Breadth vs. Depth: An Undergraduate Allegory

I took a lot of Big Capstone Leaps this past week: I sent my “finished” poetry collection off to the printer; I completely overhauled the design of my project site; I finished drafting my intro essay; I received my poetry collection back from the printer; I rejoiced a little.

Now, moments away from our Capstone showcase, I pause to reflect on this whole crazy-frustrating-rewarding whirlwind of an experience. It’s remarkable how my project narrowed and deepened overtime: I decided against photography in favor of printing a book; I took out the digital “poem bank” feature to focus on my own words; I spent months wading through the murky waters of editing, and editing, and editing. And editing.

It’s funny, though—it doesn’t feel like anything was lost, per se. Perhaps I sacrificed breadth to dive into depth, but this felt more appropriate for a project about loss and mental health. These topics deserve our full, undivided attention. All my project’s original extra bells and whistles ultimately felt like distractions.

However, when I think about the totality of my undergraduate career (ha…), I think about the promises of breadth. A notoriously indecisive student, I managed to select two of the least specific majors on campus (American Culture and Women’s Studies). I joke that these majors are for students who can’t make up their minds, and I’m right, in a way: American Culture is the most frequently cross-listed department at this University. I’ve taken AMCULT courses in History, English, Political Science, Arab and Muslim American Studies, Latinx Studies, Sociology, Women’s Studies, and Psychology. And I value this interdisciplinarity, this rejection of institutionalism and “pre-requisites” and all the other expectations that make majors rigid. I know it’s just one of those linguistic coincidences, but it seems apt that “breadth” sounds so like “breath”—the breadth of my coursework has allowed me to breathe.

But, sometimes, this breadth lacks focus—I’m driven by whim and not by rigor, and I enter my last semester of college wondering if I know much about anything at all, really.

In light of this, I think my capstone project provides a refreshing degree of depth: never have I spent this much time on a single piece of writing, a single project, a single word (honestly). And so, as I add the finishing touches to my Capstone Project and assemble my annotated bibliography, I’m thinking about how much I’ve valued the time and ability to magnify, to revel in detail, to generate something so full. What a remarkable opportunity.

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For any and all who want to see my collection in its final “book” form, I present a link.

One thought to “Breadth vs. Depth: An Undergraduate Allegory”

  1. Stina,
    Yes, I know it is 9:50pm on the night our Capstone projects are due and I am yes using this as my last comment for blog requirements, BUT I wanted to specifically comment to you for many reasons. I have absolutely loved seeing your very personal, brave, and absolutely remarkable project progress throughout the semester. I feel like because both of us took on something that was indeed extremely challenging content wise, I knew I would love your project simply because I feel like our experiences (though extremely different), evoked a new level of emotion from both the reader and the writer, which I really appreciated. I said it a million times over the course of the semester, but I admire your poetry, your writing, and the chance you took this semester to tell your story. I was inspired by your book as well, so I am planning on making my narrative into one as well 🙂 Thanks for being such a phenomenal colleague to have in class, and best of luck in the future!
    Nikki

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