Should I Go To Grad School? Questions and Thoughts to Consider

A sign that you should slow down, or “stop and consider!” A street sign on West 77th street, Photo Credit: Elliot Blake Hueske.

As a second-semester senior studying psychology and philosophy, I have found myself frequently considering post-graduate options of graduate school as opposed to work. Both disciplines that I am currently studying might seem to be oriented towards careers in academia, research, or other specialized fields that require graduate degrees. For example, psychology students often pursue empirical research in labs or become clinical therapists to help others. Philosophy students might be interested in working towards a PhD with the hopes of perhaps becoming a professor. Yet all of these potential routes have seemed too restrictive for me at this point in my life. I have been conscious of the fact that committing to a graduate program often does not lend itself to multidisciplinary approaches which is an essential facet of my personal and academic life. I have been hesitant to seek graduate programs as I was anxious that obtaining an advanced degree in one area might entail dedicating myself to that particular field for the rest of my professional life. While this is not always the case, the uncertainty and indecision surrounding it is entirely justified. Some people already know that they must attend graduate school to fulfill their professional vision, for example, a career in law or medicine. Yet many of us are still unsure. Furthermore, graduate school might feel like the straightforward choice: continue with higher education because it has worked for you so far. Yet there might be another voice encouraging you to try something new, to challenge yourself, to grow.  Continue reading

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Contemporary Civilization and the Return of the Devotion to Western Literature

“Regarding each of the things we understand, however, we don’t consult a speaker who makes sounds outside us, but the Truth that presides within over the mind itself, though perhaps words prompt us to consult Him” (St. Augustine, On the Teacher).

A photo of Augustine of Hippo, from whom I take the first quote, Photo Credit: Painting by Philippe de Champaigne

It seems that many Columbia students have lost a great amount of faith in the process of teaching, in how it can enlighten the mind and bring us to greater contemplation of the truths in the world. No doubt, a lack of a broad understanding of the intellectual traditions of the West contributes to this plight. Continue reading

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Discovering Humanity Through The Core

When reflecting on what is most valuable about the Core Curriculum at Columbia, I always think about the community it fosters. But a closely related benefit of the core, which is both a product of and a contributing factor to that sense of community, is a more internal effect that comes from the specific type of learning that takes place in most core classrooms. While this kind of learning applies to liberal arts education more broadly, Columbia’s Core is, in many ways, a shining example of the benefits of including the humanities in higher education.

Rainbows over Riverside Park, Photo Credit: Juliet Paiva.

In my experience with the Core, the unique sense of community it fosters has always stood out the most. I think back to freshman year and starting college after spending the last thirteen years at a small suburban all-girls school where I grew up alongside the same group of sixty-something other girls in my graduating class. A place where I felt like I knew everyone and everything. It was jarring to find myself in college as one first-year student out of thousands within a university of tens of thousands and all within a city of millions. Taking Literature Humanities during my first semester at Columbia allowed me to get to know a small group of my peers in a more contained setting that felt like we were all part of one collective thing. But then, even beyond my specific section of Lit Hum, almost every other Columbia College first-year student I met took the same class and was reading the same texts, but just with a different instructor in another section. Love it or hate it, the collective experience of the Core defines the Columbia College journey in a way unlike any other aspect of college life. Continue reading

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Applying to Rhodes: A Conversation with Two Rhodes Finalists

A Note From the Editor: This month we had our Rose Research Ambassadors/Rhodes Finalist (E)lliot Hueske and (J)onathan Tanaka discuss their experiences preparing, applying and interviewing for the Rhodes Scholarship.

A Photo of Oxford University,
Photo Credit: Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/University-of-Oxford

 

J: Why did I apply to the Rhodes? Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of prestige associated with the Rhodes and that would be very beneficial for advancing a career inside or outside of academia. Many professors advising me were saying that a lot of Rhodes Scholars do not end up going into academia, but it’s beneficial for any career in which you’re interested – though probably not for investment banking or for many types of law. The other thing is I’m very interested in communities and, reflecting in the past on the various communities of which I’ve been a part, they’ve made me who I am. So, if you’re interested in quite high-caliber communities that really take you to whatever next threshold you’d like to achieve, something like the Rhodes would be really good because of how high-caliber members of that community are. I guess I’ve also heard of the Rhodes Scholarship for a long time, so it has been in the back of my mind for a while. How about you? 

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How to Make the Archive a Place for Discovery

Archival research often yields fruitful discoveries in the humanities and social sciences, including but not limited to history, philosophy, literature, or the history of art and archaeology. Reflecting on my research trip to Yale’s Beinecke Library, I would like to share some tips with you, my fellow undergraduate researchers, as you embark on your first experience with archival research and materials.

Examining pencil scribbles and fragmentary materials at Yale’s Beinecke Libary, Photo Credit: Elia Zhang.

