Category Archives: Academics

Teaching For America

This evening I attended a panel hosted by the Colby Club “Students For Education Reform” on Teach For America. The series of events that led up to my attendance was both somewhat convoluted and yet supposedly not too out of the ordinary.

I have always found the thought of teaching to be exciting. I love interacting with people, talking about the books I’m reading, or now with technology (it’s the future) podcasts and sharing exciting and interesting information. Over the years I have seen a few kids go into Teach For America, and everytime I hear they have chosen to do so, I think about how great it would be to do something impactful – teaching kids who may not have had the same opportunities I was lucky enough to be given.

Of course, at this juncture, every criticism of TFA can and will be launched. I am young, have not taught, am not an education major, and perhaps my neo-liberal outlook is an unacceptable forcing of some agenda or other. And perhaps these criticisms are fair, but over the past few weeks, I have had a chance to really learn about the program and to be honest, at the very least, there are passionate people who have seen a problem and are doing their very best with the data they have to solve the broken education system in our own backyard.

The panel this evening consisted of one former TFA teacher and current TFA employee, one former TFA student and future TFA teacher, and the girl who runs Students for Education Reform. There were some critical questions that dealt with the issues I just brought up above and the answers were well-rounded and of course stressed what TFA is and what TFA isn’t.

I personally can say that after hearing the questions, which concerned budgets, lack of experience, teacher turnover and the like that I will still be applying. With a big mission to improve education, TFA’s goal seems to be to make people interested in improving the lives of children and lifelong education, and that includes both lifelong teachers and yet many more people outside the classroom in policy, healthcare, nutrition and resources that also create a student education beyond just sitting in a class. There will always be critiques, but as perhaps a lone blogger voice, it appears TFA is aimed in the right direction.

About Jeb Waters

I'm a philosophy major and administrative science minor from Hancock, Maine. I play on the varsity lacrosse team, am the director of operations of the student-run investment fund Mayflower Hill Capital, and I run the school's satire paper. This summer, I worked in business development for my family's artisan jam company, Blueberet.
This entry was posted in Academics, After Colby. Bookmark the permalink.
Comments

Do I live in Bixler?

As I am planning to take Music as my minor, I enrolled in MU181 (Music Theory) and MU193, which is piano lesson. I also take Music and Gender as my first year Writing course. Therefore, literally from Monday to Friday I have class in Bixler haha!!!

Before I applied to Colby, I saw on the fiske guide that Colby’s music is pretty good. Indeed, the department is smaller than I thought, but the professors here are all great and passionate. Also, since the department is small, I get to know almost all the professors, not even mentioning I have just been here for 2 months haha (Oh, its exactly 2 months! I came here on Aug 22nd) time flies…..

The music department always offers me opportunities to learn and improve. I already had a performance class 3 weeks ago, and I will have a master class coming soon in 2 weeks. I also joined the jazz piano teaching session, and that was how I got into the jazz band as a pianist. I still couldn’t believe the fact that I just came here for 2 months.

Do I live in Bixler? Yes, I do. I am always in the piano rooms. There are 4 grand piano rooms for practising, and around 4-5 practise rooms with one to two upright pianos. Two upright pianos are for piano ensemble. I’m very looking forward to that as well!! Haha, so much fun~~

I hope that my 4 years in Colby can mold me into not only a knowledgable and astute student, but also a versatile student. That’s what liberal art college is about, right? :)

About Stephanie

I am a freshman at Colby College, originally from Hong Kong. For the last two years of high school, I studied at Li Po Chun United World College (LPCUWC). I am very interested in economics and economic policy. Presumably, it will be my major. Living in a business hub since I was born, I am always very curious about how international and local businesses find opportunities in a tiny city. Music is very important in my life, too. I have been playing piano since I was four and I also play the clarinet. I wish to learn Jazz piano at Colby and the professors here are amazing.
This entry was posted in Academics, Student Life. Bookmark the permalink.
Comments

Mid-term is over!!

Honestly, before coming to Colby, I thought that the academic life here would be quite chill especially for freshman. No, it’s not! Not that we have crazy amount of homework, not that we have tests after tests, but professors here do take academic seriously (I am very glad that I chose Colby!). Also, the students here are amazing as well, they PLAY HARD, STUDY HARD.

