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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

“Please don’t gut your fish in the dorm kitchens”

I’ve never really known what I should do with my life. All throughout my k-12 education, I had someone there—teachers, my mom, other students—to look to when I was unsure of what I should be doing, who could tell me what I was expected to do. When the time came to apply to colleges, suddenly no one was there, telling me what I was supposed to do. I applied willy-nilly to a smattering of schools across the western half of the united states without visiting any of them or looking into cost/how much I could afford, and sat back to rake in the admissions letters. My dreamy suburban existence was shattered when, upon receiving acceptance letters, I realized that school costs money—money that I didn’t have. I panicked and, fearing the life of debt and ramen noodles that surely awaited me, I applied last minute to a state school in Wisconsin. I’m from Minnesota, so I was able to get in-state tuition thanks to a reciprocity agreement between the two states’ public university systems, which saved me a bunch of money.

It quickly became clear to me that I had enrolled at the wrong school for me. During my campus visit we were shown the campus armory, where we were advised to “keep all guns, bows, arrows, and ammunition in a locker, rather than in your dorm.” While registering for classes I saw that intro to deer hunting was available as a gym credit, and while making pasta in the dorm kitchen my attention was drawn to a sign: “please don’t gut your fish in the sink here. Use the campus fish house.” Once, while walking across campus, I noticed a massive amount of feathers blowing through a parking lot. My initial guess that a bird had gotten caught in a lawn mower proved to be incorrect as I rounded a corner and discovered a student field dressing a Canadian goose he had shot earlier that day. People rode their horses to the bar.

The facilities available on campus were a strong reflection of the student body. 95% of the students were from Wisconsin, and the remaining 5% were from Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, or the Dakotas. I had expected college to be a place where I could meet people from all over the country, from all different walks of life. Instead, I was in an environment where large groups of students graduated high school together, and then all went to the same college. The resulting feeling was one of high school 2.0, especially because my freshman-level classes actually felt easier than the AP courses I’d taken in high school. So, instead of taking 5 classes a semester I took 6, and I joined Amnesty International, WisPIRG (Wisconsin Student Public Interest Research Group—actually much more fun than it sounds), Students for Free Thought, and became captain of the women’s Lacrosse team. As if that wasn’t enough, I decided that I could double major (Philosophy and International Studies) and double minor (Religious Studies and English) and still graduate on time because hey, I wasn’t struggling, so why not take on a little more work?

I knew during my first semester that I wanted to transfer but, since it was my first time at college and my research into other schools had been so minimal, I assumed that I’d grow to love the school…eventually. I found an amazing group of friends, and they really helped me to enjoy my time there. When after three semesters I had finally had enough, those friends were incredibly supportive. At the ugly sweater going away party they threw for me, my friend Ty hugged me and said “I think we all secretly knew that this wasn’t the right place for you. You’re destined for something different.”

I know I want to transfer. Now what?

The following semester was spent living at home, working two jobs, lonely and desperate for human contact and intellectual stimulation. I toured six schools on the east coast, got in, and hit the same wall I’d hit the first time around: money sucks, and not everyone wants to give it to you. I was frustrated and freaking out—what would I do next fall, if I wasn’t in school? Would I find a school that fit me and that I could afford? I was talking with my boss at one of my jobs during a performance review sometime in April, telling him how nervous I was about my current lack of direction. He told me to check out Prescott College—he’d gone there without knowing what he wanted to study, and came away with a passion for education. So, on his insistent advice, I found myself exploring the school website on an idle spring afternoon, and applying the next day.

I wasn’t able to visit before enrolling, which was nerve-wracking given my track record the first time around, but something felt different about Prescott. In my first days on campus, I knew I had made the right decision. Sometimes I wish I’d found PC the first time around, but at the same time I know that my experiences in Wisconsin had a huge impact on my reasons for transferring here. I realize more each day just how lucky I am to go to a school with a different way of looking at higher education, whose mission isn’t simply to give out degrees and pump workers into the real world. I don’t feel the need to fill my spare time with a plethora of clubs and classes, because I’m able to control how challenging my courses are. And, most importantly, I’m able to afford this school, with the help of my mom and a merit scholarship (and a little debt). But to me, having a few loans is totally worth the education I’m getting here. I feel valuable here, and I feel important, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have found this school.

~Claire Tuchel, 02.2012

The Beginning of the End

This is the start of my last semester here at Prescott College and there is a sense of accomplishment and fear.  I am beginning my senior project which is a culminating project and a way for me to display my competence.  My competence here at Prescott College is Social Justice Education and I am also receiving a double breath in Outdoor Pursuits and Human Development.  I believe the Senior Project process to be an excellent way of displaying ones knowledge and confidence in their learning.  The ideas that I had for my Senior Project have transformed over time and when it came down to putting it all on paper I had tremendous help from my advisor and faculty members.  

