Don’t forget the classroom

by Adam, a Patriot Blogger

If your mindset is similar to what mine was when I was contemplating which university to attend, you might not have given much thought to the kind of classes you’ll be taking.

Your experience in the classroom might rank somewhere low on a list of concerns including, but not limited to:

  • Will I be happy here? How can I have fun?
  • Will my degree from this school help me get a job?
  • How much does this school cost?
  • What’s the guy/girl ratio? (I was particularly interested in this statistic)
  • What are the dorms like?

That’s a short list and I’m sure there are countless questions buzzing around in your head. I hope you’ll continue to come to this blog, post comments and find some answers.

Ask. Do it.

Let’s remember, like it or not, we spend a great deal of time in the classroom during our college years (or at least we should).

With that reality in mind, I think it’s worth considering what your overall educational experience will be at the university. Having a major program in mind helps, but as general requirement, you will have to take courses across several disciplines and doing some research about some of the programs and courses of interest to you could be a great help.

I’m sure an Admissions counselor would be able to point you in the right direction with specific questions about programs and courses. A great starting point is the course catalog.

You can also look at the US World & News Report rankings to find out where Mason and other universities rank in categories such as “Up-and-Coming Schools” (Mason ranks high on this list), “Best Undergraduate Teaching,” and “Best Value Schools.”

At a time when unemployment is high and jobs are at a premium, the more research you do, the better off you’ll be in deciding which school you want to be investing in.

I’ve been fortunate to take some very intellectually gratifying courses here at Mason. To give you an idea, I’d like to tell you a bit about a course I am taking this semester called Post-Print Fiction. If the title of the course puzzles or intrigues you, it should.

The crux of the course is an exploration of the forms of “experimental fiction.” For example, we are all most familiar with novelized fiction. You know, all of those paper and hardback books we read from our favorite authors. But, what makes a novel, a novel? Is it the book form (two covers bound with pages in between)?

One of the questions this course asks is, “what happens when you play with the form of a novel?”

In the internet age, there is an increasing number of digital fiction forms which we explore in class. Digital poetry (Nick Montfort’s “Tarako Gorge”) and narrative databases (“We Feel Fine” by Jonathan Harris) are two examples.

Another example is interactive fiction which invites the reader to play an active role in the telling of a story. In the video below, Jason Shiga describes how to make an interactive comic.

We also read several novels, such as House of Leaves, which I’m currently reading, that investigate and stretch the limits of what we think a novel is and how it functions.

I’ve really enjoyed what this course has offered me. It’s allowed me to think critically about different forms of fiction and introduced me to many new forms of the genre, which is only going to grow with the spread of new technologies.

While its inevitable you will have to take some courses in college which aren’t your favorite, especially starting out when you have to satisfy general requirements–for me, this has been any math or science related class–it’s not an unreasonable expectation that most courses you take should bring you some kind of enjoyment and fulfillment.

Having a “liberal education” assumes far-reaching and rich instruction in a variety of disciplines. Find a university that is going to offer you just that.