i have always wanted to say #pikachu in a blog post title

I am certain that when Ray (R) introduced the ***project*** in class last week, he spoke in tongues. He spoke for a long time. He spoke of a crown and a jewel. Then, class ended, and I had been mindblown by R’s majestic ideas, and I had admired his vocabulary, and I had noted his engagement with the audience, and I had come to understand one thing: I still had no idea what the project was supposed to be.

And by that I mean I still don’t. But, I read the***project***  section of the syllabus several times today, and now I understand a little bit better. So here is what I think:

I want to create a collection of essays, and I want the collection to explore this question: What did I learn in undergrad? I want to do this because I’m about to graduate (approximate cost $100,000), and I can’t stop thinking about this question, and so trying to devote a semester to answering a different question would feel like a filthy lie. I also want to do this because I’m forgetful, and so having a collection of essays addressing some lessons I’ve learned might help me to not forget those lessons. I also want to do this because I’m seriously intrigued by what college teaches you…i.e., Does it teach you about academia? Does it teach you about how to maneuver your way to an A in a class? Does it teach you that failing is inevitable? Does it teach you to figure stuff out like how the buses work and where to go to replace your M Card? Does it teach you social skills? Does it teach you that you can’t be a substance abuser forever because it gets boring after a while?

Disclaimer: I don’t want to make this a Lifetime movie and tell you how college has taught me so much, and LOOK AT ME I’VE COME SO FAR!!! I am imagining several creative nonfiction pieces (varying in length and topic) about some experiences I’ve had in undergrad that I thought were cool and that altered my identity, path, etc. And maybe the individual pieces could together tell the greater story of what I learned here. More to come.

12 thoughts to “i have always wanted to say #pikachu in a blog post title”

  1. Hi Kaitlyn!

    So I definitely agree with you here. I’ve been thinking A LOT about the questions posed in class lately. What have I learned? How has it affected me? I think that these questions are this course’s primary and universal purpose. I think that everyone, after being forced to look back at past work, beautiful or ugly, is prompted to answer this question for themselves. That said, I think that you should use the project to envelop such endeavors into something that’s both aesthetically and intellectually pleasing to you. Basically I think that this goal comes along with experience as a given. Not to say you can’t run with the idea! Because you definitely can! I think, however, that it might help to think about a more dynamic format you could use, besides essays. This might spark some other ideas as well! Is there an overarching theme to the valuable things you’ve learned? Do they share a common place or experience? you could even organize them as snapshots, or something reminiscent of a piece of memorabilia!

  2. This is really interesting!
    So something that I do a lot of work on is incentive structures and how they influence behavior. This can be something simple as a law that criminalizes marijuana, to a workplace policy on dress code. Rules, if they are created correctly, aren’t there to make you do certain things, but to influence behavior.

    I think this is especially important when it comes to schooling and how the incentive structure is maybe a little wonky. Schools always try to impress upon students that the institution is their resource and their friend, and the school then tells you that cheating is wrong and immoral. But the incentives (good grades) in place for cheating are so high and easy, while the disincentives (ie punishment) are also huge but unlikely. So, for any instance in which a student has the option to cheat, it would benefit them to do it and to do it well (especially for classes in which memorization is a key component). This is just one example but I think there are many more that I’m sure you’ve observed.

    Good luck!

  3. My Dearest Calypso,

    I, of course, must make an appearance in one of your short stories.

    That being said, I think this is a great idea that you could explore with a comedic voice. It’s also quite relevant in today’s culture in which people go to college because that’s just what people do now, and then enter into the real world without any real direction. I think your next step is to come up with a list of prospective stories, think about how they relate to each other, and if they can all lead to a greater narrative. We’ll chat about this soon.


  4. Yes that sounds awesome! I know that Ray would want me to give some challenging suggestion so I will do my best. Maybe you could make it multimedia, and have….I don’t know, record something, and have pictures of different spots you’ve been or parties or something. Maybe you could have a part of the project that was advice for high schoolers picking a school or freshman trying to figure things out! Maybe you could interview people who DIDN’T go to college for one reason or another, and see what those reasons were and the consequences and what they learned. People always talk about how much college changes you, but really I think it may just be that going from age 18 to age 22 changes you. Is college just a total waste of money? I can’t wait to read your essays and find out!

  5. Hi Kaitlyn,

    I LOVE this and maybe it’s just because I love creative non fiction, but I think essays are the perfect medium to express yourself in this particular way. I don’t think you necessarily need to try and make it harder. But like Levi said, creating that narrative that ties everything together will be crucial. You could think of this as a book, cause that’s exactly what you could potentially make it into.

    Some potential narrative threads: This is what I was supposed to learn in college – this is what I learned instead. Or this is what they tell me I need to know, this is what I actually know to be true. Or some variation. With this you can delve into specific experiences with humor or deep contemplation or dry sarcasm, but the whole thing is also critiquing college and those ‘other things’ you’re supposed to learn in college that nobody can put their finger on. You’re answering the questions for yourself and the world, in a way only YOU can do. It sounds like an incredible ***project*** addressing the question we’re supposed to be addressing head on.