 Before delving into the exact processes of archival work, I would like to start by reminding ourselves of the context of an archive. For my current research project, for example, I started out by selecting from a vast collection of 300 boxes in Yale’s Ezra Pound Papers collection. I narrowed down my search by only examining the documents that were most relevant to my specific inquiry. But what is it that deems certain historical figures as being relegated to a position of importance and prominence in the archive?

 

What is it that makes specific figures so “important” that their personal correspondence and mundane financial records are well-cataloged and preserved for close, scholarly examination? Many factors contribute to the availability or unavailability of certain information and resources that can lead to the construction of an archive. While these systemic circumstances are beyond a researcher’s control, having a contextual awareness as you navigate the archive can help account for both the visible and the invisible which is one way of critically engaging with primary sources. 

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Recovering Reason, Embracing the Words of Truth, and Delighting in the Great Books: 

“Man, the rational animal, can put up with anything except what seems to him irrational; whatever is rational is tolerable” – Epictetus, Discourses 

“Fountain pen – Wikipedia,” photo from Petar Milošević, Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_pen#/media/File:Fountain_pen_writing_(literacy).jpg

 

In my last post, I included an epigraph from Euripides’ play The Phoenecian Woman, which stated that “The words of truth are naturally simple.” This is, I think, a great synopsis of the power of truth to clarify and structure our language, and also a remarkable profession of its natural or at least ideal simplicity. When we come to understand an inspiration or idea, or grow in appreciation for one, its simplicity speaks to us and calls us toward itself.  Continue reading

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Research and Columbia Libraries: A Guide to Maximizing Your Resources

Examining a text in RBML. Photo credit: Elliot Hueske.

Research settings look different for everyone but relying on textual resources and supporting documents to substantiate a claim remains consistent throughout all research types and environments. Nonetheless, finding a place to start with respect to navigating Columbia’s many libraries or connecting with a librarian can feel overwhelming. Afterall, Columbia has twenty-two libraries that feature extensive and diverse collections of digital and print resources to guide your research. Although I am fond of Avery Library, I have also found myself gravitating to Butler 310 reading room and trying to stake out a table on the mezzanine level. In this post, I hope to offer some insight regarding using the libraries throughout your research and discovering what might be considered their hidden gems! 

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Why Pursue Seemingly Inapplicable Research?

Sandro Botticelli, St. Augustine in His Study. Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

There exists a constant pressure in our contemporary age for the academy to divert resources to vocationalist programs. This, in turn, induces a movement towards hyper-specialization and fragmentation between the disciplines, as only “necessary” procedural skills are to be learned and perfected for hyper-specific vocational ends. Any learning, research, or skill development outside of an unreflective ability to accomplish such ends, relative to a certain career path, is increasingly viewed as gratuitous, and there is a constant conversation about whether such aspects of academic tracks ought to be cut. 

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The Core and the City

The Met. Photo Credit: Juliet Paiva

Arguably, the two most defining features of the undergraduate experience at Columbia  are the core curriculum and the school’s location in New York City. One of my favorite parts  about Columbia has been the freedom to explore the city and the variety of experiences it has  to offer that stand out from any other US city. I’ve spent my whole life living in cities and love the fast-paced environment, the unique mixtures of people with different backgrounds and  stories, the general feeling of independence that surprisingly breeds a collective identity, and  the unique opportunities that come with all of these things occurring in one place. But life at  Columbia is also marked by the core curriculum, giving undergraduates an expansive and  unified liberal arts education regardless of their specific fields of study. The core fosters a  special form of community, an invisible string that connects Columbia College students and  alumni across time and space. While the core and the city are two distinctive elements of life at  Columbia, we can easily overlook the spaces where they overlap and the rare learning that  takes place there. 

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Evolution and the Importance of Tradition in Literature Humanities

“A Greek manuscript of the beginning of Hesiod’s Works and Days,” photo from John Tzetzes (Wikipedia).

“The words of truth are naturally simple” – Euripides, The Phoenecian Woman 

The history of the formation of the course now known as Literature Humanities is not a well-known story among students at Columbia College nowadays, and this is a regrettable reality. A great deal of thought for over a century has been invested into forming the curriculum as it was taught for decades, and there have been many developments in the philosophy behind many methods for teaching the course that are related to the changes that the course underwent during one particular episode of change in 1937. 

Prior to 1937, the bulk of the Core Curriculum was Contemporary Civilization, which was a course focused primarily on the key philosophical texts of the Western tradition. A committee established in 1934 eventually drafted a proposal in 1937 for an inaugural two-year program, in which one would study key books in the Humanities under the courses Humanities A and Humanities B, with Humanities A focused on a “great books” curriculum. This was described in Herbert Edwin Hawkes’ now famous letter entitled “The Evolution of the Arts College: Recent Changes at Columbia as the product of “an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary process” and thus “a gradual movement of judgment and opinion in a given direction through a considerable time” (33). Because the objective of the reform was to permit a natural outgrowth of the Core Curriculum rather than a stark rupture with the past methods of doing things, a combined method of instruction in which the hallmark of Contemporary Civilization would be incorporated into a two-year progression with the two new Humanities courses was established. 

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