Neil Ty, The Science Guy

Collegiate life provides some pretty stellar opportunities to meet great minds and learn from powerful figures in the global academic community. And when those same figures just happen to have their own meme, well, that’s just pretty awesome.

This week marked the latest in the Bucksbaum Lecture Series at Drake where influential figures in a wide variety of fields come to campus to speak to students, faculty, and members of the Des Moines community. In past lectures, I’ve seen Vicente Fox, Garrison Keillor, and one of my personal heroes, Jimmy Carter. So for a small school in Iowa, we do certainly attract some world-class names. Tuesday’s talk presented the famed astrophysicist and pop culture icon, Neil deGrasse Tyson.  While astrophysics may not seem like the most marketable subject matter on a campus full of 20-somethings, it was actually a really huge deal.

Every student I talked to was just genuinely really excited for Tyson to speak. And that excitement manifested itself in a packed house in the Knapp Center…I mean really packed. People were standing. To hear a guy talk about astrophysics. Even today, the general topic of conversation on campus was what Tyson had to say. Naturally, his speech was geared toward a more general audience, but still, students were pumped to hear about science and its cultural implications.

While this event illustrated the power of intellectual curiosity on this campus and the authenticity of the learners here, it also marked a good step forward for the university in terms of diversity of learning. Sometimes in academia, especially in a liberal arts environment, we get so focused in that we lose the larger context around us. Drake is increasingly trying to break us of that habit by ensuring that we have a wide array of academic experiences. In that vein, I put aside my literary theory and writing assignments to hear a little about science, and it was a lot of fun. But diversity extends beyond subject matter, it’s also about those who are presenting the talks. While I’ve been at Drake, we’ve had a solid array of speakers from various backgrounds and perspectives. However, I think more can, and will, be done to expand our horizons. Following the success of Tyson’s lecture, I’m hoping for a female presenter next and maybe someone from the humanities. Whoever’s next, they’ll definitely be another great hallmark in the Drake experience.

JMC Daze

This past week marked a turn for the professional in the Drake University Journalism School. We all took a break from the crazy reality of day-to-day life on a college campus to think about an even crazier reality—what will happen after we graduate.

The full lineup of JMC Days Events!

The full lineup of JMC Days Events!

The JMC Days celebration is a week long of professional development opportunities, journalism speakers, workshops, and panels and general chances to build your professional skill set and prepare for the real world. Drake’s Meredith Hall hosts everything from a professional panel about how to get hired to mock interviews with real professionals to a constant stream of candy and snacks in the main hallway. After three years, I still haven’t figured out why the celebration of journalistic integrity and professionalism is inextricably tied to the presence of Rice Krispies, but I’m also not one to complain.

While in past years I’ve been very involved in the networking, resume reviews, and general advice that comes with JMC Days, this year I was a little distanced from the process. I seem to be at a strange place academically and professionally where I’m so wrapped up in all that’s happening at school and yet still far enough away from the professional world that I’m not yet in a job-induced panic mode. Yet, it was a comfort to know all that was going on this week and see the success and skills of those around me. So many talented alums came back to Meredith Hall to discuss their current positions and how they got there. And while many of them had no idea where they’d end up while still in school, everyone seemed happy, fulfilled, and challenged in their jobs, which is exactly the feeling we’re working these four years to attain.

Are you Ready For Some Football?

It was roughly 3 minutes into the process when I realized, in the words of Gob Bluth, I had made a huge mistake. In fact, I guess technically tryouts hadn’t started yet when I decided I had no business being on a football field. Yet, in the name of professional responsibility, I finished the warm-up lap and the rest of the tryout. I mean, I can no longer move my legs, but I did my job.

For my Freelance Magazine Writing Class, we were assigned a personal experience story. This is one of those pieces where a journalist goes through something and then writes about what happened, the characters they met, and how they felt about the process. My story is about trying out for the Iowa Crush, the women’s professional football team. They follow almost every rule of the NFL…including the tackling.

Full disclosure, as much as I like sports, I am no athlete. In fact, prior to today’s tryout, the last time I actually sprinted may have been related to elementary school track and field day (unless you count rushing to the kitchen for snacks during TV commercial breaks).  So running drills with very talented athletes was a bit rough. Needless to say, I was the decided underdog of the tryout group to put it kindly. To put it not so kindly, I was just kind of bad.

Yet, that was kind of the point. As much as I was regretting the process while trying to run backwards in a w formation, it was a great experience for me. Journalism at Drake pushes you out of your comfort zone, to be better at your job and better as a person. So while my football skills may still need some work, I got to do something completely new today with a really cool group of ladies. And once my muscles start functioning again, I’m going to be grateful for that experience.

Under Pressure

College is hard. Anyone who tells you differently is either lying or doing it wrong. Between extracurricular activities, professional development opportunities, jobs, homework and projects, and that little thing called class, it’ s a challenge to find time to eat, sleep, and breathe. In fact, there’s an unspoken, ongoing competition among some of the more driven Drake students to see whose life is busier, who is more overwhelmed. The answer is, we are all. 

