Senior Lynn Donnegan muses on her final choir tour with the Erskine Choraleers:
“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
I’m pretty confident that Thomas Wayne’s encouragement to his son, the future hero of Gotham City, will be one of the major themes of this semester for me. It’s barely a week into the spring semester of my sophomore year, and I already feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Earlier, I was telling some friends that it feels as though the neat, orderly boxes inside my brain have been flipped over, and all of their contents are scattered around the floor of my brain.
Today has been especially difficult. Every hour was slam-packed with classes, meetings, preparatory work, studying, teaching SI, and other responsibilities. I wasn’t able to spend more than 10 minutes in my room until right now, at 10:00 pm. Now, I am not trying to complain or be a self-proclaimed martyr of the difficulties of being a hardworking, involved student. I honestly love everything that I am a part of, and would be super unhappy to cut anything out of the semester. Dropping my Literature For Young Adults class was one of the hardest decisions that I have had to make so far.
My whole point is that I am finally starting to realize that it’s okay to not be a perfect student. I don’t have to have it all together. There are 600-something other students here who are all scrambling to get their lives together too, and that is nothing to feel ashamed or worthless about. Alternatively, I think that when people stop trying to hide their flaws, and instead depend on others for growth, a great potential for improvement is available. Mistakes happen. Success is never guaranteed. It is okay to not be perfect. Rather than being afraid of failing, I should be more afraid of being beaten by failure than of the act of failing, because failure is an inevitable part of life.
So when you fall, Rebecca, why do you fall?
So I can learn to pick myself up.
Hayley Rogers, senior, has moved across the pond to be an intern at Papercraft Magazine during January term. If you’re interested in publishing, writing, or content creation, or are wondering where an English major can take you, follow her journey at her blog:
This past weekend, I was reminded of a great Erskine quality that I so often overlook. On the day that I moved back into my dorm for J-term, I spent the evening with President Kooistra and his wife, sipping refreshingly delicious white tea and eating homemade apple pie. Together, we marveled at God’s mysterious work in our lives, confessed that our tendency to drive over the speed limit sometimes, and even bonded over our befuddlement with directions. In short, I had quite a delightful time with the Kooistras.
The thing that struck me the most about the evening is that Dr. Kooistra and his wife find joy in simply spending time with me. They could have preferred to have a solitary and relaxed final evening of Christmas break, but instead, they genuinely wanted to spend their evening with me. To the rest of the world, I am just an average sophomore Joe who is awkwardly figuring out life one day at a time. Yet, at Erskine, the president of the college sees me as someone worth investing his time and energy in, and this is additionally true for every student at Erskine. How absolutely, delightfully humbling and encouraging.
Obviously, I am not asserting that Erskine is the only college whose president opens his doors and welcomes students in. I am positive that many presidents are warm and inviting. I simply want to share another chapter from my story here at Erskine, because this school truly is a wonderful, blessed place.
This story is a shout out to all the students who feel like they’re scrambling to just survive the endless world of tests, papers, and studying. I’m right there with you. This is only one of many accounts that shows how untogether my life truly is. Hopefully you’ll find a degree of encouragement and humor somewhere in this event.
My story begins at a table in Snappers, Erskine’s greasy, delicious substitute to the cafeteria. After a long day of classes and labs, my friends and I treated ourselves to some much-needed comfort fries. That was the last time I remembered seeing my wallet.
Flash forward to my room after dinner. My roommate and I had some time and energy to burn, so naturally we had a Disney dance party, where we discovered our ability to perform ballroom dancing in tight quarters. I was so excited about dancing that I threw my backpack and jacket onto my bed and leapt into action. After the dance party, we settled down into our normal studying routine.
The next morning, while I was rifling through my backpack for my student ID, I realized that my wallet was missing. Normally I would pack everything into my backpack the night before class, but I had stayed up so late studying that I went straight to bed without bothering to pack up my things. Obviously losing one’s wallet and all of its contents is kind of a big deal, so I started searching around campus as soon as I could. I tried to recall the last place I remembered holding my wallet, but of course that memory was blocked. Go figure.
My wallet hadn’t been put in any of Erskine’s lost and found boxes, so by this point, I was pretty freaked out. As I ran (and I mean literally ran) around the Erskine campus, hoping the wallet was somewhere in the grass, a horrifying thought entered my mind. What if I accidentally threw my wallet in the trash at Snappers while I was throwing away everybody’s trash? I immediately returned to Snappers and asked if I could dig through the trash, despite still being dressed up from having lunch with a prospective student. However, Sue, my friend who works at Snappers, wasn’t about to let me root around in the trash, and she voluntarily dug through three bags of trash before reporting that there was no way my wallet could be there.
