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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Independent.

Have you ever had an experience so incredible you wish you could do it over again? I know I certainly have. If you find yourself finishing up a semester or block class that has been significantly moving and life changing, becoming a teaching assistant might be the perfect next move. Not only do you get upper-division credit for the course, but you have the opportunity to step into a leadership role and pass your own knowledge off to your peers. This past block, I found myself doing exactly that. This block, as part of my independent study "Sex-Positive Feminism", I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be a teaching assistant (or, T.A.) for "Sexuality and Sexual Outlaws", an Upper Division course at Prescott College. This class is well known on campus for putting on the annual Drag Show at the end of the month.

As a teaching assistant at Prescott College, students are given the opportunity to help the faculty design curriculum for the class. Most teaching assistants have taken the class previously and can offer insight as to what was effective and what else might be offered during the course. Teaching assistants are often given opportunities to teach lessons to the class as well, giving special presentations about what they are studying in relation to the materials being covered during the course. They can serve as intermediaries between students and instructors, but more often than not, the main role of a teaching assistant is to be an additional resource for students who may want an extra hand.

By no means is a teaching assistant's job an easy one. It requires a significant amount of dedication and the ability to seperate your own learning experience from that of the students enrolled in the course. My experience as a teaching assistant was paired with the design and implementation of curriculum in my own independent study. At the beginnning of every Prescott College course, students are asked to submit a learning contract that outlines their learning objectives for the class. In addition to those objectives, the contract also serves as a letter of intent to the instructor, as it gives students a chance to say how they plan on completing their objectives and how they wish to be evaluated. An independant study contract is not very different, except for the fact that the student is also required to create their own course description and submit it for approval before being registered for their independent study.

Independant studies and Teaching Assistant experiences are just two examples of how you, as a student at Prescott College, have the ability to tailor a class to your own level or even create your own class to best suit your needs. That's why stdents do so well and have so much fun here--we get to decide what we want to take out of a class....well, that, and the fact that we can dress up like Lady Gaga or Jermaine Stewart and sing and dance about gender and sexual equality in the annual drag show... :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

From Preview to Preview

Hello to all you wonderful individuals who have been lucky enough to find Prescott College:

Last preview weekend brought up a multitude of memories around my experience when I first attended preview weekend and what my college search looked like. It seemed appropriate to share my experience and what I may have learned along the way.

I started to get serious about my college search right before spring break of my junior year, when my mom, brother and I were going to California to visit schools. I did not really know what I wanted to study, or what I wanted my college experience to look like, but I narrowed it down to this: I had grown up wanting to be in CA, I wanted a small liberal arts school, and I wanted an education that would inspire me to do and be everything I could. I complied a list of five schools in California, and Prescott College.

I remember that break vividly – it was a pretty tense trip. I had not done adequate research on the schools, and had not contacted the administration early enough, so tours were difficult to get into. I concluded that must have been the reason why none of the schools ignited any sort of excitement. The tail end of our trip was fast approaching, and Prescott College was the last stop on our list.

When I first began my search, my uncle told me, “There is a perfect fit for everyone when it comes to finding a school. Don’t stop until you find it.”

After pulling into the town, and getting mildly lost along the streets of Prescott, we finally made it to Preview weekend. While many of the details of our weekend escape me, I clearly remember my mom turning to me throughout the presentations saying, “Hannah – this is so you.” When it came to Q&A time with the Financial Aid office she asked, “Would we get some sort of deal if my daughter and I both enrolled?" We all laughed, but she was serious.

I was only a junior, but I was ready to send in my deposit. I know this may seem like a corny, “this is how I found the perfect school” type story, this is just the beginning, and I don’t really believe in perfection (but that is a different story). After reporting to my father, “You are looking at a future Prescott College student” he smiled but responded, “Well I am happy you have found a school you love, but don’t stop your search… Now you just have a school to measure the rest up against.”

The year went on and I discovered time is a funny thing, and we constantly are changing. Senior year led to a whole new, much more comprehensive search. I knew I needed small class sizes, teachers to push me to think critically. I wanted this continuation of education to be so much more than a “good time”. I wanted to graduate with more than a degree – I wanted to grow, to be pushed, to be inspired.

I found that there are some exceptional schools… But it was easy to scratch many of them from the list. By the time applications were due, I had it narrowed down to three. Each would guarantee a certain level of adventure, small classes, and an alternative way of dealing with the information. I had gotten myself in quite the pickle – I found three schools, all seemingly wonderful, and all seemed to fit me perfectly, in its own way.

I sweated this choice out. For me, deciding on a school meant digging deep into myself, asking who I was and what I really wanted out of my education. Did I want to be in a city that never slept? The outdoors? In different parts of the world? And who was I as a student? What would I want to study? The questions seemed to cave in on me, and the decision felt almost impossible. What I realized is each school seemed to represent a different part of me, of my interests, yet all held common ground.

Writing frantically back and forth with what I had finally narrowed down to two admissions councilors, Andrea from Prescott College encouraged me to share some of my concerns regarding Prescott College. This was the tipping point for me, and ultimately there was no question.

I could not be more content at Prescott College… It really is the perfect fit. I could talk forever about the excitement I felt upon finding it, choosing it, and now being here. But that is not really the point I want to be pushing in this post. While this school is perfect for me, I had to a lot of questioning to come to that conclusion. I encourage each and every one of you to question yourself, and try to tap into what specifically draws you to a school. Question what would make you hesitate. Question the admissions counselors and students. And ultimately, contrary to all questioning – remember to follow your instinct and stay excited. This is an amazing time and there are so many doors that are getting ready to open themselves to you!

