Rachel writes: Savoring spring semester

Spring term. “Spring” seems a misnomer amidst the frozen pipes, icy sidewalks, and faux-fur hats here in the American Northeast, but I’m embarking on the last two classes I need to complete my coursework for my Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) degree, after which I will write a thesis.

My concentration is Visual Arts, and I have two very interesting seminar-style courses: Religion, the Arts, and Social Change (RELI E-1047) and The Holocaust in History, Literature, and Film (HIST E-1572). In both courses the visual arts are a component of a larger area of study, which suits me since I am attracted by an interdisciplinary approach–it helps to contextualize events and various phenomena. And both courses are coincidentally taught by professors from the Divinity School: Professor Diane Moore and Professor Kevin Madigan.

The first class meeting for RELI E-1047 was last evening. We “meet” via a Web-based conferencing system called Elluminate (anyone here ever use it?)–everyone logs on with a microphone-and-video-equipped computer, so the class is held in “real time” with everyone able to join in the discussion and see each other. Amazingly, there are participants from all over the world and from various time zones: we have class members from Panama City, Jerusalem, South Korea, as well as less glamorous spots such as Brookline MA. I was struck by Professor Moore’s warmth, which she managed to strongly project despite the “cool” electronic meeting medium. This is my first experience with this sort of class meeting, and my biggest adjustment will be to realize that with the video capability, even though you are in front  of a computer, it’s not the same as watching pre-recorded lectures in one’s pajamas. There’s a certain amount of sprucing up necessary, just as though you were meeting live, in a classroom in Cambridge, where I trust no one has ever shown up in lounge-wear and curlers.

My second course begins on Feb 5–we meet “live” in Cambridge. This course will be my first Saturday-morning (class hours are 9AM-12PM) class, so the experience will be yet again different from any other I’ve had so far at Harvard.

Last semester I managed two courses while working full-time at a very busy job–it was my first time trying two in one semester. With the help of a strategic day off here and there, I was able to finish two final research papers due within a week of one another. That had been a worry, but I’m pleased to say it worked out well. Having compelling subject areas and wonderful teaching staff helps of course, and I thoroughly enjoyed writing both papers.

Adjusting to the course styles and meeting modes is a bit of a challenge always, but I am looking forward to savoring these last two courses before I move on to yet another new genre: the master’s thesis.

%d bloggers like this: