Oglethorpe Magazine Examines “The Art of Critical Thinking”

Attention all OU alumni, parents, students and friends—the latest issue of Oglethorpe’s award-winning Carillon magazine is here!

This issue delves into the role of liberal arts and sciences in the 21st century and features articles written by senior Foss Baker and Dr. Brian Patterson, assistant professor of computer science & mathematics, President Schall, and our new provost, Dr. Denise von Herrmann. 

Read stories about Oglethorpe alumni using their liberal arts education—sometimes in unusual ways!  Did you know an OU alum wrote the 2010 CMA Song of the Year? Or, that an OU alum’s thriving business was featured on HGTV, and that another alum is the editor of a top magazine?!

Get a sneak peek into the plans for a new student center. Learn about the freshman class’s new What the Dog Saw common reading program, and hear from the newest additions to the Office of Campus Life—Danny Glassmann, Kendra Hunter and Bre Berris—about the plans they have for student life at Oglethorpe.

Alumna Chloey Mayo’s “Oglethorpe in Lights” offers a glamorous twist on some campus events of Hollywood proportion with a review the TV shows, movies and commercials that have used OU as their backdrop.

 Read the Carillon here or look out for the magazine at your home—and let us know what you think!

The Internship Hunt: A Recent Oglethorpe Graduate’s View

Although an internship is a vital piece of any junior or senior’s college experience, finding and applying for the right one can be fraught with difficulty and second guessing. I have found that through my experience, sometimes college kids might be putting a little too much emphasis on finding the “perfect” internship and not enough on taking a few chances at the time in their life when it is best to do so.

My internship  was not taken on a whim, and I certainly don’t advise that any students reading this take my advice to be advocating such a thing, but rather it was found in an unexpected place and was not in the same field that I had imagined myself trying to get an internship in during most of my college years.

Let me first say that my major was in economics, and while Oglethorpe University definitely has, in my eyes, the finest economics faculty in the city, I didn’t really see myself going forward in the field once my studies ended. Therefore I was at a bit of a crossroads when it came to potential career paths.

One day I was hanging out in the Goodman computer lab when I saw a posting on the bulletin board in the hallway for a search marketing internship. My curiosity was piqued as I had been discussing the world of internet marketing with a friend of mine merely a week or so earlier.

Having never really seen myself as a marketing type of person, I decided to take a chance. Because in my mind the worst that could happen was I would find the field not for me and start over from scratch, wiser and without having lost anything. Not to mention that it helped that the work done during this internship was well compensated, a rare sight in today’s world of unpaid internships.

When I began working for the company, a fast growing pest control e-business in Norcross known as Do My Own Pest Control, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had only a passing knowledge of the specific things that make search marketing so effective, and while the marketing classes at Oglethorpe had given me a good basis in the ideals behind getting one’s message out there, it soon became clear that I had a lot to learn about the ins and outs of what is known as “inbound marketing” that is such a vital portion of an e-commerce site’s success.

My primary duty during the internship was to write small and informative articles on the products and pests that the company deals with day to day. And it was here that my education from a liberal arts college such as Oglethorpe really began to show its worth. Being comfortable with and proficient in writing was a great skill to have, and one that many schools do not go to great lengths to impart on their students. In addition to the strength of the economics curriculum itself, the insistence on excelling at written communication through the core curriculum is one of the greatest things that Oglethorpe has to offer.

Taking a chance on the internship itself proved to be a good decision, as I enjoyed the work and found myself learning quite a bit about the world of search engines and search marketing. This was enhanced by the fact that the head of the internet marketing team at the company had weekly training sessions that were both informative and interesting to attend, and really helped to give more meaning to the more abstract writing I was doing for the job. It helped to know exactly why things on the internet are set up the way they are, and virtually all of this knowledge was new to me, having come from a scholastic background in economics.

As the internship wound down, I was beginning to worry about finding a full time job, but I felt more confident going into the job search with the skills I had acquired over the summer. Any worrying about job searching however was alleviated when I was offered a full-time position in the same marketing capacity that I had been assisting with as an intern.

So looking back, the combination of the skills I learned at Oglethorpe and the willingness to take a chance on an internship that wasn’t necessarily within my field of study led me to a job in which I’m very happy and learning new things about the world of e-commerce every day. So my advice to those students currently sweating over exams and internships, don’t worry so much…and consider taking the same sort of chance I did.

Sam Hutcheson ’11 is part of the search marketing team at DoMyOwnPestControl.com. Started in 2004, it is currently one of the fastest growing pest control companies in the United States.

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.

Liberal Arts in the 21st Century: War, Peace and Security

Dr. Orme Discussing

Dr. Orme's class discusses politics in a worldwide context.