Enjoy this adventure.

Hannah Jean Marshall

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Difference Between Truth and Treason

This blog is for all those prospective students who attended the Preview Weekend, and for those who are curious enough to explore this amazing school.

Thank you for taking the time to truly experience what an education at Prescott College can mean for one’s journey in life.

First off, it is reasonably known that a large part of the agenda for the Prescott College admissions staff is to promote the school, but in my belief, there is also the notion that they honestly want you prospective students to be happy and grow in whatever educational environment you may find yourselves in.

As I mentioned in my final words during the Preview Weekend, when I originally looked at Prescott College, I noticed there were flaws, and from an objective point of view did not see perfection. Alternatively though, when I looked at what my life was becoming, and reflected upon my honest needs, I found that much like Prescott College, I was not perfect either. Eventually, what this came to mean that after signing my admission agreement, and three years later of exploring and fully participating in the school culture - the imperfections that I found among myself and the school no longer mattered. Just as there is no day without night, and no child without a mother, I found that Prescott College and myself created a perfection that no longer fostered imperfections, but created opportunities for growth, curiosity, discovery, and love.

When our time for graduation from college becomes closer, and depending upon who you are, it will not matter how many swimming pools the school you attend has; it will not matter how many books are in the library; it will not matter how many flavors of soft-serve ice-cream are available in the cafeteria.
What will matter are the relationships one has with the people around them; the experiences that were had; and the support received from those who believed in us enough to truly see we are capable of greatness.

For a college education can mean many things for many people, but again, when all is said and done, one will find what was truly important, and what was mere shiny objects that may someday find themselves in the garbage dump.

To better understand the road ahead, we ask those who have been there before. So, I encourage all of you who are exploring different schools, to look past those items that will mean nothing later in life, and listen to your honest needs. For myself, Prescott College was the only school that made me feel whole; this was after visiting more than eight schools, and numerous conversations with various admissions staff.

When letting go of our arrow to hit the target of our needs, no other person can see down the sight; no other person feels the pull of our string; no other person can let go for us. It is true that being given useful advice is of course, very useful; and it is also important to understand the difference between truth and treason against our deepest heartfelt dreams.

Live the journey,

Jordan

Monday, November 1, 2010

Let go of the arrow, to hit the target

This past weekend was the inauguration for the new president of Prescott College, Dr. Kristin Woolever. For me, this was an extraordinary occasion that created an exciting and hopeful future for the school.

The inaugural speech that Kristin gave was in my belief, spot on, and focused upon many important aspects of how she views the school in its current state, and after listening to many, where she believes it would be most effective to move toward .

Like anything in life, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and how this ties into the current blog entry is quite parallel to how the school should be viewed from the landscape of a prospective student. I will be blunt in saying that Prescott College is not perfect, and like everything else created by the hands of human beings, there is always room for sustainable improvement. Alternatively though, the question must be asked, “Are we perfect for each other, Prescott College and myself?” To make this equation even more blunt, this school is not for everyone, but for some this is an opportunity that will create more growth than one could ever imagine, and this is where perfection is found.

I have seen some students create for themselves a world of living chaos, but alternatively, there are many more who take on the aim of what Prescott College stands for, and a man by the name of Howard Zinn put into words as the goal of education:

“Eliminating war, poverty, race and national hatred, governmental restrictions on individual freedom, and in fostering a spirit of cooperation and concern in the generation growing up.”

In effect, reading the mission statement of any organization that we choose to be affiliated with is of the utmost importance. Moreover, equally vital is whether or not the institution truly follows this quest they have set out for themselves.

The mission of Prescott College is:

“to educate students of diverse ages and backgrounds to understand, thrive in, and enhance our world community and environment. We regard learning as a continuing process and strive to provide an education that will enable students to live productive lives while achieving a balance between self-fulfillment and service to others. Students are encouraged to think critically and act ethically with sensitivity to both the human community and the biosphere. Our philosophy stresses experiential learning and self-direction within an interdisciplinary curriculum.”
After reading the two quotes above, many would agree that they both have much in common. In essence though, what does living the mission of Prescott College truly mean, and how does one do this most effectively? Through causation, I will not be so arrogant to say that I have the answer to this question for everyone to follow, but in the most humble of ways, I believe that doing what we love will always be of the greatest benefit for the entire biosphere. From this, the question comes up yet again, ‘Is Prescott College where I want to continue my journey in education?”
Furthermore, let me say that the true answer to this question cannot be found in any view-book, or by speaking with an admissions counselor, although these are great resources to make a better informed decision; the true answer is found in ourselves and what we believe is needed.

In this blog entry, I am not trying to be grim, but paint a picture about the projected idea of attending a school, and the actual reality of what this could mean. Is going to an institution with course sizes in the hundreds favorable to your learning, or are small, intimate classes with field trips of greater necessity? Does living in a large community of thousands make you feel more connected, or sharing a free community lunch every wednesday with everyone on campus? These are important questions that take much reflection, and to put this metaphorically, in order to hit a target, we are the only ones who must commit and let go of the arrow - no one can truly let go of the string for us. And, it is always why we let go of the arrow that makes all the difference.

Live the Journey,

Jordan