May 25, 2011

Balancing Act: new prospects

Marcus McGee

As his first year at Knox draws to a close, freshman Marcus McGee could not be happier with his choice to attend Knox, even though he initially had reservations about not going to his first choice college.

“I was worried that everyone here would have the same viewpoint or that there would be nothing to do,” he said. “[Knox] defied my expectations entirely. It’s the “D” word: diversity. There are so many interesting people here.”

Initially, McGee was hesitant to become deeply involved on campus, preferring to observe the college community before jumping in.

“I have a lot of friends who did, and that’s awesome because it shows that they’re ambitious and go-getters, but it didn’t feel right for me,” he said. “I didn’t understand the community yet, so how could I lead it?”

Now armed with a year of knowledge, McGee plans to effect change on campus, starting with increasing resources for foreign language learning.

“I’m going to explore putting grants together for students to learn languages not offered at Knox,” he said. “I know we have the money to provide more resources for students.”

McGee himself is interested in learning Persian (Farsi) or another language rarely taught at American liberal arts colleges, hoping this will help him be competitive as a political analyst. While he is relatively set on pursuing a career in political analytics, he is less sure about the path he will take to get there.

“There are still a lot of classes I want to take before I decide what I want to specialize in within international relations,” McGee said. “My learning has direction, but the direction is still vague.”

McGee has also recently developed an interest in history and is considering adding a double major in the subject to his major in International Relations.

“You can’t just learn about modern policies,” he said. “Without that [historical] context, esoteric knowledge is useless.”

For now, McGee’s explorations of international relations keep him satisfyingly busy. He recently completed his first research paper at Knox for his Comparative Politics of the Middle East class on the evolution of Hezbollah over time.

“I probably put about 30 hours into it,” he said. “I had never expected to be putting 30 hours into any assignment. But I liked it a lot.”

Despite describing this term as his first “really hard” term at Knox, McGee has still managed to balance academics and activities. He has been hosting a radio show and was recently elected secretary of Knox’s Model United Nations club.

“Somehow I’ve still had time for fun,” he said. “Although I didn’t go out on Saturday night, which is weird for me. I’ve basically been a bookworm for the past two to three weeks.”

This summer, McGee will continue modeling in Chicago as well as start a job in retail. He has secured a position at American Apparel but is keeping an eye out for other options.

“Nothing related to international relations, unfortunately,” he said. “I really want to have more experiential learning.”

Although McGee eagerly awaits new experiences outside of Knox, his connection to the college remains strong.

“Every day, I think about the community here,” he said. “[Knox] has sort of become home.”

Mackenzie Steward-Snook

If sophomore Mackenzie Steward-Snook has learned anything this term, it is the value of perseverance.

Having spent the first half of the term getting over pneumonia, Steward-Snook has now managed to catch up in her classes thanks to her work ethic and the support of her friends.

“Early on when I was sick … I thought I was just going to fall apart,” she said. “I realized all I had to do was just keep pushing myself a little bit farther every day.”

Now that she is illness-free, Steward-Snook has found time to play tennis and walk dogs at the Humane Society, as well as devote herself to larger projects that have cropped up in her classes, such as having a piece workshopped in her nonfiction workshop.

“I wrote about being adopted and kind of the stigma that goes along with that,” she said. “My adoption has been compared to slavery since I’ve been ‘purchased.’ I have tons of ridiculous stories.”

Although previous workshops have been painful for her, Steward-Snook was quite pleased with the experience this time around.

“The atmosphere in that class is so supportive and all the criticism was extremely constructive,” she said. “I feel like I’ve come away with so much advice.”

For her Introduction to Research class, Steward-Snook and her lab partner looked at how plants grow in both water and soil, which resulted in a poster in the biology wing of the Umbeck Science and Mathematics Center.

“We found that using a water culture was much more efficient and eco-friendly because of the many ways to use water and recycle it in that kind of environment,” Steward-Snook said. “It’s easy, effective and cheap.”

This will likely be the first of many similar projects for Steward-Snook, who plans on taking two 300-level biology classes each term next year. In the fall, she will also be participating in a shadowing program with a local nurse. Both experiences, she hopes, will solidify her decision to pursue nursing.

“I like helping people, but I don’t think I could handle the stress of being a doctor and holding someone’s life in my hands,” she said.

Currently, Steward-Snook is investigating nursing programs at Rush Medical School in Chicago and at schools in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“They are very, very good programs,” she said of the Guadalajara schools. “So that might be a really interesting experience culturally.”

For now, Steward-Snook is content to concentrate on the here and now. She has decided to take courses at a community college in her hometown of San Francisco, Calif. this summer before diving headfirst into her preparations for nursing school in the fall.