    One way to make it more dynamic would be to vary tones and moods of your pieces and make it feel like a journey from freshmen to senior year. And I think that’s going to be the hard part – freshmen year you doesn’t have the insight that you have, and can’t know the stories of senior year – so some constraint would be to really make them snapshots and really do your best to make each essay both distinct, while also building off of each other, just like each year does here.

    I’m so excited to see this progress and would love to read your essays if you ever want another set of eyes.

  6. I am fascinated by this project idea. It sounds so interesting and self-reflective, which is great as you’re about to graduate. Some ideas I had for you were: explore what you learned in the classroom vs out of the classroom; it might be painful, but I wouldn’t have every story be positive; I would include photos; write at least one whilst inebriated; have a guest story from your bff or your parents, idk.

    This is going to be an amazing project and not going to lie I wish I’d had the idea first.

  7. Kaitlyn,

    This is an absolutely awesome idea! I love that your guiding question is relatable to most college seniors who are able to reflect on their college experience. I often think about the “What did I learn in undergrad?” and feel overwhelmed trying to decompress all of my thoughts over the last four years. Personally, I find it challenging to even remember what classes I took as a freshman, let alone what I learned! I think it would be really cool to investigate what did I learn as a person throughout the college experience instead of strictly limiting yourself to the thinking in terms of academics. For example, what did you learn from the friends and people you meet? What was your biggest accomplishment that you feel the greatest sense of pride? Do you have any areas that you wish you learned but feel like you couldn’t for any reason?

    Looking forward to seeing what direction you take! Good luck!


  8. Calyps,

    I think this is a good idea.

    There was this essay that Sarah Nicole Prickett wrote about college in which she said this: “no matter how much time or money or energy or innocence it costs you, school doesn’t automatically prove anything except that you paid,” and this is the

    hyperlink (Aren’t I so multimodal?!?!??). I think she is correct.

  9. ^^ Ok so that didn’t work…

    But here is the link: http://thehairpin.com/2014/11/the-best-time-i-dropped-out-of-college-twice
    (This is why multimedia proponents don’t know NOTHIN’!!! Just kidding… but actually…)

    Anyways, I liked your series of questions. Some more to ponder: What is a frat boy? Why, despite varying degrees of entitlement and self-unawareness, do their houses all smell so foul? Why do people here talk with buzzwords like “enhanced pedagogies” and “interactive partnerships” and “client-driven media solutions”? Also who have you met during your tenure as an undergrad that you think really gets it?

    Take care,

  10. Hey Kaitlyn,
    While on the surface your idea may seem cliche, the way you plan on approaching it seems really unique and appealing. Maybe each of the pieces can be really ‘micro’ in scope and convey a big picture idea in the aggregate, or each can sort of cover one of the questions you asked about what college teaches you. One wrinkle you may want to add in is comparing what your expectations were for what college would teach you as an incoming freshman versus what they ended up being as you near graduation. I think that could be interesting because a lot of the times our expectations about something shape the way we approach it. So, it could be worthwhile to examine how your expectations changed over time and how that change manifested itself in particular outcomes.

  11. Hey Kaitlyn,

    First of all, I think this idea has a lot of promise, and that answering the question of “What did I learn in college?” could be done in a lot of different ways: a comparison with expectations, “classroom” vs. “life” lessons, is “what” even the right question to ask, etc. No matter which direction you choose to pursue, however, I think a certain balance of sarcasm and genuineness will be both natural and necessary to use, because after all “What did you learn in college?” is easy to brush aside as kind of a huge, ridiculous, and over-asked question, but it can also get pretty real when you actually sit down to consider it.

    Second, I really like the idea of formatting it as a collection of essays. Possibly using each to focus on a specific “answer” and using anecdotes to communicate your ideas from a certain angle could make for a really captivating reading. At the same time, viewed as a collection, each piece would ideally resonate with the others, and form a more complete picture of your answer. It may be that the connections aren’t even apparent until the collection is viewed in synchrony, which could be really cool and satisfying.

    Excited to see how you move forward with this!

  12. Dear Kaitlyn,

    You have a brilliant idea for your capstone project. Quelle suprise.

    You’ve also been given a lot of solid feedback from our peers, and I’ll do my best to not be repetitive. I’m wondering if you might think of how you could use the format of these essays or other visual elements to play with certain conventions of college writing to show what it is you’ve learned. For example, if you were to write an essay about learning to write a five-paragraph essay and how it connects to learning to pace yourself at a tailgate (I’m not making assumptions about you and your lifestyle, I’m just relying on some old UM lifestyles. Incidentally, if this does apply to you, that’s also neat), could you write it in that format in such a way that would highlight your overall argument. Another idea would be putting another essay in the format of a research paper, wherein you’d provide a hypothesis, materials used, method, etc. in order to show how you did an “experiment” with another college experience like skipping class, pulling all-nighters, etc.?

    I hope this is helpful!

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