Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Who You Know

Yesterday as I was perusing through the classes I will need to take next semester, I was dismayed to find out that out of a group of five classes in a certain section for my minor, three are not being offered next semester. I began to panic and double checked my information to make sure what I had found out was the truth and not just me fat-fingering the class schedule. Sure enough. Those three classes were not even on the radar for next semester.

I had a decision to make - panic or figure it out. After a few minutes of sheer panic and visions of having to take one class per semester for the next three years, I set about to find a solution. The group of classes were in a "global studies" section of classes needed for my minor. I need nine hours or three of the five classes in that section. I am already enrolled in one and will take another next semester. I just needed one more class in that section next semester.

I began to hunt for classes that were global studies related. I finally found a sociology class that I thought would fit the bill. I emailed my Geology prof (Dr. McKinney), who is also the head of the Environmental Studies program at UT, and explained the situation to him, offered him my alternative class and asked if I could petition the class next semester. He understood the classes were not being offered and said he would approve my class choice as well as my petition. Whew!

Now a little background: Last semester (spring 2009), I took a biodiversity class from Dr. McKinney. I loved the class and got a B in it. But the thing about the class was that it made a huge impact on my life. Dr. McKinney is the one who got me interested in Environmental History instead of just History or Geology alone. He knows he's had an influence on my life because I told him. Besides that, I am always in class and pepper Dr. Mick with questions. He knows who I am.

It pays to get to know your professors, especially if they are teaching or are in a subject you like, is your major, or that you are passionate about. Profs like seeing students get excited about what they are excited about.

I was talking to a Computer Science prof yesterday. He asked about my educational/career aspirations. When I explained the Environmental History thing to him - the History major with the Environmental Science minor - he looked rather befuddled. He asked, "Those two things don't normally go together, do they?" He's not the first one to ask that question. Most pure humanities or pure science people will question a History (humanities)/Environmental Science (science) combination. (I am well aware that Environmental History tries to be the bridge between two apparently opposing schools of thought - humanities and science) Dr. McKinney doesn't question my academic combination. He gets it. But in Connie's world, yes - those two disciplines mesh quite well together to form Environmental History.

I could speak again to the need for flexibility or offer encouragement once more to step out and take a risk, but most nontrads are aware of those concepts - flexibility and risk. The very category of "nontraditional student" implies one is familiar with flexibility and risk. However, Flexibility and her red-haired sister, Risk, are subjects for another post.

Get to know your profs. They are a wonderful resource! Stay tuned . . .

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