At this time in the academic year, many students scramble to complete assignments and gain favor with professors as course grades loom, and even struggle to make it to class as the semester comes to a close. It can be difficult sometimes just to get out of bed in the morning and begin the daily grind. Some are freshmen, still enthusiastic about meeting new people and learning all they can. Others are sophomores, who have settled in but still have a little spirit of freedom in their daily routine. The upperclassmen are getting on the right track toward finishing their majors. Seniors are stressed to complete their course work for graduation and figure out what’s next.
Nearing the end of the semester, most academic advisors have assisted students in choosing the classes that they think are most suitable by tempering the student’s ambitions with their requirements. Students meet with professors and/or groups to discuss paper topics and project ideas. The library becomes a place of solace for those who need to get away from their roommates. And the rest may diligently kick their minds into high gear to accomplish work in residence hall lounges, Daly’s, Cranberry’s or the Student Recreation Center. Many are stressed, tired and just plain burnt out.
Amid the disarray, late-night cramming, term paper revisions and meetings where energy drinks, coffee and sugary sweets make their appearance, we may realize “that our rigorous intellectual life nourishes our minds and spirits.” The concepts we learn in the classroom and the ideas that dominate our selected fields are carried with us to our hometowns and cities. Our minds are often enlightened or at least challenged by our academic work, leaving a mark that many of us do not realize until we return to the places we came from.
When I travel via train to my home state, Delaware, the ride serves as an evaluation tool of how far I have come in my work since the last time I arrived there. Alice Koller, an essayist of the early ’90s, writes, “Work is the way you occupy your mind and hand and eye and whole body when they’re informed by your imagination and wit … by your most profound reflections on everything you have read and seen and heard and been a part of.” I reflect on the words of my peers, professors and supervisors while I am traveling and gauge the impact these things have had on me. I am often told that I think too much, but I find that the knowledge I gain in the classroom becomes the topic of my conversations with friends, family and colleagues. This, in essence, is a goal of our intellectual life at Rider, to cultivate our learning into our very being, so that we too will be catalysts for innovation in our fields of choice.
Our classes, assignments, professors and work outside of the classroom, in roles or jobs, all serve to mold our minds and spirits, whether we desire it or not. So, this holiday season, cherish the depth of your intellect and attitude by recognizing that in some way your academics were responsible for this outcome. By doing so, we may grasp the value of one of the most integral parts of the Statement of Community Values, “that our rigorous intellectual life nourishes our minds and spirits.”