What brought you to Shimer?
As with most other Shimerians, my "how-I came-to-Shimer" story is kind of long, so I'll do my best to summarize. During high school, I visited Shimer and loved it immediately. I just wasn't sure if taking out student loans was really up my alley, so I gave up on the idea of college and graduated high school without any plans for higher education. The following fall, I took a solo cross-country roadtrip. When I returned home, completely broke and in need of finding a way to maintain my health insurance, I decided to temporarily slip on my home-state's school colors until I figured out a long-term plan. Basically, a small rant here about state schools' large class sizes, numerous apathetic students, and a general feeling of I-just-don't-belong-here sums up my experience there. After a rather tumultuous first semester of being a Hawkeye, I emailed Cassie and asked if I could make Shimer my new home.
After my Big Ten experience, Shimer appealed to me for a couple of reasons: First, I remembered Shimer as a place filled with interesting and, more importantly, interested students and facilitators. I wanted to be around a group of people who brought a genuine inquisitive attitude to both their coursework and their personal lives. Second, I wanted to be part of a small community. I had had enough of the triple digit attendance in lectures and knew that switching to a triple digit student body size was what I really needed.
What's your major?
Depending on how my elective credits pan out, I will probably major in either Humanities or Liberal Studies and, honest to goodness, I don't know what I'll do with my diploma. Currently, I'm interested in working in the non-profit sector when I graduate. That said, I think it might be a while before I can sustain myself (and pay off my student loans) on the salaries most of those jobs offer, so I'm considering other options as well. I'm currently researching continuing education courses in midwifery and dietetics, but I also have a floating interest in being a forest firefighter for a summer, joining the peace corps, or managing a hostel at home or abroad.
Frankly, I didn't come to Shimer to obtain a job-oriented degree. There are plenty of other schools that do that, but I came here because I believe Shimer offers a truly useful education in the widest sense. Although I don't really think Shimer has trained me for a specific job, I think it has helped me develop an adaptability that will be useful in whatever field I choose to work.
Thus far what have your favorite and least favorite texts been?
My favorite and least favorite text are one and the same: The Social Construction of Reality by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann. We read this in my Social Sciences 4 class. The title of the book pretty much explains why it's such an awesome read. I mean 'awesome' in the literal sense here. It awed me because the authors eloquently structured the thoughts that had been swimming around my head during that semester. Basically, it put every text, every event, and every interaction into perspective - the social perspective that nothing really escapes. So it gave me a whole new way to look at everything which is both wonderful and depressing. Basically, since reading this book I have had a really hard time putting anything into concrete categories. This has made it easier to see multiple perspectives of any given situation which helps me approach things from multiple angles, often simultaneously. However, it's not much fun to be good at seeing these multiple perspectives if no one else sees them. At Shimer, that's not a problem, but I've found that it can be harder to interact with people who see things only in black and white.
How about favorite and least favorite courses?
Bioethics, an elective taught by Jim Ulrich, was my favorite course because it really showed the interrelatedness of everything we study here. During the course, we read the gamut of texts: everything from dense philosophy to medical and environmental case-studies to a play by Jacob Bronowski that connected science with human values. As with all classes, the readings were great, but it was really the excellence of the class participation that made this particular course so wonderful and educational.
My least favorite course... My least favorite? Uh, none comes to mind. I guess Humanities 2 was a slightly unexceptional class. I am an avid reader of poetry, literature, and plays - in fact, before coming to Shimer I read almost nothing else - so it wasn't the subject matter that was off, but this class lacked some of the oomph and verve of the other courses I've taken.
What would you say are the pros and cons of Shimer outside the classroom?
One of the biggest pros about Shimer, both inside and outside the classroom, is that everyone is so darn curious. It can be great, but sometimes the high level of curiosity carries over into the after-school hours and it can take a sharp turn into scrutinous nitpicking which, however well-intended, can drive a person (i.e. me) crazy. It's especially bad because friends and fellow students aren't the worst culprit - I am. My own constant questioning, questioning, questioning frequently sends me into a tizzy.
Hands-down, the biggest con for me is the cost. Still, I wouldn't be here if I didn't think it was worth the money.