How YOUR core class might change your life: A Personal Story

My first class essay contest piece
There's something awesome about seeing your name in print for the first time. When my Alice Paul paper became a contest winner, I thought this writing thing might work out.

There’s a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that goes “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Sometimes I feel like that describes how my Duquesne life could have gone but didn’t. I started out in physical therapy.  I am now a psychology major more interested in healing minds than cracked femurs. What happened? It’s a long story that involves a core class and female empowerment and a really awesome professor. Brace yourself. 😛

I had Thinking and Writing class freshman year, back when I was a physical therapy major. It was pretty close to the Stone Age. Even then, people complained about core classes. I’m sure you wouldn’t be one of those people, but I was. I couldn’t really see the point in learning things I’d learned in high school, again, and in more detail. I wanted to go to a class that would get me working sooner.

To top it all off, Thinking and Writing was a night class. While everyone else was off snoozing, responsibly hitting the gym or elegantly sipping coffee, I was studying.

You might expect me to get a little maudlin right about here. But I have to tell you that that was my favorite class. Ever.  It’s true that I’ve had a lot of classes since then that have let me do all sorts of fun things, like seeing the most amazing Doritos commercial of all time (Brain, Behavior and Cognition), diagnosing and presenting on Iron Man/Tony Stark’s PTSD and presenting on it (Psych Disorders), and doing live therapy in front of a class of my peers (Psych as a Human Science). But I never would have taken any of these classes if it hadn’t been for that Thinking and Writing class.

My professor, Jon Manning
My former instructor, Jonathan Manning graciously poses for a picture. He's great, so if you see him, say "Hi! You're internet famous!"

There were only about eight of us in class. Our professor was a chill lanky guy who played just about a million instruments, occasionally chewed on toothpicks and seemed to have walked out of an outdoor scene in a Mark Twain novel. He sat in a square with us and we talked about pretty much everything. Class was like a conversation and I talked more than I ever had. Class topics took on life because of the people that had lived through them. As I did research for one of my papers, Alice Paul became more than the women’s rights figure, she was a woman who struggled with the world around her.

When the end of the semester came, the thought of my next writing class being a year away actually hurt. I began to think about what I wanted to do with my college career instead of that I thought that I had to. Ever since I’d been about four I’d carried around a notebook and sparkly pens to write notes on the world around me, how people behaved, the things I thought about, what that meant. I realized how much I wanted to do more of that.

After a couple of talks with my professor and a semester of deliberations, I ended up deciding to transfer into psychology. Since then my life has been full of papers and analyzing every little thing I’ve come across. I haven’t regretted a minute of it, not even during paper week!

So what are the spark notes to this, really? First of all, core classes aren’t actually that awful, especially when you find professors who care. Second, nothing is set in stone, even here, in college.  Whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior—every class, every professor, and every classmate can nudge you in a direction you wouldn’t have thought of before.


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