Undergrad –> Grad

Thursday night was Awards Chapel. There are few things more demotivating than to hear about what a great undergraduate career you’ve had. Unfortunately, my undergraduate career isn’t over. The two papers I’ve been working on for the past 2 months are due this week. Both are in good condition, but since they both comprise the bulk of my grade, I’m a bit nervous. Not to mention that I have a 3rd, shorter paper to write for Latin. Of course, I haven’t started it. I’ll do it before Thursday hopefully, since that day our Classics Seminar presents to the Indianapolis Association of Wabash Men at the IMA. Dr. Hartnett told me that one of my future bosses at Apparatus, Aman Brar ’99, will be there. I’m assuming this will be the first and last time Aman hears about Roman funerary practices from an employee.

Thursday morning was our final Chapel of the year. President White gave a final parting address, and we “rung him out” with little bells stocked in the top balcony. His speech was essentially a collection of Wabash stories and sentiments. We get quite of bit of those around here, but Pres. White’s were so heartfelt. It’s weird to think that while he’ll move on to Milliken University, I’ll still be involved with Wabash. I’ll still be coming to alumni events and games at the College, even when many of most beloved professors are gone. My role will shift from the ever-indulgent student to the ever-vigilant overseer, giving money, voicing my opinion, helping students with networking, and attempting to preserve the goods that Wabash gave me for future generations, regardless of who I know any longer.

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Well, since I have my post-grad plans finalized, it’s time for me to start delving into more minute matters. As you may know, we have a week between finals week and commencement, AKA “Decadence Week.” I plan on using this time to start chipping away at the mountain of books I’ve been meaning to read for years. This is a never-ending project but I hope to make a fair amount of progress. One work in particular I’ll finish is the Great Gatsby, in prep for the movie. There’s actually a book club going on at Wabash for it, and I meant to join it, but due to conflicts I’ve only made one meeting–and that will probably be the only meeting.

However, it’s still encouraging that book clubs are beginning to flourish. They’ve been one of my constants these past few semester and really highlight what’s so great about Wabash. Indeed, though I’ll value the free time of working life, I will dearly miss the intellectual atmosphere. I’m still figuring out how to recreate it. In fact, this worry, I think, was one of the main reasons I considered graduate school so long. I didn’t know if I could imagine myself not surrounded by books. As it turns out, I didn’t mean “academic books,” but literature that I personally like. And, as it turns out, no professor gets paid to read great books. So instead of an academic, I will be a mere lover of books.

Another thing: I’ll be moving back in with my parents. Not only does this save me a bunch of hassle in looking for an apartment, but I’ll be living on the cheap, too. I want to pay my student loans back ASAP, so I must resist the temptation to buy a suit, dress shoes, an iPad…Well, I suppose the suit is necessary.

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End of times

So, I have two weeks left. It’s amazing how many things must “conclude” by then. My Common Law paper is due a week from today. I’ll turn in my Senior Seminar paper next week as well, plus a paper for Latin that I haven’t started. Thus, I have about 15 pages to write and another 35 to edit. That last Thursday, everyone in our Senior Seminar will do a presentation for the Indianapolis Association of Wabash Men at the IMA about ol’ Flavius and his monument, followed by dinner and browsing. This Tuesday, we’ll have “Senior Dinner” at FIJI, which means special seating and steak for at dinner. Then we get to lecture the underclassman, eating a normal meal, with our “advice.” Thursday is Awards Chapel, which I presume will involve recognition for Phi Beta Kappa, but hey, maybe more. My parents will also be there, which means they’ll get to meet all my professors before Commencement.

Also, last night, I got good news–a job offer from Apparatus, an IT consulting company in Indy. I’ll be a “Technology Analyst,” which is basically their all-purpose name for non-leadership employees who work on client projects. So I’ll be learning some IT program like Microsoft Sharepoint, helping a project with it, and then moving on to something else. I’m quite lucky. Apparatus was one of the few companies I interviewed for at all, and the only one for which I went through the whole process. I had been talking to them since my spring break way back in early March, and managed to not screw it up.

There were, of course, Wabash connections–both the President and CEO are Wabash graduates. One of them is a newly-minted trustee. I’ve been aware of Apparatus for a few years, especially when a friend and former co-worker from an internship worked there. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. It’s a growing company with a good culture and it should be a lot of fun. And now, I can tell people definitively what I’m doing after graduation! 5 years out, however, is another question…

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Kenyan Visitor

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember reading posts written about my trips to Kenya–both for the Wabash immersion trip, and then on my own after my abroad semester. And you remember a certain person playing an important role in my first trip, and a vital role in my second: Father Chris Musyoka.

Fr. Chris is a Capucchin Franciscan friar, which means he’s even simpler than your regular Franciscan. He’s wonderfully friendly and terrific with kids. When we went to Kenya as a group, he connected us with Starehe Boys School, which is the top high school in the country that he was a chaplain for. A few of us followed Fr. Chris to his home region, Machakos, which is a rural area outside Nairobi. You can read more about that excursion here.

Then, when I went back to Kenya on my own last spring, Fr. Chris was my trusty guide. Planning trips, meeting people, and basically leading me through the country, I spent an innumerable time with Fr. Chris. We literally spent every day together for that two weeks. I really got to see how generous he was; he truly embodies the spirit of St. Francis.

