My name is James and I'm a second year Shimer student originally from Minnesota. I'm writing for this blog 1) because I love Shimer and want everyone who reads this blog to know why 2) I love writing and have a special affinity for blogging.
My journey to Shimer started when I was attending Normandale Community College. I want to be clear that just because I may express negative opinions of the intistution, that does not mean it is a bad place; Normandale has been the stepping stone for success for a lot of people. I am not one of those people. For me, Normandale did not engage my intellect, did not entice me to learn more, and did not make me feel like a valued member of the academic community. I went to Normandale because I realized that my dreams to serve in the military were unrealistic. Community college was one of the few places that would accept my mediocre high school GPA and Normandale had a program that allowed me guaranteed acceptance into the University of Minnesota. Unfortunately, I began to feel disillusionment and discontent with the community college life. I found myself spending more time talking with fellow smokers on the benches outside than on my studying. I could do some fingerpointing, but really I gave up on Normandale. I left with a GPA of 0.8 and the school warned me that I was dangerously close to being prohibited from returning. I decided to continue my career as a professional stage actor and lyceum speaker, but all the while I was secretly wishing I could find a place to go to college.
Out of the blue one beautiful Summer afternoon my mom comes home from work and hands me a printed portion of an e-mail she recieved from a college. The brochure had taglines the likes of which would have you believe Hutchins had somehow come back from the dead to start a school. I kind of dismissed it at first, thinking that school like this couldn't possibly exist. There's no such thing as a college that teaches from the Great Books and employs the Socratic method of dialogue as their modus operandi for class. There's just no way that such an institution could exist. It would be have to be a very small school and not likely to accept a failure like me.
But if, was the lurking thought in the back of my mind, if such a school exists... If such a school exists then I should pursue it with ardent enthusiam. After a talk with the then-admissions counselor for my region, Amanda Cadogan, I knew this placed called Shimer College is worth looking into (is it pronounced shy-mur or shimmer? It's pronounced "shy-mur" in case you weren't sure). I visited in the month of October and instantly knew that it was Shimer or bust. My sample class facilitators were Jim Donovan and Harold Stone. Frankly, it wasn't those sample classes that did it for me, because there is only so much you can accomplish with such small portions of poetry discussed by a number of people with varying ranges of experience in discussion-based classes. The sample classes did show me that the principles of the Socratic method were there. This school was practicing what they preached.
Fast-forward to the present and I must say that I still consider myself so fortunate to have found Shimer College. Is Shimer perfect? No, there are plenty of little inconvenciences and inconsistencies that I could whine and complain about. If I could go to any other school without having to worry about the finances or acceptance requirements, would I? Absolutely not. What I have here at Shimer is more than just a place where I'm getting my education. Here I am learning how to be a better human, to participate more fully in the human experience. What I'm learning here has helped me become a better brother, son, friend, citizen, and man.
My professors (who we refer to as facilitators based on their function in class) care about my success. I have spent hours in Albert Fernandez's office talking about how to get the most out of my experience at Shimer, how to write papers with efficacy and clarity, and how to deal with my sleep disorder. Stuart Patterson challenges me to think in ways which I didn't know I could. Bev Thurber has sat down and helped me learn how to manage my time efficiently so that I am not trying to write a five page paper at four in the morning the day it's due. Jim Ulrich reinvigorated my love of chemistry and also pointed out areas where my understanding was lacking so that I could learn the concepts. B David Galt, our current Dean of Students, has been like a pillar of light and strength for me. Don't let his cheery personality fool you into thinking he's all play; he works hard to see the interests of the students represented in our community events and in our participation in events with Illinois Tech. I have to leave it at that because if I continue gushing about how great the faculty and staff are this blog entry will be a novel.
These next two years of my Shimer experience have lots of promise. I've already explained how my facilitators make life wonderful here, but I also have to give credit to my fellow classmates. They are just as much a part of my growth in all aspects of life as the staff and faculty.
Until next time,