2012 Symposium Spotlights Oglethorpe Students’ Academic Accomplishments

On Tuesday, the OU community gathered  for the 2012 Liberal Arts and Sciences Symposium to celebrate the academic achievements of our students. The annual event provides OU students with a platform to present their own work—and fellow students, faculty, parents, and staff take the opportunity to learn more about the various topics, support the presenters, and engage in passionate discussions. Nearly 200 students presented during more than 30 sessions about topics drawn from a wide variety of disciplines.

We asked students Joscelyn Stein, Dayana Diaz, and Weston Manders to give us their thoughts about the Symposium:

This year’s topics ranged from “The Homeric Hero: What Winston Churchill and Odysseus have in common…or not” to “Mosquito in the Room: America’s Cuban Obsession and the Need for a New Era of Cuban-American Relations,” to “The Evolution of Fairies in Literature: From Oral Folk Tales to Peter Pan” and “The Benefits of Cooperative Interspecies Evolution: Why Would you have a Dog?”

A new addition to the day-long event was StoryCore, where students from the OU radio station video recorded students and faculty sharing “OUr Core moments,” reflections on the Core Curriculum. Oglethorpe’s Core Program helps shape our academic community and is regularly the focus of shared stories. Many of us have our “Core moments”—when something we encounter reminds us of something we learned in a Core course, when ideas are suddenly are connected. The collection of 90-second videos will be posted on the StoryCore page over the next few weeks. Here’s the first StoryCore video in the series, by Chelsea Reed ’13, a Communications and Rhetoric major.

Also new to the Symposium this year was an “Homage To OUr CORE in Poetry and Creative Verse.” The poetry slam/creative word jam took place in the Lupton Auditorium and gave a stage to students and faculty to share their poetry, spoken word and freestyle compositions, penned in honor of our Core Curriculum. The friendly competition chose winners in a few categories:

Judges’ Choice: Kaci Palmore
Most Creative: Chou Thao
Connection to Core: Will Carter

The day-long celebration of student achievements ended in the Conant Performing Arts Center with the annual Honors and Awards Convocation, which recognized individuals who had excelled during the academic year. Congratulations to all of the honorees!

View photos from the 2012 Liberal Arts & Sciences Symposium!

OU Student Government President Explores American-Israeli Relations at D.C. Meeting

Joscelyn meets a fellow student government president.

In early March I had the honor of being invited to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Policy Conference 2012.  The Policy Conference is held each year to educate men and women from around the country about the importance of a strong Israeli-American relationship.  The conference is three days of big speeches, breakout sessions, and opportunities to lobby one’s representatives to ensure that a strong Israeli-American relationship is one of America’s continuing priorities. 

Every year, AIPAC brings out hundreds of student delegates to attend the Policy Conferences.  This year, I was one of 217 student government association presidents invited to spend the weekend in Washington D.C. learning about AIPAC’s mission and all of the ways in which I—as a student, as a member of a community, and as one of the youths that is going to propel our country forward—can make a difference

The theme of this year’s Policy Conference was “Shared Values, Shared Vision” and the majority of the speakers used this theme to highlight all of the ways in which Israelis and Americans have continually worked together to ensure the safety, health and vitality of our nations.  We heard tons of stories about how Israel and America have worked together in the past, and we heard pleas for this continued relationship to stand strong against Iran, making sure that Iran is unable to make a nuclear weapon. 

That was the big picture AIPAC experience: major speakers, heartfelt stories and calls to action.  In the smaller picture though, I had some amazing experiences:

  • I got to hear President Obama, Israeli President Peres, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and countless other politicians speak.  All of them took the stage and their first remarks all made a point about how many students, especially SGA presidents, were in the room.
  • I sat in a breakout session about Arab Spring and got to see what I’ve learned in Core in action.  The speakers were discussing “being on this side of history,” and I was able to see what they were saying in the context of what I’ve learned in Core. 
  • I got to meet 216 other SGA presidents and spent the weekend learning from them.  We shared stories of our experiences with each other, and gave each other advice for how to make changes on our campuses.
  • I spent a beautiful spring weekend in Washington D.C. and was able to squeeze in a little bit of amazing sightseeing.  My favorite part, outside the conference, was going to the Newseum.  As a media studies major I walked through a museum dedicated to chronicling the changes to the news media since its inception.  It was like walking through a textbook, in all of the best ways imaginable.