As I started to dive into ideas about what I could do for my Senior Project I realized that the possibilities were endless.  At that point I had to start sifting through my ideas and really think about what is important and why I want to do it.  My background is in education so I thought that would be a good starting point.  I also wanted to contribute to something that had profoundly changed me and given me so much.  The process of working with my advisers was a learning process, but I really dove in leaving no stone unturned.  With the help of my advisor and lots of pondering I finally came up with a wonderful idea that would not only be in my area of study but would also give back to my community.

Through my senior project I hope to discover how faculty and instructors design their classes to best meet the mission statement and the graduation attributes, voted on by the cross college faculty.  My senior project will consist of creating diagnostic tools such as rubrics and interview questions to assess how faculty members are meeting the desired graduation attributes in courses and through graduation.  If we are asking our students and peers to critically analyze our ever-changing environment, then I think it is important to have our faculty and instructors do the same.  These diagnostic tools will be used to benchmark where we are currently, understand how we can improve and set future goals for evaluating student success.

Social Justice is important to me and Prescott College.  I hope that through my Senior Project I will help promote more Social Justice in other departments.  I believe that continuity through out all of our departments is very important and will help students gain more perspective into what others are doing and what the school promoting.  With the recent adoption of these graduation attributes I think the school is bringing more diversity of learning and creating obtainable learning targets for students to meet in the classroom and  as a graduate.  

~Eric Davis, 02.2012

Upon the Horizon

Something I’ve learned since I’ve come to Prescott College: Life doesn’t always wait for you to be ready when it decides to send you somewhere new. Its a strange moment--the one you feel coming upon you when there is a big decision on the horizon. And its something that has continued to creep up through my veins ever since I entered Prescott College.

Orientation-Winter 2010

The cold. It crept through the moist wet sand across the banks of the Colorado. It left an icy crust upon the lips of my sleeping bag--my breath condensed and frozen from the night. A faint drizzle tapped against the nylon sheeting of the shelter with rhythmic drumming, dripping beads of water in a tight sphere around it. My eyes were crusty. My hair frazzled. My body lined with weathered thermal underwear and umber dust. I pulled back the flap of the tent to see the bleak sky that cut through the walls of The Mighty Grand Canyon--grey stratus clouds sewing their way through the chiseled valleys and crumbling towers--a mosaic of orange and red and maroon and green on an off-white canvas of foam. There was the feeling once more, brought on by a silence that placated the difficulty and the grandeur of the scene before me. I felt like Amundsen or Clark or some other long-forgotten explorer discovering the way into some different and distant inner world.

And that is, of course, what I came to do--become an adventurer, a wilderness leader, a mountaineer with dreams of the Karakorum and the Himalaya. It was a desire sewn into the arteries around my heart, tangled around my love of natural experiences, self-discovery, and the sheer mathematical beauty of a mountain’s absolute size. I wasn’t wrong to be daunted that morning beside the Colorado. In the cavities between the canyon’s towers stood Coronado Butte--a stratified precipice painted red like the rest--a high point adjacent to our exit trail on Horseshoe Mesa. A thick sheet of dense, pure white snow gently fell in small and delicate layers throughout the course of the day, staring down at us as the clouds and the snowline dropped lower and lower and lower until reaching the bottom of the canyon floor. The next morning there would be six feet of it. And two days later, when we ascended the Mesa to hike out for re-supply, we would have to dig and tunnel and fight our way out of the icy limbo for eight and a half hours.

But I knew this already. I knew the difficulty was always going to come. I knew it the moment I opened up the Prescott College catalog and decided to come to this school. I knew it when I meant my fellow students and the faculty during the first few days of Orientation. I knew it when I peeked my crusty eyes out of the tent flap that morning. This was a place that would challenge my inner most beliefs in myself. It was a place that would form me and change me and mold me into whomever I chose to be. It would ask me to prove myself and find myself time and time again. And it always reminded me that I was at Prescott College not just to get an education, but to gain an understanding about what I want my future to become, and what role I want to play in it.

~Daniel Roca, 02.17.2012

The Smell of the Sea. The Sound of a Sea Gull.

       After having a life changing, eye opening, transformative experience, it is incredibly hard to convey it to others. How do you express the feelings, the sounds, the colors in the sky in such a way that makes them understand how amazing it was? That is the trouble that I have when I try to talk about my recent January block experience. Sea Kayaking and Marine Natural History, which takes place in Mexico. It was an absolutely wonderful course that taught me how to observe my surroundings with a sense of new found clarity. I learned to appreciate the sounds of the brown-footed boobies, the smell of the sea, the touch of a sea urchin, the feeling of the west northwest wind on my face. There was a feeling of being present that I had never encountered before.This was my first Adventure Education course at Prescott College, my first outdoor-based class ever, besides orientation, my first science class since high school and my first time sea kayaking. I had the time of my life. Since my arrival at Prescott College three years ago, I have been told more times then I can count that before I graduated this was the one course I had to take. So, after I filled out my degree plan and realized that I had room to take it I jumped on the opportunity.