I had my music theory and Geology test last week. It was great!!! 100-level classes are relatively easy but you DO need to study for it. Paying attention in class and putting efforts in your homework are half the battle, you will automatically do well in your test. Apart from taking music theory and Geology, I also take Music and Gender (Writing course:W1) and Principle of Economics. The writing course is amazing and I love professor Zelensky so much!!! The points that she made in class are so provoking and we often have great discussion. She is very well-prepared and we are assigned to read certain articles and texts before class. Even though as an international student, my reading and writing speed is not as fast as local students which made my life in W1 harder, I would never regret taking this class. I learnt so many things and I am really looking forward to courses I have in the future.

The first mid-term is over, and we still have one more mid-term before we have the final exams. I like the fact that the mid-term is divided into two, because it helps us digest knowledge by not squeezing and cramping everything in 1 mid-term and 1 big exam. I love Colby so far, and the experience here has been great!

About Stephanie

I am a freshman at Colby College, originally from Hong Kong. For the last two years of high school, I studied at Li Po Chun United World College (LPCUWC). I am very interested in economics and economic policy. Presumably, it will be my major. Living in a business hub since I was born, I am always very curious about how international and local businesses find opportunities in a tiny city. Music is very important in my life, too. I have been playing piano since I was four and I also play the clarinet. I wish to learn Jazz piano at Colby and the professors here are amazing.
This entry was posted in Academics. Bookmark the permalink.
Comments

Fly Fishing

“My interests in fishing go back to a day fairly early in my youth, when I went out on a little trolling motorboat with my mother’s uncle. It was a cloudy, crisp Massachussets fall day and we hopped in the boat to putt-putt around a lake for a bit before dropping some lines.”

So begins my application for my final Jan Plan course. My freshman year, I played it safe and took Introduction to Financial Decision Making. My sophomore year, I knocked out a non-lab science requirement with Microbiology. The class was fascinating, but three three hour crash courses a week make it tough to truly absorb a lot of information. Junior year, I realized Jan Plan is about trying something outside the classroom, so I created an Independent Study in Yoga. I read three Indian philosophical texts, took pranayama courses (breath-control) and also did what we commonly think of as yoga, called asanas (the physical form of yoga).

Because of lacrosse, I decided to stay on campus and have the ability to take a class, train for lacrosse and ski whenever I’m free. But this year I’m switching things up a bit (hopefully). I am applying to go fly fishing. The course is an English class where we read literature by the likes of Hemingway and Thoreau, but the focus is on fly-fishing. In addition to some critical writing, we will learn how to cast, knot and tie flies, then take our skills out to California for a week. If I get in, I’ll definitely be sharing more about the journey come Jan Plan.

About Jeb Waters

I'm a philosophy major and administrative science minor from Hancock, Maine. I play on the varsity lacrosse team, am the director of operations of the student-run investment fund Mayflower Hill Capital, and I run the school's satire paper. This summer, I worked in business development for my family's artisan jam company, Blueberet.
This entry was posted in Academics. Bookmark the permalink.
Comments

The Olin Library

There is a place on the Colby college campus where time has no meaning. There are multiple exits, but only one entrance. And of those multiple exits, only one is reserved for non fire alarm exits. Entrance is exclusive and limited to those who are willing to make the journey.

Unless you major in the sciences there is no tangible reason to come to Olin. The stacks are filled with biology, chemistry, mathematics books and more. There are books full of data and research that some humanities majors would never dare to open including myself.

In fact there is no tangible reason that even upon entering Olin, you would even know where to find the room without any windows to the outdoor world. In so many other descriptive words: the basement. Four white walls enclose stacks and a few desks. There are windows to the hallway, but in my three years I have never once seen the shades that cover them roll up. There is a clock, but someone could change it and you would never know. Inside here, time is arbitrary, a made up human function to help us make and keep appointments. But in the Olin basement, time can go from morning to day to night and you would never know.

Venture forth if you dare. When you walk into the Olin library go to the right and stay along the wall. Wander down the stairs and enter. It’s a great little hidden gem of a library. And if you have an 8 page paper due tomorrow and can’t see anyone for fear of more procrastination the Olin basement is the best place to be.