With steadily increasing anxiety, I walked across campus to my room (by this time, I was out of breath from running) and proceeded to tear apart every inch of the room in search of the wallet. I tore everything off of my bed, ripped out all of the clothes in my dresser and wardrobe, and threw everything out of my desk. The wallet was nowhere to be found. A ray of inspiration hit me as I sat on the floor in despair. I remembered helping Daria carry clothes up from her car last night. Did I take my wallet with me for some odd reason? A new wind hit me and I sprinted out the door and down the hill to her car, but the wallet wasn’t underneath, nearby, or inside her van. As I walked up to my dorm room, I felt more discouraged and stressed than I had felt in a while. Losing a wallet seems like a small problem now, but it did was a tremendous toll on my emotions at the time. It’s extremely frustrating to not be able to find something that is lost. Then, when I walked through the door to my room, I saw it. My wallet had been hanging on a thumbtack on my corkboard this entire time.
This is proof that putting things away in their proper place is dangerous and wrong. Just kidding.
Long story short, my life is definitely not all together. I’m clumsy, forgetful, easily stressed, and my short-term memory is completely worthless. So how do I make it through each day’s problems and mistakes with a smile and the energy to face another day? God opens my eyes to see and give thanks for the everyday blessings and joys that can shine through the blunders. Today, God answered my desperate, freaked out prayers to simply find my wallet. He provided support from amazing friends like Sue, who cheerfully picked through trash in order to help me. That kind of love still overwhelms me. It’s such a huge relief that my weaknesses can be blessings in disguise by causing the strengths and goodness of others to shine out.
“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2nd Corinthians 12:9-10
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.
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.
This past weekend, I had the privilege of experiencing Erskine’s Orientation through the eyes of a group leader instead of as a freshman. I was chosen to be an Orientation leader in April, so I spent all summer imagining what my time as a leader would be like and what Orientation would be like as a whole. Needless to say, quite a few expectations accumulated in my mind by the end of the summer. But in order to share my expectations, I first need to tell you the reasons behind my desire to work on the Orientation staff. My reasons were threefold: to make Orientation fun for freshmen, to get a head start on making new friends, and to get more involved at Erskine, because I honestly just love my college. My motives behind Orientation became my expectations for Orientation. Thus, I envisioned a whole new group of friends, the feeling of satisfaction from executing a successful Orientation, and the gradual acclimation to a busy school year at Erskine.
I moved into Erskine a week before the freshmen moved in and immediately began training and preparing for the busiest week of the school year (in my opinion). Everyone on O Staff was exhausted by the Monday before Move In Day, but we pushed through our fatigue and mustered an amazing amount of energy to get everything squared away before Thursday, when the freshmen arrived. Our fearless leader, Kaley Lindquist, the most detail-oriented person that I have ever met, coordinated every part of the weekend. Orientation would not have been the success that it was if it had not been for her dedication and passion for her job.
All of the freshmen were split into 12 different groups led by various upperclassmen. My friend Ashley and I were in charge of Group 9; and let me just say that our group was the coolest group ever. Our freshmen had such great attitudes about every activity that we did even though they were just as worn out as we were. For example, the groups competed against each other to get the most Spirit Points by the end of Orientation. Our group ran around the Erskine campus, performing different activities to get thousands of Spirit Points. We bought 40+ cokes for Kaley, gave more than 20 sets of flowers to the sweet lady who scans our cards in the cafeteria, and even chased around various staff members for selfies (I hadn’t ever posted so many pictures on Instagram in four days). Unfortunately, we did not win first place; but, we got second place, which was the closest to first place that a group can get! We did so many activities in the span of 4 days, including, but not limited to, sessions, skits, contests, games, community service, and soiree. I would like to share all of the memories that were created from Orientation, but you would have to read pages of content, which would likely become tedious after a while. Not to mention, Orientation flew by so quickly that it is a bit of a blurred memory now.
But, all good things must come to an end, and so Orientation had to as well. As I reflect on the fruits that were produced from Orientation, I find myself pleasantly surprised. I was pushed to be more confident, more friendly, more sacrificing, more patient, more loving…the list can go on and on. I became friendlier as I got to know not only a whole bunch of really awesome freshmen, but also, as I grew closer to my Orientation coworkers. They were my family for a week. I changed from only being good friends with a handful of the upperclassmen to growing closer to each person in different ways. Despite being surrounded by strangers again and feeling exhausted from attending the various events, this year was still much more comfortable and fun! I definitely enjoyed Orientation better as a leader than as a freshman. This year’s Orientation did not just meet all of my expectations; it surpassed them. I would encourage anyone who is considering being a part of Orientation to go for it! Orientation gives students a chance to make an impact on people’s lives and to be impacted by others, which I consider to be a really cool life experience.