Pictures are worth a thousand words.
The first week of class we spent in Prescott preparing for the trip. The week was full of food planning, personal gear check outs, inspections of the group gear, discussing natural history and going over the logistics of the trip. At five in the morning the first Saturday of block we pulled out of the parking lot in our Prescott College vans, the trailers stacked with sea kayaks to begin our journey to Mexico. We spent around 10 hours in the van, sleeping, talking and sleeping. We arrived at the Kino Bay Station in the evening, with just enough time to run down to the beach and watch the sunset.

We spent the next day in town gathering the last of our food and filling up our 40 water droms. The next day we drove two hours south to our launch spot near St. Augustine. We camped there for two nights, and on the third morning, we left on our expedition.The next 2 weeks was a 50 nautical-mile adventure. On travel days, we woke up at 4:30 in the morning, and if the weather conditions were good, ate breakfast, packed our boats, and launched right as the sun was coming over the water. The magic of sunrises is so invigorating. We would paddle for 2 to 3 ½ hours on average to our next camp spot. The first morning of paddling a pod of dolphins swam right past us, hundreds of them in the water, jumping and splashing around. I knew at that moment that the trip was going to be unforgettable. The rest of our travel days, as well as our layover days, consisted of snorkeling, practicing kayaking skills, hiking, shell collecting, writing our natural history field journals, tide pool walking, observing, reflecting, reading about invertebrates, bony fishes and mammals, food making, sunset watching and fun having. We also had classes everyday about different topics such as the weather, tides, winds, and moon cycles.The last morning of the expedition, as I was packing my boat for the last time, and putting on my wet wetsuit for the last time, a wave of sadness washed over me. I realized that this was the end to one of the best things that had ever happened to me. One of the best experiences that I have ever had the opportunity of having was coming to an end.

Even while writing this, I am having such a difficult time articulating what I want to say. As I said in the beginning, how do you articulate so many laughs, emotions, and memories into a blog, or even into words? I am afraid that I did not do this course any of the justice it deserves. Nothing else I could write would paint a clear enough picture, so I will leave you all with this, it is my highest recommendation that all students, no matter what their major area of study, take Sea Kayaking and Marine Natural History before graduating Prescott College. I promise that you will not be disappointed, and will be able to see with your own eyes what I could not convey in words.

Cheers! Amanda Hampton, 02.2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

I Am a Dancer

When registering for classes during my first semester at Prescott College, I was overwhelmed by all the interesting classes available. I was particularly curious about the Beginning Dance and Improvisation course. I found myself torn because I loved to dance but was doubtful of the nature of an improvisation class and skeptical to enroll because dance has nothing to do with my major. Thankfully, I took my academic advisor’s advice and enrolled in the class anyways. I could not have made a better decision.
Performing "The Grid" exercise.  We could only move in right angles.

I cannot describe how much I learned throughout the course of dance class. Right from the beginning, my classmates and I were challenged to maintain a deep connection with our bodies. Every class brought on a new challenge whether it was learning to move around the room blindfolded, turning poetry into motion, or mirroring others in their dancing. It was incredible to see our individual movements come to life without being taught any techniques or choreography. We were discovering how to move for ourselves while dancing to our own unique rhythms. Every day I emerged from class feeling great both mentally and physically.

Dancing to live drumming at community lunch.  Everyone could join in!
One of the best feelings that resulted from taking Dance and Improvisation was realizing that I was utilizing principles from class in every day life. I found myself turning to dance as something therapeutic whenever I was stressed. I had less pains and aches because I was more in tune with my body and what I needed to do to better care for it. I had more confidence whenever the urge to dance would come over me and was no longer afraid to be the first person on the dance floor.

Doing a spiral dance in the town square during Halloween
Because dance class allowed for so much in depth discussion and sharing, my classmates and I developed a strong bond. It was very reassuring to be surrounded by people who fully supported one another. I never felt self-conscious dancing in front of my classmates and I was always encouraged to be authentic in my words and movements. As sad as it was to see the class come to an end, I am thankful that we all still keep in touch and continue to have epic dance sessions whenever the moment strikes.
An edit of us in a "Flocking" exercise
There are many things I hope will define me during my time here at Prescott College. For now, I can revel in the fact that amongst everything else, I am a dancer. I will always reflect back at my time in dance class and remember how it allowed me to feed my hunger for creativity, community, self-awareness, and expression. It is that same hunger which allows us to continually grow and evolve into the people we are meant to be. That is the gift that Prescott College gives and I am excited for all of you to take advantage of it.

The whole class after our final performance
~Renee Daniel, 02/2012