About Jeb Waters

I'm a philosophy major and administrative science minor from Hancock, Maine. I play on the varsity lacrosse team, am the director of operations of the student-run investment fund Mayflower Hill Capital, and I run the school's satire paper. This summer, I worked in business development for my family's artisan jam company, Blueberet.
This entry was posted in Academics. Bookmark the permalink.
Comments

Why you should study Chemistry (even when you are terrible at it)

(P.S.: I know I promised a part 2 to the previous post but life happened.)

I am a Chemistry minor. (Cue dramatic gasps)

Chemistry is my kryptonite. I was never good at it, I never felt comfortable or confident working through the problem sets. Every time the exam time rolls around I have an impending feeling of doom, and I will inhale as much coffee as Elder Price in Kitguli (wink wink Book of Mormon wink musicals wink). There is something about the flowing arrows, the orbitals, the abstract structures on paper that are actually three dimensional that never clicked with me.

However, as a Pre-Health student I have to take Chemistry; I have to take not only Chemistry but also Organic Chemistry. I came out of those classes realizing how smart everyone seemed, and wondering if I was dropped as a child. However, with only one remaining class to fulfill a Chemistry minor, I decided to go for it. I bit my lower lip and closed my eyes as I chose CH431, Mechanistic Organic Chemistry, as my final science class of my undergraduate career.

I was ready for the worst. I mean, for someone who barely struggled through the normal organic chemistry classes, why should I expect to understand the sophisticated research done by the most renowned chemists around the world?

Here is the opening of a paper that we studied in class:

“Cyclobutadinene (CH)4, is the Mona Lisa of organic chemistry in its ability to elicit wonder, stimulate the imagination, and challenge interpretive instincts. No other organic compound combines such a fleeting existence and so many different synthesis, with such a propensity for different chemical reactions, and with the variety of calculations of its structure” (Cram, D.J.., Tammer, M.E., Thomas, R. (1991). The Taming of Cyclobutadiene. Angew. Chem. Int. Eng. 30(8): 1024-1027)

Look at the language. You can almost see him studying this unstable compound at a Sunday night, his window bearing the only dim light in the empty hallways. You can feel his sweat as he stared at the graphs from some machine under fluorescent light among test tubes, and see a roaring beast, a lion with a regal and golden mane to be admired, a wild horse to be tamed. You can hear his glee as he ran test after test and found a new frontier, and with chemicals as his machete, he chopped through tall trees of confusing signals from NMR readings until he found the treasure, the tiny peaks that characterize a tamed cyclobutadiene.

Organic Chemistry was hard for me because it is such a foreign language. As a high school student chemistry was straight forward and simplified, full of fill-in-the-blanks; as a college student, it is more about learning its grammar and trying to be creative with the material, having an eye to not let all the flowery pictures cloud you from the ideas. It is tough, at least for me. But hey, you never fail until you gave up.

But was it worth it? Yes, it was. To me learning chemistry was like learning art for some. I might never become a chemist, as many who major in art will never become an artist, but I acquire a taste for chemistry as people acquire an eye for artwork. When facing a masterpiece in my CH431 class, I can understand the intricate paintwork, the cleverness of the colors, the hidden motifs as Professor Das (CH431 instructor, funny and engaging professor, and one of the nicest person ever) take my hand and guide me. (Cue “A Whole New World” from Aladdin).

As someone who majored in Psychology, many a times I found myself confined into only one scope of knowledge, but Colby has always challenged me to look further. Through screenwriting classes, ocean biogeochemistry classes, classical music classes, I found myself enriched not only in a broad range of knowledge but an eye for things that connect to each other in the most unusual ways. The interconnections between differences were the basis of my application to the Watson fellowship, and even thought I did not get chosen, I planned a proposal that I am proud of, a proposal that studies how resilience can be built from so many interpretations of the same beliefs across the world from Bhutan to Ghana.

In CH431 we learnt about the argument between chemists bickering and defending their naming of a newly discovered molecule, and Professor Das told us that either of them could be right; this reminds me of the nature/ nuture arguments that eclipses every Psychology topic ever, and how it is only a matter of your perception as an informed scholar and how you contribute to the discussion. I see how researchers and experts from many disciplines are purely people who pour their love and soul into their work, much like you and me as we write a paper or engage in a class discussion. Ultimately knowledge is power, but more importantly, knowledge is passion. Discovering new territories is just the first step, what is more important is how you share this new world and what action you take.