For years, academics and world leaders have strived to understand the origins of war, the causes of peace, and the sources of future conflict. In his “War, Peace, and Security” class, Dr. John Orme invites students to explore just this, by examining the motives and calculations of past statesmen involved in warfare. He says that investigating historical conflict and resolution is beneficial to helping a student understand how the world works, no matter what career lies ahead of him.

“This is really a theoretical course,” explained Dr. Orme. “It is important to know the answers to questions like, ‘Why do states go to war? Why peace?’ [War stems from] a desire for security, which breeds a competition for power. In this class, we are trying to understand those in power.”

The concept of warring nations is certainly nothing new in the 21st century, but the ways in which we war certainly are. Last summer, in an effort to better understand terrorist ideologies and how democratic states combat them, Dr. Orme travelled to Israel as an Academic Fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The 10-day fellowship program, taught in conjunction with Tel Aviv University, exposed university professors to the latest trends in terrorists’ operations. While in Israel, Orme and his colleagues engaged in discussions with top diplomats, military, and intelligence officials from around the world, including Ambassador Dore Gold, Israel’s former Ambassador to the UN. They also visited military bases, border zones, and imprisoned terrorists for an up-front view of Israel’s counterterrorism methods.

“The main purpose [of the field excursions] was for Westerners to have some appreciation for what Israel is going through,” remarked Dr. Orme. “I was most impressed by Israel as a people, and especially those who were being recruited into service…Ispecifically recall [at a security fence east of Jerusalem] the face of an Israeli commander. We did not speak to him, but his nonverbal communication spoke to how great a responsibility he has.”

He says that having participated in the seminar has certainly benefited classroom discussion, recently sparking conversation about nuclear proliferation, why states want nuclear weapons, and the differing conclusions about Qaddafi’s fall that those in the Middle East might make versus Americans and Europeans.

“Most of [my students] are not going to end up being practitioners,” said Dr. Orme. “But it prepares them as citizens in the world…if they do end up in a position of power, they’d use it responsibly.”

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2012 edition of Oglethorpe’s Carillon magazine.

Computer Science as a Science…Not a Computer

Dr. Brian Patterson teaching Computer Science

Dr. Brian Patterson, assistant professor of computer science and mathematics, joined the OU faculty in fall 2011.

I was very excited to join Oglethorpe and have a chance to reintroduce computer science courses to our curriculum. My main goal is to help develop and implement a computer science minor (with a major being a longer-term goal). Such a minor program existed in the past but ceased. Computer science courses were offered again to current students beginning in spring 2011. Other faculty and I have the opportunity to shape a computer science minor that is unique to Oglethorpe.

In pursuing this goal, one relevant question is: how does computer science fit into the liberal arts at Oglethorpe? After all, the word “computer” is in the name of my discipline so it seems reasonable to think of the class being about learning the keystrokes to perform an operation in Excel or how to fix a specific piece of computing hardware.

However, addressing computer science in that way is like addressing astronomy as “telescope science,” or molecular biology as “microscope science.” All three disciplines use tools in an essential way, but all three also include the use of multiple paradigms to solve problems, drawing upon reasoning, logic, analysis, hypothesis testing, and formal problem-solving methodologies. As a combination of mathematical theory, experimentation similar to what is used in the sciences, and design methods from engineering, computer science carves out its own niche. It is much less about the tools used than most people realize. In fact, holding some computer science classes in a computer lab is sometimes counterproductive—the students may be tempted to surf the Internet for noncurricular reasons more than we use the computers to write programs!

One definition of a liberal arts environment is an environment that focuses on developing a whole person, to prepare them for a life—not just a job—after college. It’s very difficult to live and work in a world like ours without using or at least encountering computerized devices. Thus, knowing the principles behind them is useful. Much like how the sciences joined the liberal arts when they became more relevant in a scientific society, it’s time to include computer science in our view of a liberal arts experience.

Computer science is fortunate relative to other disciplines in that, after taking a single course in introductory programming, the student is already more valuable to a potential employer. It is not usually because the student learned the exact programming language we teach at OU (Java) or that the employer needs somebody to do what we learned in the class. It is because the student has been introduced to how to work with a computer and utilize techniques of computer science in a variety of new situations.

Most managers realize that a professional computer programmer spends less than half of his or her day actually writing programs on a computer—the rest is spent thinking and discussing ideas with others. A class in computer science and a liberal arts education to back that up is invaluable for this planning and discussion.

On this topic, I highly recommend “Computer Science and the Liberal Arts: A Philosophical Examination,” by Walker and Keleman (at Grinnell and Swarthmore, respectively). I look forward to integrating computer science into the existing exciting areas of study available at OU as I help develop a computer science minor.

Dr. Brian Patterson, assistant professor of computer science & mathematics, joined the OU faculty in fall 2011. He received his BA from Carleton College and his MS and PhD from iowa State University. His teaching and research interests include artificial intelligence, computation and complexity, graph theory, machine learning, probability, and statistics.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2012 edition of Oglethorpe’s Carillon magazine.