens

I have only been back at Erskine for a week, and so many things have exceeded my expectations. As the summer progresses, I will be sure to keep you updated!

Guest Post by Dr. Christine Schott: Why the Humanities (Still) Matter

This piece by Assistant Professor of English Dr. Christine Schott appears in the Fall 2015 issue of Inside Erskine magazine. We think she makes a compelling case for why the humanities continue to be relevant to today’s college students.


Dr. Schott visited the Isle of Skye this summer as part of her ongoing research into medieval manuscripts and texts.

Dr. Schott visited the Isle of Skye this summer as part of her ongoing research into medieval manuscripts and texts.

English majors dread being asked what they will do with their degree. Literature professors always say, “You can do anything with an English degree,” and that’s true. But it leaves English majors with no clear path into any one field.

This apparent disconnect between degree and career path applies to almost all of the humanities majors—what do you do with a B.A. in history, religion, or philosophy? This has led a practical-minded, vocal sector of the public to question the value of the humanities and even of the liberal arts in general. But as a literature professor, I continue to believe that the humanities are not only still relevant in today’s world but may be more important than ever.

English majors, for example, graduate with skills vital to success in any number of fields. They learn, most importantly, to write cogently and communicate clearly both in speech and in print. They learn to look beyond surface rhetoric to analyze motives, biases, and far-reaching implications of what seem at first to be simple situations.

These students learn to synthesize information, reconcile conflicting viewpoints, and think outside the box; in other words, they become problem solvers. Despite recent negative press about the humanities, both media and employers are gradually coming forward to point out that humanities majors are desirable in a wide variety of fields—especially in leadership—because they have these vital transferrable skills.

But humanities majors have more to offer the world than their services as employees. I point out to my students that studying literature makes them better consumers (because they learn to recognize bias in advertisement), better citizens (because they learn to cut through political rhetoric), and better human beings (because they learn what it actually means to be human).

Find yourself thinking the poor are just lazy and ignorant? Read John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Having a hard time understanding why anybody would hold to a system of beliefs different from yours? Read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. Think technology alone has the potential to solve the world’s problems? Read just about anything by Orson Scott Card or Ray Bradbury — or for that matter, watch the Terminator movies; film and literature are just different forms of the same endeavor.

Reading literature changes us: it might make us angry by exposing injustices that we had previously been able to ignore, or it might make us uncomfortable by challenging our assumptions about right and wrong, “us” and “them,” but it makes it impossible for us to stay the same. Once you see the humanity of people you had never thought about before, it becomes a lot harder to hate them. And when it becomes harder to hate, then it becomes easier to care. And if there’s one thing this war-torn, contentious world has too few of, it is people who care for others, even those they do not know, simply because we are all human.

I am not saying that every student should be an English or humanities major; not everyone enjoys history or literature (a fact that continues to mystify me, although I may be a little biased). But for those students whose souls are called out of their bodies by beautiful words, for those who forget to eat because they are so deeply involved in a history book, or for those who forego sleep because they’re asking the big questions that were raised in their philosophy class, it would be a shame to abandon what they love simply because someone else has told them it isn’t “relevant.”

The truth is that a humanities education is beneficial in every life calling, from stay-at-home parent to president of the United States.

English majors do not need to defend their course of study to make it relevant; it already is. And they do not need to change their major to be employable; they only need to augment it. There is no fundamental conflict between the humanities and “practical” education. In fact, in the coming generation, I hope we will see the liberal arts increasing in cultural and market value as employers, educators, and students alike recognize how much the world still needs the humanities.

What I Expect From Erskine

Well, I am now in my second semester at Erskine so I must have a pretty good grip on college life, right? I make decent grades. I know how, when, and where to study. I have that stable friend group. I can handle anything that Erskine throws at me. HA. That’s laughable. In the past seven months that I’ve been at Erskine, I may have learned how to thoroughly analyze Brownings’ “My Last Duchess,” participate in a handbell choir, and even carry a decent conversation in Spanish, but I still don’t know squat. Honestly, the more I learn about something, the more I realize how little I actually know. The only reasons that my ignorance doesn’t totally frustrate me are the reality that I don’t need to know everything and the faith that I have in Erskine’s ability to prepare me for entering “the real world” by the time I graduate.

After I graduate, I want to head off to graduate school and pursue an M.S. in genetic counseling. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, genetic counseling is the practice of giving advice to families who are worried about the nature, risks, consequences, or treatment of a genetic disorder. My passion for genetic counseling was sparked when I visited a genetic center in Greenwood. During that visit, I toured through various labs and talked to several employees, but was uninterested in any subjects until I talked to the genetic counselor.