“I like the idea of being able to live my life in service,” she said. “Over the next year, that might change, but right now, I feel fairly confident about it.”

Sam Lewis

After going back and forth on changing his major from Studio Art to Music, junior Sam Lewis has made his decision. Next June, he will graduate with a major in Music.

When Lewis found out that he had been waitlisted for a summer art program, he saw it as confirmation that his wavering when it came to his art major was warranted.

“I didn’t really feel disappointed [that I was waitlisted], and I took that as an indication that I was supposed to do music,” he said.

Switching his major at the end of his junior year will mean a lot of work for Lewis as a senior. In the fall, he will be taking three music courses, including Music Theory III and a 300-level music history class. Guitar and piano lessons and ensemble participation will round out Lewis’ fall term. The workload does not seem too daunting to him, however.

“Just going ahead and changing my major … was an uncommonly decisive move on my part,” he said. “It’s a commitment to a somewhat difficult route, but hopefully it will be well worth it as far as personal reward goes.”

For now, though, Lewis is enjoying a somewhat easier term. Due to changing his major, he decided to drop his art history course, leaving him with two classes, drum lessons and a seemingly endless list of performances for various ensembles.

“The [Funky Funky] Freaks have been doing something every weekend for the last couple of weekends,” he said. “It’s been a lot of work, but it’s fun as hell.”

Lewis has also been preparing for finals in Jazz History and Music Theory II, as well as working on his final project for the latter: composing a minuet.

“The hard part … is that I don’t play a harmonic instrument, so I just had to kind of pick things out on the piano and intellectualize them instead of playing through things and hearing them as they were actually going to sound,” he said.

Although the rest of Lewis’ time at Knox will be very structured, his summer plans are still up in the air. This week, his proposal for a Richter grant was denied, inhibiting his ability to stay in Galesburg and continue to play as part of the Cherry Street Combo.

“That was going to be my rent because I’m really poor, so I don’t know how I’m going to stay here,” he said. “It’s just as expensive for me to buy a plane ticket home.”

Lewis has applied for casual labor jobs at Knox over the summer, which he hopes will be able to cover his rent.

“If I can find a way to stay here, I think it will actually be less expensive overall, and I’ll get to keep playing and learning about music,” he said.

Ari Timko

Over the past several weeks, senior Ari Timko became a Pi Beta Phi alumna, said farewell to her senior research for good after presenting it at an undergraduate research conference, and tried to spend as much time with friends as possible. Slowly, she said, her activities are winding down.

“I got to delete so many emails, and it was so freeing,” she said.

Timko’s classes, however, have yet to lighten up. Even though, unlike many other seniors, Timko completed her senior capstone project during winter term, she still has plenty to keep her busy academically, including composing a minuet for Music Theory II.

“It’s frustrating because … if you tweak one little thing, you can’t just tweak that; you have to tweak the whole phrase. There are no little fixes,” she said.

Timko also has a final dream analysis for Dreaming to finish and two final examinations for Developmental Psychopathology and Music Theory. Still, she does not feel overly stressed.

“Normally I don’t get stressed out about exams as much as I do about big presentations and other things,” she said.

Timko’s ability to manage her stress level is likely to serve her well in the fall, when she will attend graduate school for rehabilitation counseling and psychology. This summer, she will spend time getting practical experience in the field as a counselor at the Wediko Summer Camp in Windsor, N.H., a residential program for young people suffering from behavioral and emotional problems.

“I’ll be with a clinical group for 17 to 18 hours a day,” Timko said. “You’re never planned to be with them for that many hours, but there is always one kid who never goes to bed until two in the morning.”

This will be Timko’s second summer volunteering at the camp. Unlike last summer, however, the experience will not end with a drive back to Knox.

“I don’t think it’s going to sink in that I’m not coming back here until it’s August and I’m not coming back here,” she said.

Although her new home will be in North Carolina, she will take much away from her time at Knox, including increased confidence in her ability to hold her own.

“I think I have really stood up for myself this term in a variety of ways that reassure me that I can hold my own ground,” she said. “I’m still working on ingraining this: that the only judge of your self-worth is you.”

For her peers whose Knox experiences will continue next year, Timko advises taking full advantage of a Knox education.

“I have friends who got all their requirements and foundations done, but they took them mostly within their major or close to their major,” she said. “I don’t think that’s taking advantage of the liberal arts experience. Take ceramics if you’re a physics major.”

As she prepares to devote herself to a life of helping others, Timko hopes that other Knox students will find their own ways to do so.

“Some people at Knox are very, very good at being vocal about things they think are wrong,” she said. “Being someone who does something about things you think are wrong is worth so much more.”

Anna Meier

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