Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Illegitimate Child of the Graduate School

Orientation yesterday reinforced my belief that the history MA program is looked upon by Liberty as the illegitimate child of the graduate school. I've gotten that feeling in the past, mostly because the history MA program took three years longer to start than it was supposed to, and because it still is not listed on any of the graduate school paperwork (I even had to write it in on my application). History was also not listed on the writing assessment that I took earlier this week. At orientation, every program in the graduate school was mentioned and praised/joked about. . . except for history, which never seemed to come up during the two hours of multiple speakers. I know it's a small program still, and not a big money-maker like counseling, business, or seminary, but honestly, the poor little history program is nothing to be ashamed of!

Graduate orientation was required for all incoming students. Naturally, they scheduled it for 8:00 in the morning (they were kind enough to provide coffee and breakfast, though of course I could not eat any of it owing to my special dietary restrictions). In Liberty-land, that means that if you want to park your car anywhere within sight of the building, you need to get there about 20 minutes to half an hour earlier than the start of the event. I have found that I am emphatically un-charming prior to 9:00 in the morning, so I did not anticipate making a good first impression on the other incoming history students. I really needn't have worried, as you shall soon see.

After the many speakers had filled us in on the latest developments at Liberty, some of which are pretty exciting, and after giving us a great deal of information about the special help available to graduate students (such as the graduate writing center), AND extolling us to set a good example for the little undergraduates, we were dismissed to our break-out sessions. At the break-out sessions, we were to meet with the other incoming students in our programs. Naturally, the largest exodus out of the room was the group going into counseling (seminary has even more incoming students, of course, but they were being kept in the same room we had been in). Then I saw Dr. Smith, one of the heads of the history graduate program, and ran over to him, looking forward to meeting the other incoming students in my program. . .

I am the ONLY incoming student in Liberty's history MA program this semester! So much for my concern over making a good first impression! Dr. Smith chuckled and told me that instead of meeting in the assigned room, we would just meet in his office. So, I got a much more personalized orientation than any of the other incoming graduate students. Dr. Smith and I went over my graduation plan and discussed my options (thesis vs. non-thesis track). I decided that I would like to go the thesis route, since I may want to get my doctorate someday. After that, I met Dr. Mann, the one prof I'm taking this semester whom I hadn't already met (he seems very nice) and then headed over to Dr. Saxon's office, where we had one of our very long and enjoyable history talks.

Although I still say it was unkind to schedule anything for that early in the morning (after all, all of the graduate courses are held in the afternoons and evenings), orientation reinforced the biggest reason that I chose to go back to Liberty rather than to a different school. I don't think there is any other university of that size, with that amount of available resources, where a student can expect such individualized treatment from his or her professors. I know every single professor in that history department, and am always greeted warmly whenever I stop by any of their offices. I can go in and just talk history with any of them, or I can ask for, and receive, advice or counseling from them. The three history profs that I'm taking this semester will likely kill me with the amount of reading that they have assigned, but they'll sure be nice to me while they're doing it!

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"