Today I received my grades for my first semester back at the University of Kansas. I logged an A in Politics, A in Geology, B in Religion and C+ in Fiction. This semester was crucial because I am on financial aid probation. I wasn’t always as driven toward completion as I am now, and I’ve been in and out of college classes since 1993, so I have a complicated transcript that KU was initially skeptical of when I applied for readmission. If I was going to receive student loans I was going to have to prove that I would be making process toward a degree. So this past semester I was tasked with making nothing less than a C in any one course and nothing less than a 2.0 average for the semester. This also applies toward this coming semester.
I chose Geology for my last science class because the course was titled “History of the Earth”. I figured that since I like history that this was as good of a course as any to take, since it fulfilled a requirement. That was last spring, before I had taken my last science class to graduate from Johnson County Community College with my A.A. Over the summer I took Astronomy, and it turns out that I enjoy Physics a great deal. I didn’t expect that, but I deemed it was too much trouble to change my KU schedule at that point. Geology wasn’t as cool as Astronomy, but there was a lot of interesting stuff and I don’t regret taking the course at all. Professor Möller kept the lectures interesting and was a personable teacher. I particularly enjoyed learning about the strange forms of life of the Cambrian period, bizarre, Cthulhu like horror-show critters like the anamolocarids. I recommend both this instructor and this course.
Politics is something I’m interested in, but I’m not like some of the people in the campus political organizations that think of themselves as “political junkies”. It’s more of a detached interest to me, because I really and truly don’t like debating or arguing about politics. I have opinions, like anybody, but I don’t get my thrills inflicting them on other people. I took this course primarily because I had taken it back in 2001 and sort of stopped going to it. I needed to retake to replace the bad grade I got, otherwise I may not have taken it. But I’m glad I did, because this was a very enjoyable class. It ignited enough interest in me that I considered changing my major to Political Science, but at this point in the game that’s just not a practical option. My professor was Erik Herron, who specializes in former Soviet states. He had some interesting stories of visiting the Warsaw Pact countries during the late ’80s and early ’90s. I recommend both this course and this professor.
Living Religions of the East ran neck and neck with Introduction to Politics for the class I most looked forward to. Unlike politics, I do consider myself a “religion/philosophy junkie”. I am fascinated by different belief systems, especially at the everyday folk level. Having taken Eastern Civilization before taking this course, about two-thirds of the material was more or less review. The difference was after that two-thirds of background material was the “living” part of the course. Instead of focusing on ancient texts and how the philosophies guided their history, we learned about how people right here right now believed and practiced, also learning about a couple religions that emerged in the modern period that were never touched on in Civ class. Professor Minor is a well practiced lecturer who controls his classroom well and makes the material interesting. He occasionally chases interesting tangents but always makes clear what is important for the test. His format is to put each belief system into a format that fits four points which I will not detail here, but turned out to be an effective tool for thinking about religion. Unfortunately for students of religion at KU, Professor Minor is retiring after this academic year. So if you’re not enrolled in his class for the Spring 2010 semester, you’re going to miss a great teacher.
This here is William Faulkner, who wrote one of the books I had to read for Introduction to Fiction. If I had to name a class I enjoyed least it would be this one. That may be strange considering I am an English major who loves to read, but I feel that I didn’t really learn anything in this class. We read books, discussed them in class and wrote papers on them, but I just couldn’t muster much or at times any interest. It would have been better to name this class “Depictions of Minority Identity and Race in the Literature of Tedious American Authors”. Outside of that theme, which is a very old hat, the class didn’t seem to have much focus. The most frustrating part for me was the lack of direction. I wrote papers without satisfying direction and received grades without satisfying critique, and as a result came out the other end of this class with only the vaguest idea of what the instructor really wanted from a paper. The peer review process was useless in this class, with the comments of the other students having little to no relation to what the instructor apparently expected from any given paper. The majority of the other students expressed the same frustrations with the class when we discussed it as a group on the last day, and there was universal relief that the semester was over.
It was with much relief and joy that I viewed my final grades this afternoon. It can now be a Glad Yule indeed! No better gift could I have given myself this year than continued success. Next semester my schedule picks up the pace, with fifteen credit hours instead of twelve. At JCCC I had got used to taking fewer classes, but through Rumbach sensei’s Japanese courses and Professor Carpenter’s Algebra courses actually learned how to study hard and work for a good grade. Before I just sort of kicked through a class and got whatever grade came, and that worked in lower levels. It is apparent to me that I am going to have to put much more effort into school if I want to get more out of it. My GPA is now listed at KU as 3.37, which means that my goals of study abroad and applying for law school are now within reasonable reach. I have to keep it up, and look forward to the challenge!