The pressure of the college lifestyle isn’t something I was aware of right away, but naturally, while progressing through my Drake education, responsibilities have piled up. There were young and carefree days all of two years ago when life was like a breezy folk song. Times were good, friends were plentiful, and life was full of promise.  Now, things are more like an edgy indie ballad. Some parts are great, some are really messy, and overall, I have no idea what’s happening.

But when I consider the alternative, I really wouldn’t want anything to change. When I compare the Animal House collegiate experience to the professional, social, and academic opportunities for growth I get at Drake, it’s not even a question. Going through the stress of a busy schedule now will undoubtedly prepare me for all the stress of life that is to come. And while that may sound a little defeatist, I promise, it’s a good thing. Instead of sitting around and wasting these four years of my life watching Duck Dynasty, I’m doing everything I could ever want to and probably more. So while I may be a little behind on what’s happening with Willie and the boys, it’s a pretty great feeling to know that what I’m doing is important and worth devoting time to. 

Coming Home

Ah, Fall Break. Like many universities, Drake schedules a couple days off right after the midterms rush to decompress a little and prepare for the rapid escalation to finals week. And while there’s still a lot of homework and studying to be done, for many students, Fall Break marks an opportunity to simply go home.

A view of The Lou.

A view of The Lou.

So today, I am writing from my home, and my favorite place in the world, St. Louis, Missouri. Since I left to attend Drake, St. Louis has almost taken on this mythical quality for me. Infused with nostalgia and the promise of reuniting with family and friends, everything about the city is perfect. Even driving past the Steak N’ Shake on the way in became an emotional experience for me because it signaled that I was home (and also that they now have fall-inspired shakes).

But honestly, the city is no different than when I lived here full time nor is it any more magical. It’s just that I, like all Drake students, now have a dual identity. Des Moines is my home for so much of the year that I sometimes forget that my life on campus is only a part of who I am. It’s tricky to balance my past and present because when I’m home, it seems nothing in the world could be greater, and while at school, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. And, yes, as it turns out, a couple people have expressed this idea before. There may in fact be an entire book of platitudes about the beauty of home or the reverse “grass is always greener” mentality. Even the great philosophers of our generation, The Counting Crows, remarked how “Don’t it always seem to go/That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” (My apologies to those who do not consider themselves of the same generation as The Counting Crows, and perhaps don’t know even who those mathematically inclined birds are).

The point is, there’s kind of this idealized notion I hold of both places, maybe because in many ways, they are both ideal. And I think that now well into my third year at Drake, I’m finally beginning to understand that I don’t have to pick one place over another. I can love being from St. Louis just as much as I love living in Des Moines. So it may take the rest of my college career, or a lot longer, to become comfortable with this more fluid, dual identity, but I’m confident I’ll get there, knowing St. Louis and Des Moines are always my homes.

Planning for the Present

Plenty of students come into college with a crystal clear psychic vision of their future. They know where they want to end up, what kind of work they want to do, and the course they envision their life taking. These powerful future leaders of America have their suits lined up in their closets and their portfolios ready to present at a moment’s notice. You might call them ambitious; you might call them the Drake business school. Then there’s the kids like me. We know where we are now and that we want to get somewhere, but can barely envision what we’ll have for dinner tonight, much less the next few years.

Some might call this lifestyle short sighted or unfocused, but what good would I be as an English major if I couldn’t use rhetoric to manipulate the labels of my own life? See, I view us as open learners, flexible, and investigative as we take in the full breadth of the collegiate learning experience. And yes, that may sound like a painfully sincere commercial for the liberal arts, but it’s nonetheless true. Because in some way or another, we are all figuring out the future and our part in it. Some Drake students work to follow the plans they’ve laid out for the next 10 years, whereas others of us take it 10 minutes at a time.

The great thing about going through this process at Drake is that both methods are just fine. We each have our pathways and resources to help us develop. So while my more job- driven friends attend career fairs and mock interviews, I can take a class about Leonardo da Vinci and spend my time having discussions about literary theory. And it’s not that Drake doesn’t want us all to be prepared for our futures, it’s just that they realize we’ll all have different ways of getting there. So one of these days, I will pull together some kind of plan, but for now, I’m gonna take it step by step. And maybe I’ll have pasta for dinner.

Homecoming 2013: A Bulldog’s Tale

Homecoming at Drake means food, fun, and free stuff. Oh, and the big game, but mostly free stuff. As a part of Drake Student Activities Board, the main programming board on campus, I’ve been lucky enough to get an inside role with all the Homecoming festivities this year and in years past. With the 2013 theme of “A Bulldog’s Tale”, Homecoming has focused on Drake’s journey of traditions throughout the years.

The inflatables at the Homecoming Carnival are the real deal.

The inflatables at the Homecoming Carnival are the real deal.

The week kicked off with organizations painting the windows of Meredith Hall to celebrate this year’s theme. The comedian duo Frangela of VH1 fame appeared on Pomerantz Stage Monday, marking a foray into the famous for Drake programming. But we’re not all glamorous guests here. The middle of Homecoming week involved members of the Student Activities Board serving up milkshakes for the Drake student body in free Homecoming tumblers and a campus carnival on Helmick Commons. So, yeah, Homecoming is never boring, and there’s plenty more to come.