As a student ambassador, I’ve been asked to introduce myself to you fine blog-readers. My name is Jo Becker, and I’m a first-year. Some general interests of mine include philanthropy, literature, art, feminism, French, philosophy, astronomy, nature, poetry, crocheting, lucid dreaming, exploring, yoga, radio, and crusading for bare feet.
This is our last week of classes before writing week, but I knew by the end of orientation how incredible Shimer is. I’ve met so many interesting, brilliant, and kind-hearted students and facilitators. I know that I’m feeling nothing but love and gratitude for humanity when I start to tear up in the middle of a conversation, and I can't count the number of times this has happened.
One of the times was with another student ambassador (Sam Klein) when he was describing a short story of his: in it, he runs into God on the street, but instead of the typical image of God being a Zeus-like father figure or a vague bright light, he is a child--a very small, black child, as Sam described, who is lost and crying. He cries and cries, and Sam keeps asking him where he’s going, if he needs help, if he’s lost; finally, he just looks at him and says, “Well, aren’t you?” This just struck me as one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard.
And that’s just one example of many. A community of people learning and living together means I get to see the best of them. I’ve met a naval officer, a volunteer in Haiti, a 19-year-old classical composer, someone who lived in Cuba, someone who plans to be a Mormon missionary, freight train-hoppers... really truly fascinating people who I am privileged and humbled to talk with.
I’ve had my eyes opened already to everything from pansexuality/polyamory to why someone would willingly start smoking to Sufi mysticism to how Lady Gaga’s attempts to recognize high art in low art’s form reinforce a culture of post-modern non-art. Two of the best surprises I’ve experienced so far are:
a) playing Dungeons and Dragons (a lifelong dream), and
b) discovering that the motto of Shimer is "to serve rather than be served."
Looking back, I really shouldn’t have been surprised by the latter, partly because I probably should have known what the motto was before coming here, but mostly because Shimer is an institution with ideals.
I was afraid before coming that pursuing higher education was a selfish goal, but now, from experiencing my life here and also experiencing the very relevant texts (see: Carol Gilligan's In a Different Voice, a favorite among Shimer students) we've been reading, I've really come to see that you can better improve the world once you improve yourself.
In high school, I failed to motivate myself; I could never really see the point. Now I understand it was the process and purpose that I didn't believe in, not the material. Here, having to take an active role in classes empowers (forces) you to accept an active role in the world at large; being on the same egalitarian level with everyone else (including the facilitators) forces you to step down from whatever self-constructed ivory tower you may have placed yourself in.
This is why I’m thrilled to be here! I’ve been told time and again that Shimer is what you make of it. It’s also what we 130-something students and faculty make of it, and gosh dangit if we don’t form the best school I’ve ever known.