By Sarah Stubbs
Being in the liberal arts at the University of Findlay feels a little like being the oddball out at times. I love it, don’t get me wrong—I initially decided to come to Findlay because of softball and the fact that I simply just pictured myself going to school here, but what’s truly keeping me in orange and black are the liberal arts: the English and communication departments, to be specific.
I love that I feel like my advisers and my professors genuinely care about my work and my plans for my future. I also love the awesome programs we have going on here (the Pulse, UFTV, the Slippery Elm, etc.). I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all of the opportunities these departments—the faculty backbones of these departments—create for us students daily. Not only opportunities to learn and think critically, but also opportunities to network and create.
Just in this past month alone I have met four professionals whom were brought in to our University to share with my fellow aspiring journalists, writers, videographers, editors and artists what they do, why it matters and how they do it.
The first professional I’ve met this semester is Renée Nicholson. The English department at UF holds several lovely poetry and prose readings by authors and artists several times each semester. Renée was the first of the spring semester. She is a professor at the University of West Virginia, cohosts a literary podcast, and according to her personal website, “splits her artistic pursuits between writing and dance.” She has a lot going on. Renée recently published a collection of her poetry, “Roundabout Directions to Lincoln Park” which was the center of her visit to UF on Jan. 22.
I am lucky enough to be in Dave Essinger’s e-rhetoric and writing course this semester, in which Renée stopped by the morning of her reading to talk to us about what she does and how she brands herself. She showed us her personal website and the online journal she co-manages that showcases art of all sorts called Souvenir. She talked a lot about how she brands herself in a way that gets her creative projects recognized. I immediately identified myself with her (I like to think that I have several creative projects going on all at once, too) and felt so grateful to have met her. I felt inspired and motivated to keep doing what I love and search for creative ways to brand myself.
I recently had a couple other similar experiences with the communication department, too. A few weeks ago, Cheri Hampton-Farmer, department chair, hosted a communication major luncheon with special guest Vic Travagliante. Vic’s testimony made our ears perk and our eyes big: just five years ago, a UF senior journalism major weeks from graduation signs a contract to announce for the Cincinnati Reds, goes on to work for the Chicago White Sox and then currently the Cleveland Browns. We were all thinking, “Wow. He was once in our shoes. Something like that could happen for us, too, since it happened for him.” After the luncheon, Vic offered to take whomever was interested out to dinner that night to pick his brain and swap contact information.
Earlier the same week that I met Vic, I was included in the interview process of a candidate for a new professor for the communication department, Megan Adams, also a UF alum. I didn’t get to swap contact info with Adams, but hearing her presentation was a valuable experience in itself. She talked about her current research and recent projects, but most of her presentation was centered on starting a discussion about where journalism is headed in this digital age and why telling stories will always matter no matter how the mediums for story telling may change. One of her latest pieces, an interactive documentary, was so fascinating to me and made me so excited to be a journalist who could potentially tell stories in new ways like she has done. Once again I had another experience where I felt content and confident in my decision to study journalism and English.
On Feb. 4, the English department brought in another professional. Since I had class the night of his presentation, I only got to catch the last few minutes. Benjamin Busch, a writer, actor, filmmaker and photographer did a multimedia presentation in the Ritz about how he writes/produces his art. He centered his presentation on his recent war memoir, Dust to Dust, and his photos he took while on two separate trips to the Middle East. Only seeing some of his presentation, I was still blown away by his bravery and found his work fascinating.
I know that bigger Universities that have bigger programs for the arts hold events similar to the ones I’ve described, but I guarantee they are not nearly as intimate as the ones UF puts on. I can also guarantee that students aren’t taken out to dinner by successful alumni or are getting books signed by a poet or author in a matter of minutes after her presentation.
Sometimes I feel disappointed that there aren’t more students that turn out for events like poetry readings and multimedia presentations—and by all means I am encouraging students of all majors to come out and take advantage of free, interesting entertainment—but I am grateful for the connections and relationships I have established in these intimate settings.
Read your emails from your department heads. Pay attention to who’s on the schedule to visit UF to speak or present. You never know who you’re going to cross paths with that might open your eyes up to something you’ve never seen before or present a new way of doing something that you’ve never thought of. Some of our most valuable learning experiences happen outside of the classroom walls, it’s just a matter getting out there and showing up with an open mind.