By Brian J. Branscum | Contributor
It was a Wednesday during my freshman year. Upperclassmen joined my table in the DC, dressed in khakis and button-down shirts. That often meant one thing: it was a Senior Seminar day. Back then, seniors were expected to dress professionally for the class, and that terrified me.
I learned a lesson from observing those fancy clothes, however: professionalism. After college, seniors are expected to enter a world that demands our best and nothing less. The world is scary, and we need to be prepared.
This lesson became more of a reality with each passing semester, senior year drawing ever closer. A time was coming when I could no longer chitter on about theory and craft in my classes but would be expected to live those things out. Senior year began, and I anticipated the one dreadful class where I'd be expected to act-and, yes, dress-like a professional.
I've now completed Senior Seminar. It was nothing like I expected.
I was neither equipped with tools to face the next step nor shown how to be professional in the harsh world beyond Taylor. Instead, I relearned abstract constructs-such as environmentalism, reconciliation and church living-already covered in Foundations of Christian Liberal Arts and my other Taylor experiences.
Two types of people enter Senior Sem: those who have heard the lessons and taken them to heart, and those who haven't and are hardened to them. As the class exists now, it caters to neither of those groups. Students who have learned the lessons and want to expand on them will get the same rhetoric about why it's important to care about the broader topics, while not learning the steps to fully engage. The hardened students aren't likely to care now if they didn't care before.
During freshman year, one of my professors gave me great advice about saving the environment: don't use plastic water bottles. He didn't preach it; he merely shared how he and his family stopped drinking bottled water to decrease their plastic waste. If Senior Seminar included more specific lessons like that, I wouldn't have had problems with it. Instead, the environmental section berated us with general reasons why we should care about the environment, when most of us already knew why.
Many people have told me that college is a stepping stone into the real world. Senior year isn't the point in my life when I want to reflect on how great my liberal arts education was-that nostalgia will come in my thirties. Right now, I want to be prepared for the future and to learn how to confront the terrible beast called professionalism, as well as all the other awful things that exist in our world. Some of the Senior Seminar sessions were good; the section that discussed sexuality was especially helpful because it provided a livable example of a complicated concept. However, the majority of lectures made me feel as if I was expending time just to fulfill a course requirement.
As far as the more abstract topics, maybe professors could focus less on encouraging us to have discussions and instead bring in Taylor alumni to share stories of their experiences with those subjects. Instead of the professors preaching lessons to us, I'd love for them to provide concrete examples of how we can interact with certain issues. Jeff Cramer's story of friendship with an LGBT couple was a great example of that.
I'd like to encourage more of that content. Simple examples and tools can make abstract constructs less threatening. With those tools in hand, seniors will find encouragement as we step out to make an impact on our world.