Less than two weeks from today, I’ll have a diploma in my hand.
This semester has been filled with exit surveys, departmental reflections, and senior questionnaires. At first, the exercises agitated me and made me anxious about life after graduation, but after thoughtfully working through so many similar surveys, I found that they really helped me articulate my experience at Notre Dame. The University’s official senior survey was a revealing indication of Notre Dame’s priorities and goals for its students. This place hopes to turn out smart, moral, well-adjusted people who can think for themselves and make choices that will benefit others.
(I think my understanding aligns fairly well with the Notre Dame Mission Statement)
This time of year, there’s a lot of talk amongst graduating seniors about post-college plans. I feel lucky to have had my situation figured out for quite some time now. Since Mendoza College of Business has been ranked the #1 undergraduate business school in the country for three years running now, enrollment in the College of Arts & Letters is dropping. I think it takes a lot of courage to study something that may not directly translate to a specific career, especially in the current economic climate. Accounting majors become accountants, education majors become teachers, architecture majors become architects, and so forth. While some American Studies majors become scholars, most don’t, and the prospect of looking for a job without the advantage of directly applicable hard skills (like computer programming) can seem downright terrifying. It shouldn’t be this way.
After four years at Notre Dame, it’s clear to me that liberal arts programs produce the best learners and the most adaptable thinkers. I hope that as the economy strengthens, students become less focused on their immediate job prospects after graduation and more intent on pursuing academically rigorous and personally enriching courses of study in the undergraduate setting.
I’m feeling excited, nostalgic, grateful, and a little bit sad. With just one paper left to write, my academic career is coming to a close. I attended my last college class last week. Finishing my thesis was a huge milestone. I had six copies of the 89-page document printed and bound. After working on the project for nearly sixteen months, I didn’t feel the sense of relief that I thought I would when I turned it in. “Making Race on the Frontier: Disney’s West in Los Angeles and Paris” is a good paper (I got an A), but I’m proud of it less for the content than I am for the fact that I actually completed it! My thesis isn’t going to change the world – or the way that Disney presents race in the frontier context at its international theme parks. My thesis is probably just going to sit on a shelf in my parents’ house for the next few years. In the end, I’m just happy that I never found my topic boring and that, after spending so much time writing about Disney, I didn’t ruin the magic.
I update this blog far less frequently than I’d like, but since this has been my last semester at Notre Dame, I’ve been spending most of my time learning and doing college-y things while I still can. On May 20th, when the clock strikes midnight and I turn into a pumpkin or an adult or something, I want to be sure that I’ve had a really great experience in college. And I have! But that May 20th deadline is looming, and it’s a little scary. The “last lasts” have already started – the last class, the closing dorm Mass, the celebratory dinner, the final final. So much of life, for me and my peers, has been focused on getting to college and then making the most of the time we have here. After this, there’s a lot of uncertainty — unsettledness, if you will. So I’ll be back, unsettled as ever, in just a little while.