ThinkING Aloud

Last week, Dr. Beth McCoy asked our class to share our first impressions of the course in small groups. I said that initially, I was just astounded that Steve Prince was coming to Geneseo at all, because I didn’t think that an up-and-comer artist would have the time to come to our school or the interest in teaching us. I suppose I wondered what our school, one that doesn’t even specialize in art, had to offer someone as talented as Steve Prince. I was very pleasantly surprised when I met Steve! I didn’t expect him to be so down-to-earth. He was so passionate about his art and involving all of us students in the process. I was really nervous about contributing to the Urban Garden, but the way Steve talked about the project to all of the students, he made us feel like no contribution to the project would be a “mistake” (in his words, “there is no such thing”), and his general attitude gave me and my peers the confidence to join in on the project!

Dr. McCoy wants us to consider the role of our respective disciplines in terms of the course. There are so many different fields involved in our discussion of Steve Prince’s art! For now, I don’t have many concrete ideas of how they intersect, but I am willing and excited to contemplate the possibilities. I am an English major, so I was very comfortable signing up for this course even though it isn’t technically an English class, but I think of English as one of the more all-encompassing fields that places a heavier emphasis on integrative learning and interdisciplinary work. I think my background in English will allow me to better think of the ways in which Steve Prince’s work connects with other fields that are unrelated to art on the surface, but in truth, have everything to do with it.

Another pro of being part of the English department is that I took a course with Dr. McCoy this past fall, and this was when I first learned of the newly founded Center for Integrative Learning. Dr. Lytton Smith, who ran our most recent class, works with the CIL to connect with and reach students all around campus, spreading the word about the value of interdisciplinary studies. I was very glad to have participated in one of the CIL’s projects last semester — recording a short video of myself discussing integrative learning and what it means and how it has impacted me personally. All on its own, the process of thinkING, as Dr. McCoy would say, sparks creative thought, research, and ideas. Simply being mindful and cognizant of what I stand to gain from this course and being fully involved is helpful in the way of thinking about how to find the most growth.

I really don’t know what I want from this course in academic terms; I can only think of qualities/general life skills that I have a feeling I will either gain or improve upon. I want to become more open-minded. I think I have a tendency to get set in an opinion and dig my heels in, even if the feeling of being wrong slowly begins to creep up on me halfway through a debate. Already I am learning to become more open-minded, because last week Dr. McCoy had us read an article on the importance of learning to admit when we are wrong. It makes me feel more secure in my own opinions and actions knowing that other people are looking for the intellectual world to change its mindset on intellectual humility and the whole concept of “failure” as well.

In the exercise our class did with Dr. Lytton Smith on Friday afternoon, we were told to stand up from our desks and walk around as we contemplated the many meanings of “the line”. I believe it was Matty who walked right out of the classroom, and when she returned after we finished the exercise, I said aloud, “Ohhh, that was the point of this.” Dr. Smith and Dr. McCoy then challenged me to change my way of thinking, relaying to me that there really was no “point” to the exercise — to paraphrase, you only get out of it what you get out of it. I realized that what I said when Matty reentered the room implied that there was a “right” answer to this exercise, similar to the idea that there is a “right” answer to every other question that’s ever been asked. But when I think about how this translates to other disciplines, science teaches us that nothing is fact, everything is theories and hypotheses, yet I have gleaned from the aforementioned article that some scientists seem to very much dread being wrong and admitting they are wrong. At one point in the article, the author states, “(One famous psychologist under fire recently told me angrily, ‘I will stand by that conclusion for the rest of my life, no matter what anyone says.’)” While this intellectual does not necessarily represent everyone, I think we all have a ways to go in changing our thinking.

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