Genetic counseling may sound like the most boring job on earth to you, but several aspects of the job appeal to me. As a Christian, I love the counseling part of the job. God has endowed me with a desire to get to know people and to bring out the best in them that I can. I love listening to people’s stories and learning their interests, fears, and opinions. I have always wanted a job that centers itself on helping others. A part of me loves working with people because I want to fix them, which is a desire that can be taken too far if God is shoved out of the picture.  While I know that I cannot cure people’s hearts, minds, or bodies, I am secure in the knowledge that God will use me to serve Him in amazing ways. As a science-lover, I really enjoy learning about genetics and how someone became the person that they currently are. I am a short, squinty, asthmatic Asian and that’s all due to genes (thanks, Mom and Dad..).

I am the kind of person who needs to have a plan if I want to be able to move forward. Becoming a genetic counselor may not be in God’s plan for me and I am open to change, but right now in my life, I have a goal to work towards. Part of the reason that I came to Erskine is because I expect to graduate from Erskine feeling ready to take on whatever challenges come before me. I fully believe that Erskine will supply me with the knowledge that I will need to succeed in graduate school, the faith that I will need endure trials in the world, and other important life skills.

What do you expect from a college?

J-Term: A Study of…?

For those of you who don’t know, J-Term, or January Term, is a mini-semester in January during which students take one class every day for 3 hours. These classes can range from a trip to Japan to studying the Apocrypha to figuring out the math behind certain puzzles and games. Basically, students get to ease into the spring semester by taking a light class that appeals to their interests. So what class did I sign up for? I’ll answer your question with a riddle:

You hear it speak, for it has a hard tongue. But it cannot breathe, for it has not a lung. What is it? 

Have you given up yet? Okay, here’s the answer: a bell. Props to you if you guessed correctly!

That’s right, I’m taking a class on English Handbells for J-Term. Now, you may read that and scoff at how lame that class sounds as many other people did. However, I am here to declare that you are wrong because handbells are definitely the opposite of lame. I get to actually feel beauty when 10 students come together and create music. I don’t just hear the beautiful music or feel happy because we survived a 4 page song. I actually feel beauty. Who knew that someone could do that? Now, sometimes there’s only chaos and a cacophony of clashing notes, but that’s just something to laugh about and improve the next time!

So, other than the class that I enjoy so much, what’s so great about J-Term? Well, let me tell you something. The free time during J-Term can either be a curse or a blessing. J-Term starts to feel like a drag when you have a lot of free time and nothing to do. Of course, that is remedied simply by finding things to do and people to be with. I’m freed up to do so many activities that I never had time to do last semester, but I have a hard time organizing everything that I want to get done each day. I end up not getting anything done because I just watch Friends on Netflix and exercise. To be fair, there are those rare occasions when I sit down and knit a beanie or practice piano for an hour. I feel pretty productive after those days! It is also a little odd that I don’t really see as many people throughout the campus as I used to, but I definitely appreciate the people that I do get to see! Plus, I get to push myself to make plans to spend time with people that I never really spent time with last semester. Last night, my friend Grace and I got to take a girl shopping to celebrate her birthday and we had a great time! I can pretty much promise that we would be studying hard if it was Tuesday night during a regular semester. Thank you, J-Term, for making that valuable time available!

Maybe the sleepy, relaxed atmosphere at Erskine is abnormal for J-Term or it’s completely normal. Regardless of the answer, I’ve got to say that I do really enjoy J-Term. It is really nice to have a light 3 week workload at Erskine before the spring. J-Term may not be perfect, but hey. If something was perfect, we’d just find some way to screw it up, right? Plus, J-Term has a lot of strengths, such as fun classes, lots of free time, the ability to overcome procrastination, and the ability to bond with people (if you can find them).  😛 It’s just another perk of going to Erskine!

To Ireland and Back Again

This January, a group of Erskine students is exploring Ireland with Professor of Psychology Robert Elsner.  So far they’ve kissed the Blarney Stone, tasted fantastic local cuisine, and explored castles that have stood for centuries.

If you’d like to follow along with their adventures, the class is posting regular updates to a blog:
There And Back Again

J-term is campus slang for Winter Term, a special 3-week term in January of each year.  Students select one course from among a wide variety of faculty interests and hobbies, or they can travel abroad or schedule an internship/externship experience within their major field.  Classes range widely depending on the year, giving faculty the chance to show off areas of expertise that otherwise might not fit the standard curriculum. And students benefit from sitting in class next to people from outside their discipline.  It’s a great way to kick off a new year of intellectual pursuit!

The castle in Limerick, Ireland, as seen by Erskine students traveling for J-term

The castle in Limerick, Ireland, as seen by Erskine students traveling for J-term