Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What I Learned: Part 5

This blog post is the fifth in a series where I go through my college transcripts, class-by-class, to determine what exactly it was that I spent six years learning. Come with me on this magical journey that might lead me to the promised land of employment and the American dream! (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.)

Fall 2005 & Spring and Summer 2006
After a short break from this series to cover some college football, I'm back at it! There's plenty public relations, media, sports and other coverage you're used to seeing coming back to the blog soon enough, but for now I'm sticking to how I got to all of that — college. What did each class teach me, exactly? Be sure to click the links above to check out parts one through four for the story so far. Now, we'll continue with my junior year!

BSC 104 — Introduction to Biology
This class was a two-parter in a way. It went on my transcript as one four-hour-long course, though in reality it was a three-hour large lecture and a one-hour lab. The lecture portion was ridiculously easy because whenever someone would get a question wrong on one of the exams, the professor would give in if the person argued some vague technicality and give everyone credit for the question. This resulted in what I'm sure were plenty of A grades. The lab portion comprised using outdated equipment to look at amoebas and other mindless tasks. I would later see the TA I had for the lab almost get arrested while participating in a Wiccan ritual.

ENG 480 — Comics as Literature
I can't say enough good things about this class or the professor who taught it. I took this class because English courses were always easy for me, I needed an elective, I liked comics, and I expected an English elective comics class to be particularly easy for a 400-level class. I found myself quite surprised, as we read a large amount of graphic novels in the class during the short period of a semester, writing reaction papers and such to go with each. Each class member chose a comic outside of the assigned readings about which to do a presentation, which was very interesting. We read the most culturally relevant and well-known graphic novels, such as The Watchmen and Maus, for example. The in-class discussions were full of thought-provoking debates, nerdology and actual learning using a medium that we all loved.

JMC 301 — News Reporting II
This may have been the most useful, true-to-life class I had during my six years of college education. This was a tough, time-consuming class. I know people who have taken it three times to pass or switched majors so as not to have to take it. The journalism school intertwined this class to make the students the reporters for the actual school newspaper. The result was a real newsroom environment, complete with fussy editors, deadlines and consequences for not adhering to things such as AP style. It was here that I enriched my writing and deadline-meeting skills as never before, and I became a better, more-confident interviewer.

RST 321 — The Protestant Faith
I was raised Baptist, one of many Protestant Christian denominations, so I decided to take this class to fulfill my religious studies requirement (which could have also been filled with philosophy or the classics). I learned a lot about other denominations to which I hadn't really been previously exposed, and I enjoyed this class except for the zealots who refused to take it as a class and not a podium from which to force their own beliefs on classmates. Fun fact: My professor in this class looked like evil Santa Claus.

SPN 101 — Introductory Spanish
Considering my high school Spanish classes consisted of eating Mexican food and watching videos in Spanish because they ran out of Spanish teachers and stuck me with the French etacher, this was basically my first real exposure to formal foreign language learning. Luckily, I had a nice elderly Brazilian woman as my professor who was understanding but able to convey the concepts behind the language.

CJ 200 — Introduction to Criminal Justice
This class was a requirement for all of the journalism students, and we usually came out of it with better grades than the criminal justice majors. After all, it's a repeat of stuff you should already know by the time you are in college.

ISC 283 — Transportation & Environment
Marshall required all students to take an integrated science course as part of its "Marshall Plan," which really just seemed like a way to add unnecessary requirements that force students to pay tuition for more semesters. As it turned out, this class had very little to do with transportation or the environment, at least in the sense you probably think about the words. Our two projects consisted of (1) finding sediment ponds and walls and documenting them with GPS and reporting back to our professor of what type they were (why we did this I still am unsure) and (2) digging through hundreds of shells and classifying what type of mollusks they were and putting them into groups for hours on end (I can only guess this was a sick joke the professor liked to play).

JMC 241 — Graphics of Communication
This was another highly useful, practical class — the type I wish I would've had in graduate school as opposed to useless theories only known to the people who invented them and those with enough time to waste studying them. It was here that I learned to use Photoshop and InDesign particularly well while having fun designing different activities, all culminating with a fictional movie poster design.

JMC 402 — Law of Mass Communication
I had the greatest professor for this class. We memorized about a gazillion court cases and FCC laws and such, but he made it fun, and he made us understand why we as journalists needed to know the law in order to keep ourselves out of trouble.

PSC 406 — International Politics
Being only a political science minor and not a major, this course started out a little bit over my head. However, as the semester went on, all of the various political theories began to make sense, and the professor's real-life examples (including many jokes about Canada) were compelling and fun. I didn't learn much here that would be useful in the real world, but this early introduction to complex theoretical concepts and the analytical papers we wrote about them was a good prep for grad school.

SPN 102 — Introductory Spanish II
My way-too-skinny, smokes-way-too-much Spanish professor was barely understandable in English, and she rarely spoke English, even from day one. This was a tough class, but many extra hours of studying got me through it. I learned to use context clues in Spanish very well.

JMC 404 — History of American Journalism and Mass Communications
You might remember me writing about professor creeptastic in one of the previous posts. Well, I had him again for this summer class, and because it was a summer class, I had to see him every day. Luckily, I had some great classmates with which to study in the evenings, and the course material was pretty interesting to me as an up-and-coming journalist.

SPN 203 — Intermediate Spanish III
My Texan professor was highly energetic and actually taught in English and then repeated everything she said several times in Spanish, which I found to be a very helpful learning tool. She assigned a lot of homework, and we had daily quizzes (again, a summer course). I never did quite get down conjugating verbs very well, but I was able to spend the evenings memorizing each tense for the next day's quiz. I did well enough on those quizzes that I still pulled off the A even though I had to do all of the tenses at once on the final exam, which didn't work out so well.

PSC 431 — Politics of Global Terrorism
This course blew my mind. I have never thought about terrorism and terrorists quite the same way since. The exams here were pretty rough, as they were hours-long Blue Book types, like I would later experience at an even higher level in grad school. There was too much information in one semester (we covered basically every terrorist group in history) to really learn any of it, so I did a lot of memorization. I still have the basics in my head, though, and this is the kind of course (and professor) you wish you could take more than once.

SPN 204 — Intermediate Spanish IV
Ah, my final Spanish class and what would be my final summer course ever. Even stranger, this was an online course. That's right, a language course online. Basically though, there is little speaking involved and more reading and translating by the time you reach the fourth Spanish class, considering you should already be decent at the speaking part. I used online translators a whole lot, which worked well enough to get by. One of the neat things about this class was the professor assigned us a lot of online Spanish media to consume, which was fun and a great way to get hands-on learning before exams.

I think this time period during my college education gave me three important things:
  1. Practical, hands-on experience with specific skills and a realization that these are the most valuable courses one can take.
  2. Experience with theoretical concepts, research and graduate school-type exams and reading loads.
  3. Important exposure to a foreign language that is growing at exponential rates.

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