I sit in my CH431 class like a child reading Harry Potter; even though I might be a muggle and a social science student, I can see the magic of Chocolate Frogs, of hemicarcerands, of the Nimbus 2000, of allenes and zwitterions, of Hogwarts, of Organic Chemistry.

So thank you, Professor Das; even though I will never be the model Chemistry student, you opened doors to a world that I thought I was not welcomed. Thank you, Colby, for giving me a liberal arts education that let me see the threads that holds the fruits of people in different disciplines together.

Study Chemistry, because why limit and underestimate yourself when the world of knowledge is for you to explore? Color outside the lines; color outside the paper!

 

This entry was posted in Academics. Bookmark the permalink.
Comments

Snowed In — Part 1: the adventures

Ah, snow.

When I am old and wrinkly, I will fondly remember Colby as the snow covered wonderland where students built snowman in JanPlan and little cardboard red hearts on Valentine. I will remember the warmth of hot chocolate on the Street, and tiny snowflakes that covered the roofs like powdered sugar on ginger bread houses. For now, I will struggle through the knee deep sludge to class while avoiding the icy slopes of death.

Colby is covered in snow around five months of the year. When spring rolls around, there will still be stubborn mounds of snow that has been seasoned to rock-hard ice bricks, refusing to melt away, as if judging your willingness to shed the large puffy coats and wearing sleeveless.

With snow comes lots of fun activities. I have heard tales of cross-country skiing (I have no clue what that is), sledding (it counts when I did it with lunch trays, right?), snow shoeing (that just sounds like what I do everyday to school, but made fancy), and (normal? regular?) skiing. Fun fact: I did skied once and it was amusing when you get the gist of it; when I was learning and skiing down the slope with the speed of a turtle fearing for a icy death, it was amusing to others. Especially the kids.

Being less of an outdoorsy person, I enjoy quieter, less deadly activities. I love going to Boston on the weekends to have hotpot in Chinatown with my friends; there is something soothing seeing beef and veggies and tofu and seafood bubbling in a delicious stew. Since it turns dark at around 5:00pm during the cold months, I usually could not fight the urge to curl up on my comfy chair (which I got in the Rescue Sale for $8) and read while nursing a hot cup of tea. Hot beverages are the God’s reward for freezing cold, so I indulge in hot chai, apple cider, coffee, tea, matcha latte, and everything else.

One of my favorite things to do is to take a hot mug of tea and walk to the bench in front of the Alumni Center in the middle of the night. Staring at the blue light of Miller reminds me of the beauty of Mayflower Hill, and memories over four years in Colby.

The second semester is always busy for me; I tend to overestimate my ability, or I like to think that  I am inherently a daredevil who loves a challenge. There are many sleepless nights, so perhaps my favorite winter moments are sitting in front of Runnals after a long night and watching the sky turns from Indian ink blue, to a rich royal purple, a fiery red, tangerine, and finally a crisp blue of a winter morning. The bird chimes and another Colby morning has broken, bringing another day of adventures.

 

 

This entry was posted in Academics, Extracurricular/Athletics, Student Life. Bookmark the permalink.
Comments

A House Divided

Often, these blog posts rant and rave about the various pluses, pros and benefits to all the aspects of my Colby life. But today, we need to take a step back and recognize a vital flaw in the system.

 

A flaw? An obtrusive crack? But where? Well. It’s right in front of you in the most central location of Colby College: Miller Library. A not so long time ago, during the spring 2013 exam season, a restructuring of sorts began. Drills began to roar and books were tossed about like notebooks after a final exam. The noise was about 7 decibles above white noise. This made studying without ear plugs and a pair of Dre Beats or Bose sound cancelling headphones playing classical music on top close to impossible. Plus, it was sunny outside. But I digress.

 

The problem was not so much that a renovation was in process, but that the acolytes of the basement library were to finish their spring exams and find themselves homeless the next time they wandered into Miller bleary eyed, none too worse for wear and tear. Homeless? But don’t the disciples of the underground section of Miller have homes in the Apartments, Hillside, AMS, off-campus? Yes. But what about their home away from home? Their second home per se. Destroyed. Annihilated.