Fr. Chris has been visiting Wabash for the past few days and will stay here through Tuesday night. He’s here to find support for a school he’s building in his home region, but also to keep in touch. He likes to visit the US once a year. I picked him up from the airport Thursday night and have been spending quite a bit of time with him. (I got a bit lost coming out of the cell phone lot, but that’s past me now…)

Friday night, Dr. Warner hosted a dinner for Fr. Chris and had a bunch of faculty and students from the Kenya immersion trip over. Saturday, Fr. Chris and I went to DePauw, since Fr. Chris is very interested in education and likes to compare our university systems. My sister Theresa is a freshman and, though she herself wasn’t there that day, was nice enough to arrange for a friend from Ghana to show us around. Sunday, Fr. Chris was at the morning Mass at St. Bernard’s. Afterwards, he visited my 4th grade Religious Ed class, and awed my students with tales of Kenyan tribes and wild animals. After our campus mass, he joined several of us for dinner at the Newman Center. Tomorrow, he’ll be giving a lunchtime talk about his work. For dinner, I’ll join him, Dr. Cook, and a few others in Indianapolis for dinner.

It’s easy for me to forget how lucky I’ve been to have spent so much time in Kenya. Yet most people on campus don’t even remember the Kenyan immersion trip. For now, they’ll have to soak up Kenya from him.

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The other final paper

Last post I talked about the final paper I was doing for Classics Senior Seminar. The other 20-pager I have to write is for my History of Common Law. The paper-writing for this class has been less structured than Senior Seminar, and I’ve spent less time exploring the research, so I’m a little bit more worried about how it will turn out. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about. The perennial question of the class has been, “what is the role of history in law?” We’ve reviewed some Supreme Court cases that basically said, “it doesn’t matter if we’ve been doing this practice for a while. There’s no good reason which outweighs the harm done by it.” This is said clearly in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down a state law banning same-sex sodomy, and less clearly in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down a state anti-miscegenation (mixed race) statute. The historical practice of either anti-sodomy laws or anti-miscegenation laws wasn’t enough to offset the liberty interests of the individual at stake.

Though the Supreme Court has always had the ability to break from precedent, it seems to give less weight to history than it used to. Whether using history to define “fundamental rights,” an approach apparently rebuked in Lawrence v. Texas, or refraining from using past practice as a reason to do something, after the right has been defined, we look for “better” reasons. The latter is evident in the current same-sex marriage battle, in which legal argument in favor of laws prohibiting same-sex marriage often border on saying, “we’ve been doing it this way for a long time and shouldn’t change it.” It’s no surprise that such arguments are dismissed. However, my opinion is that such a dismissal of history isn’t necessarily bad. If something has historical weight, then chances are, there is some reason for its presence.

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Final papers

I’ve reached that stage in the year. With the exception of 120 lines of Lucretius for Latin class every week, I have only papers standing between me and graduation. No real homework or even class. However, two of these papers are substantial 20-page research papers. The first is for Classics Senior Seminar. We’ve been brainstorming/drafting for several weeks now, so I have a good idea of what my final paper is going to look like. I blogged about Senior Seminar in January, way back before I had any ideas whatsoever for the paper, so you can read that to get the basic gist of the class’ approach.

My paper is about Roman burial practices. The monument that our class revolves around would have been in a Roman cemetery. Like ours, Roman cemeteries often hosted certain gifts and offerings. However, the Romans had a much richer and more complicated breadth of practices to remember the dead, related to the physical tomb. We might leave flowers or notes; the Roman would have entire meals there. They might sacrifice certain animals, pour out wine onto the ground, and leave symbolic food for the dead. The practice of leaving food for the dead was a much more literal and practical deed: tombs weren’t just places for superstition. Spirits of the dead actually lived there and required food to eat.

Though scholars have some basic notions of when Romans visited tombs and had meals there, and what sort of food that might involve, little has been said about how the meals were actually conducted. Were they pleasant and full of conversation, like the regular Roman meal? Were the diners primarily family, who often formed the bulk of other funerary practices? Or were there more associates of the father, who would normally be participants in a Roman dinner? Were these fancy or no-frills? My approach is answering these questions will be philological: I’m going to find instances where such meals are mentioned in Latin literature, and then attempt to draw conclusions about them based on the context of their usage. Then, I’ll relate my findings about the meals to Flavius Agricola. His family would have had these meals around the monument. How might the monument have “overshadowed” or affected the meal? If it was solemn, did his liveliness contrast with it? Or did the meal’s liveliness match his lead?

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Interviewing and jobbing

I’ve had a flurry of job-searching and interviewing recently. After doing a phone interview with Indianapolis-area IT consulting company Apparatus, I had the initial and final interview with them across these past two weeks. I also applied to another IT/Business consulting company, Allegient, and had an interview scheduled within a day of submitting my application, which I did Friday. What I find funny about these two opportunities combined is that, though I don’t have any direct IT experience, I’m having the most relative luck applying to such positions. I have more SEO/internet marketing experience, but haven’t gotten any bites from applying to those kinds of positions.

I have a few theories about why that is. Number one, my hunch is that the SEO/internet marketing positions get a ton of applicants–all sorts of my peers have relevant experience in those areas, since internet marketing is a common internship position and doesn’t require any advanced technical skills. Number two, it’s my impression that IT doesn’t necessarily require advanced technical skills–you’re not going to be writing programs or anything. Often, you’ll be using/troubleshooting advanced technical programs. So you may not need previous technical skills, since it’s likely the required program isn’t something you’ve had direct experience with. You just need to quickly learn new technical programs.

When IT is framed this way, it seems like a natural fit for me. Though my internet marketing experience hasn’t directly involved IT, it always involved quickly learning new programs. And of course, “learning how to learn” is one of the liberal arts’ perennial selling points. When I was in my first interview at Apparatus, I directly toted my Latin experience: much like IT, reading and researching for Latin involves jumping into unknown and complicated texts full of literary and grammatical nuances you don’t know yet. But you “fake it ’till you make it.”

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