As I was leaving D.C., I thought about everything I’d done and learned over the weekend.  I had definitely figured out what AIPAC wanted me to walk away with from the experience.  I’d learned about the importance of staying informed, making sure that I used my voice, and staying involved.  As cliché as it sounds, I walked away with a renewed understanding of how I can make a difference.  And whether or not I choose to use my abilities for furthering American-Israeli relations—or for making sure other students have the same Oglethorpe experience I love—as long as I am fighting for something I’m passionate about, I’m doing everything in my power to make a difference.  And that is what is truly important.

Do What Oglethorpe is Forcing You to Do

Foss Baker

Senior Foss Baker is the news editor of the Stormy Petrel student newspaper.

My dad often used the phrase “college teaches you how to learn.” I don’t know where he got it from, or if it was his own invention. All I know is that it made no sense in high school. I would question it because it essentially made college useless. Every high school kid knows how to learn, right? No, absolutely not. All of them think they do; I was no different.

I came to Oglethorpe thinking I had it all figured out: career, dreams, and how to reach both of them. I was going to be a hugely successful sports/entertainment attorney. I was going to make tons and tons of money. I was going to have it all. From Oglethorpe, I learned none of that was what I wanted. I don’t care about money that much, I don’t care about having a hugely successful name that strikes fear in the hearts of sports franchises and movie producers. I just want to learn.

Oglethorpe has been designed in such a way that questioning your self is unavoidable. Just look at the first year of Core. “Narratives of Self”?What else could that be other than an examination of your being and values? Just when you think you figured out the problems from that course, you have “Human Nature and the Social Order”. Another puzzle for yourself that you must answer: what values do you hold, where do you stand in society, and what do you want from society? After this, you’re thrown another curveball, being forced to reexamine these practices and decisions in “Historical Perspectives.”

All of this, hopefully, allows you to look at yourself and question the pit of your beliefs. Maybe you have to find new ones, maybe the ones you held before Oglethorpe are reinforced; either way, you’re a better person for it. You have gained a system of beliefs that you hold concretely, and there are very few things more comforting than knowing you stand for beliefs that have been stripped down to their very core, and you found them agreeable.

Perhaps this type of examination of Oglethorpe only exists in the mind of a philosophy major. Perhaps I examined this the way I did because of the professors that I have. Dr. Belcher showed me that your beliefs are basically worthless if you don’t know why you stand for them. Dr. Carton taught me that nobody is the same, and there are so many different internal processes that make up a person that understanding them all is impossible. From Dr. Smith I learned everybody does things their own way. We don’t know why some things are done the way they are, but the fact that they are done in such a way might tell us more about that person or those people than if they had done it the “normal” way. Numerous other professors here taught me other things, but these are the ones I hold in the highest regard.

The most important thing to notice about the things I learned is that none of them are classes. I didn’t take a “reasons why your beliefs might be wrong class” or a class on “things that people did in history that we don’t understand” because they don’t exist. Sometimes, the most important thing to learn from a class isn’t the subject of the class at all. This takes some work, but the work and payoff will be well worth it. Your experience will undoubtedly be different. You will have different classes, different professors, and different friends. This difference will make you examine things in your own way, and that leads to a different experience for everybody. This means Oglethorpe has done its job.

In hindsight, I want to leave the readers of this with a few suggestions. First, don’t live your life thinking you know what you want because that is what your parents want for you, or because you saw it on TV. If you really want to be this idea you have in your head, no amount of reexamining will change your mind. If you end up changing your mind, it means you’re growing, learning. Have an open mind, it will do wonders for you. Second, take Oglethorpe for what it is. The classes can be frustrating and, believe me, I hate Petrel Points* as much as the next guy, but I love Oglethorpe. The community, professors, faculty, and students will always hold a special place in my heart. If you come here expecting perks of a large university, don’t expect to be satisfied. Take the small school atmosphere and embrace it. Develop relationships with your professors; and gain close friends; you won’t regret it. The third suggestion is to just listen to people. You can’t learn if you don’t. Listen to professors; they are wildly intelligent and are here only because of the students. They honestly have your best interests at heart. If they suggest you think about something or reexamine something, do it. They care and know best.

And above all else, just learn.

*All first-year students are required to accrue a total of 12 Petrel Points during their first academic year by participating in three areas of campus life: arts, education and ideas; civic engagement; and campus leadership and citizenship.

Printed in the Stormy Petrel student newspaper, Dec. 1, 2011, and reprinted in the Carillon magazine, Winter 2011.