 

This fall when they and I, in other words we, entered Miller library we were aghast. Not only had the first floor and second floor and third floor (all topics for three more blogs) been changed beyond recognition, but our cubicles and tables amongst the stacks of Hemingway and Faulkner and Government documents had been replaced by the Great Miller Basement wall. The message was clear: “Thou shalt not pass.”

 

I’m not sure if the message meant my classes or into the basement, but one by one we discovered we were now to be sent on a journey to find a new place to study. RIP.

About Jeb Waters

I'm a philosophy major and administrative science minor from Hancock, Maine. I play on the varsity lacrosse team, am the director of operations of the student-run investment fund Mayflower Hill Capital, and I run the school's satire paper. This summer, I worked in business development for my family's artisan jam company, Blueberet.
This entry was posted in Academics, Student Life. Bookmark the permalink.
Comments

Back To Reality

Oh there goes January. I can’t say I’m 100% ready to be jolted back to reality. Somehow Jan Plan goes by too quickly. But I guess all good things come to an end. So long to a schedule that repeats itself for 25 days straight something like this: Wake up, work out, eat lunch, do work, nap, play lacrosse, hang out with friends. At this point it’s pretty much a blur, but maybe it’s supposed to be.

 

A break from the winter doldrums, Jan Plan allows us to ease into the month of February with a glimmer of hope that spring is on the horizon of the horizon, or will be in a month or so. Hopefully. If this polar vortex keeps going it could be snowing until May. But I guess it could be 75 this coming week too. It’s a roller coaster.

 

But anyway, off with Jan Plan and on with the second semester. I may not be entirely ready, yet I honestly can’t complain because I get to start some pretty cool classes this spring. We start with some standards, but then to top it off we have a little Chinese Philosophy with Professor Jim Behuniak and what looks like a daunting but interesting Cormac McCarthy author course. (He wrote The Road and No Country For Old Men.)

 

Also, getting back to having a schedule is pretty nice. The high-flying life of total independence and all the free time in the world is actually kind of hectic in Jan Plan. It turns out, in life, that structure is a neat way to stay on top of things, keep organized and maintain a schedule to do your laundry and clean the kitchen.

 

It may be more work. Time management may be necessary too. But by the end of January, a return to normality is welcome and needed. And so next week, the second semester begins…

About Jeb Waters

I'm a philosophy major and administrative science minor from Hancock, Maine. I play on the varsity lacrosse team, am the director of operations of the student-run investment fund Mayflower Hill Capital, and I run the school's satire paper. This summer, I worked in business development for my family's artisan jam company, Blueberet.
This entry was posted in Academics. Bookmark the permalink.
Comments

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Yes, I’m aware Christmas has passed. And we’re not even at Colby for the holiday season, so what’s the most wonderful time of the year here? Jan Plan. Of course there is skiing, although it’s been too warm and all my friends are back in town, but that is happening at any liberal arts school in New England. What isn’t happening is the opportunity to take one class for one month that is usually pretty unique.

Last year, I took the Human-Microbe connection. I learned some neat facts about biology, what occurs in all the fermented food I eat and got my non-lab science class out of the way in just 12 sessions. Granted they were three hours a pop, but who’s counting?

This year, I decided to make my own independent study though. Following in line of my philosophy major, I decided to do an Independent Study in Yogic Philosophy. I have an advisor, a few texts to read and practice asanas and pranayama most days of the week. Asanas are the actual physical exercise part of yoga. Pranayama in layman’s terms is the control and use of breath.

This particular study is two credits. For three credits I would have had to write a 20-page research paper. For one credit, I would have had to write a short response. Two credits means two five page papers. Not bad.

I get to read two texts: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and The Bhagavad Gita, both interesting philosophy from a viewpoint I have not yet encountered in my Philosophy major.

Having an independent study is great not just for the fact that I get to essentially create my own course, but because I am in preseason for lacrosse. Since it’s an independent study, I don’t have class, so I have to self-direct and manage my own time, which is vital for in season. And, I can plan my work around all my lacrosse workouts I have this time of year.

My only regret is not having done an independent study sooner.

About Jeb Waters

I'm a philosophy major and administrative science minor from Hancock, Maine. I play on the varsity lacrosse team, am the director of operations of the student-run investment fund Mayflower Hill Capital, and I run the school's satire paper. This summer, I worked in business development for my family's artisan jam company, Blueberet.
This entry was posted in Academics. Bookmark the permalink.
Comments