First I’d like to say congratulations! You are now a college student and headed into a new world of higher education. I can’t even begin to describe how much you will grow at the University of Washington Bothell. You will be given so many amazing opportunities to expand your mind, worldview, vocabulary and skill set. At this school, you will, learn all about thinking creatively and critically, writing and communication, collaboration and shared leadership and interdisciplinary research and inquiry. I am graduating with an Integrated Arts bachelor Degree from the School of Integrated Arts and Sciences from the University of Washington. Sure explaining what an Integrated Arts degree takes a little longer than say, a Fine Arts Degree, but the journey was worth it. I’m writing today to pass along some advice on getting the most of you college experience and graduating with real world applicable skills that will give you an edge in the competitive job market you are graduating into.
1)Critical and Creative Thinking
This is the first skill that you will acquire at the University of Washington. It will be brought up over and over again. From you first class on campus to your Capstone Portfolio class during you last quarter at UWB; and for good reason. Critical and Creative thinking will serve as the basis for all of your homework assignments, group project, oral presentations and class discussions. A particularly memorable moment was a professor telling the class, “If you remember nothing else from this class I want you at least to walk away knowing how to look at the world with wondering eyes and ask questions with confidence.” That’s exactly the outlook that this school fosters in its students and I take it with me as I start on my next adventure.
The work that best exemplifies my acquired skills of critical and creative thinking is a poetry analysis paper I did for an independent study. The paper is titled, Japanese Poetry’s Long History with Eco-Poetry, and is a five-page analysis of Japanese poetry that includes haikus from the 17th century and contemporary work. Before I even started to analyze the poetry I first identified any preconceptions I had about Japanese literature and researched the validity or baselessness of my assumptions. Without the guidance of a teacher to guide me in the right direction this task was difficult but not impossible. The foreword in the anthology I got my collection of poems from and a couple scholarly articles on a modern day Japanese poetry were particularly helpful in this regard. After I had read each poem multiple times and let them sink in I began to form my question around the literary techniques used to create these iconic stylized poems that are so different from western contemporary poems and the cultural differences that influence them. By comparing these poems from the works I had read the week prior which were from the transcendental poetry movement I was able to break down the divergences and convergences of these two genres of poetry. Overall it was a fun and interesting paper that helped me to improve not only my poetry analysis skill but my international literature appreciation skills as well.
2) Interdisciplinary Research and Inquiry
I would consider the learning process for this skill to be the most interesting. While gaining this skill you get to combine peer-reviewed journal articles of the nesting habits of chickadees with poetry from H.D. Not all the combinations of subjects are particularly exciting but they will always be interesting. I consider myself very lucky to have had an interdisciplinary education because it meant I got exposure to so many topics outside my interests allowing for a wider breadth of knowledge than a typical art student. When you are investigating new artists, studying the background and methods of famous authors, or even fact checking articles you have the skills to dig deep and find the most high quality and relevant information. Not to mention that you can present you findings in form of essays and even formal and informal oral presentations. All of this you learn during your time at UWB.
The first artifact I chose to include in this capstone essay as fulfilling the requirements of the Interdisciplinary research & inquiry learning objective is a brochure for a natural spaces walk on campus. I mentioned this artifact before unter the collaboration and shared leadership as it was a group project for my ecology class. My group worked with the on campus organization, Outdoor Activity and Wellness, to design a walk around campus that highlighted the natural spaces as well as an accompanying brochure. Working with oncampus staff to find information on all of the natural spaces we compiled an informative brochure that informed the reader on the history and ecological significance of each area. We also provided a page on Forest Bathing which is the health benefits associated with walking in nature. All of the information was backed up by either first hand information from faculty members or reputable academic journal articles. We used other work to inform our decision making process and then to support the claims we were making.
3)Collaboration and Shared leadership
Out of all the skills acquired as an IAS student working well in a group dynamic happens to be both the most attractive trait for employers but also my favourite aspect of my time at UWB. The students at the UW Bothell campus are considerate, hardworking and most often a pleasure to work with. The first thing you learn about leadership at UWB is that a leader doesn't have to be mean, uptight, ro dominating to be successful. A good leader is one that works with other project members strengths and interests. Both on campus and off I found these new interpersonal skills were helping me thrive in academic, professional and casual settings. Two experiences come to mind when I think about collaboration and leadership. The first was on-campus and the second was extra-curricular.
The first project I feel fits under this learning objective of collaboration and shared leadership is a group project I did for a Natural History class. Students were tasked with completing a quarter long cumulative project tailored for a local community organization that the students would spend the quarter working with. I was lucky enough to get assigned to the on-campus department for Outdoor Fitness and Wellness. My team and I worked together to design a nature walk with accompanying booklet under the guidance of a faculty advisor. Each group each member assumed the responsibility of one aspect of the project and we came together at the end to assemble the final project as a group. I was in charge of the visuals for the booklet as well as assembling the booklet in photoshop. I worked closely with the faculty advisor and my fellow students to make sure I was expressing their vision and creating a cohesive and engaging final project. We had weekly meetings to check in on our progress and assist team mates than needed support. The project was so fun because each group member was excited about the project so the energy and effort put into the final project were great.
The second artifact that falls under this learning objective was an extracurricular experience. The summer between my junior and senior year I went on a volunteer trip across Canada teaching meditation. I was put in charge of cooking which meant my duties were preparing food, making grocery lists, assigning people to cook duty and making sure food was prepared ahead of time on long days out. Despite being in a leadership position I made sure to work collaboratively and mitigate duties instead of dominating the work. I had small conflicts with the person in charge of finances but we managed to work through our differences and come to a mutual agreement about food quality versus cheapness. All of the skills it took to do that though I learned from a negotiation class I took at UWB. It was a great learning experience as well as a genuinely fun trip.
4) Writing and Communication
As a member of the technological era and a hopeful author having not just adequate but exemplary writing and communication skills is very important. I can admit to being a meandering and disorganised writer who at the beginning of my college career rarely if ever used an outline before I started writing a paper. My presentation skills were inconsistent and I was lacking in confidence due to the limited exposure I had to presentation opportunities. Over my time at UWB I had more than plenty of opportunities to present about a variety of topics ranging from new renewable energy sources to the life and work of Rembrandt.
Wonder Bread is a long-form prose piece I wrote in my Introduction to Creative Writing class. This prose piece was inspired by events in my own life and is about the eating disorder I struggled with during a road trip across Canada last summer. The success of the piece lies in it’s subtle and indirect method in which it gradually reveals to the reader the severity of the man character's eating disorder. This was one of the first pieces I wrote in the course but it was also the piece I chose to edit and refine for the final project. I feel like it fully utilizes the literary methods covered in class to communicate a complex and sensitive subject.
As my time here at UWB draws to a close I take stock of my experiences and what I will take away from them to pass them along to you freshman Leela. Some of the skills you will acquire are easier to quantify than others, namely the four skills I've mentioned in this letter: Creative and critical thinking, Writing and Communication, Inderdislapanry Research and Inquiry, and Collaboration and Shared Leadership. All of these skills come together not only to make me a good student and potentially a good employee, but they make me a good citizen of the world. I walk away from my time at UWB with the ability to empathize with others, see the world from a new perspective, overcome assumptions, discover new ways of thinking and being proactive about my life. I’ve so enjoyed my time and the UWB and all the people I’ve met there, they all have helped me grow and supported me during my time of discovery. With this amazing set of tools in your back pocket, it’s time to move on to the next great adventure. Good luck freshman Leela, it’s your time to grow.