May 25, 2011

Post-bac alternative for seniors

Job hunting and graduate school are not the only options for Knox students after they earn their degree. For some, the answer lies right here on campus.

In the Post-Baccalaureate Fellowship program, a select number of students are allowed to continue their undergraduate education each year, tuition-free for one, two or three terms. Students must also then complete a project overseen by a faculty or staff member that helps strengthen educational programs at Knox.

Dean of the College Larry Breitborde said he believes Knox is one of just a handful of schools to offer such a program.

“The program made a big difference for a lot of students in terms of giving them a little more direction,” Breitborde said, who has been in charge of the program since he began at Knox in 1995. “And the college has certainly benefitted from the range of projects.”

In the past, projects have included everything from updating department websites to serving as research assistants to faculty members. Other students have acted as assistant coaches in the athletics department or as building secretaries, where they have been responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of a campus building.

Students traditionally enroll in two class credits each term in addition to their campus project. Breitborde said that a common misconception is that the two have to been interconnected.

“I’ve seen people, who may have developed an interest in pre-med a little late in the game, decide to take more science classes, while they’re doing a project for the art department,” Breitborde said.

Applications are reviewed based on academic merits, project feasibility, as well as the school’s need for the project. Breitborde said that of the approximately 18 applications he sees, he typically admits about 12.

“This year was a huge year: we had 26 applications—that could be a tenth of the senior class depending how many students are graduating,” Breitborde said, adding that he plans to accept 17 of them. “Maybe that’s the economy speaking out.”

Senior Max Galloway-Carson was one of the students that applied for the fellowship this year. He plans to work in the classroom with Assistant Professor of Computer Science David Bunde to help students better understand the growing number of computer programming languages. As for coursework, he plans on taking CS 306: Automata Theory and Programming Languages, which he believes is among the most important courses in the Computer Science department.

“If one has any inclination towards graduate school, this class is a must,” Galloway-Carson said. “I wasn’t ready to take it when it was offered, but now I have a chance to do so.”

He added that he will also use the year to explore pursuing a life in Galesburg designing smartphone applications.

“It’s also time to consider going to graduate school versus ‘the real world,’” Galloway-Carson said. “In short, the mission for this year is to figure out what I’m doing with my life.”

Josh Davidoff, ‘10 completed his fellowship this year. His project included designing and implementing a composting system on campus and improving other areas of sustainability at Knox.

“I applied for my fellowship because I hadn’t been able to start the neuroscience sequence (as well as a few other classes) in my four years at Knox and because it’s free, it was ideal,” Davidoff said. “It allowed me to gain more upper-level understanding of health sciences.”

Davidoff, who studies biochemistry and health, said that he was able to take several pharmacology courses, which he would have not been able to complete in his first four years at Knox.

“This combines all of my interests and gives me a better idea of the world of health and how it intertwines with biochemistry,” Davidoff said. “For those who aren’t sure which field they are headed into, or can gain value from more classes, I would recommend the experience.”

Breitborde said that after completing their fellowship, students have gone into any number of fields and sees no rhyme or reason behind where they wind up.

“It’s all over the map,” Breitborde said. “It’s as complicated as the answer for the whole senior class.”

Matt McKinney
Matt McKinney is a senior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. His experience with journalism ranges from a year as co-sports editor for TKS to an internship with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he used his Spanish language skills to report a front-page story on changes to federal immigration policy. He has also written for The Galesburg Register-Mail and Knox’s Office of Communications. Matt is the recipient of the 2012 Knox College Kimble Prize for Feature Journalism and two awards from the Illinois College Press Association, including a first place award for sports game coverage. He is currently interning virtually with The Tampa Bay Times and will pursue his master's next year at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.


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