Knox’s post-baccalaureate program has become a popular transition stage for some graduates, allowing them to take classes for free while working on a project for the school.
For Poorva Anand ‘19, it was especially helpful to her as an international student, providing her a means of staying in the United States and gain experience before moving forward to graduate school.
Keara Crook ‘19 decided to post-bacc because she did not have a job lined up right upon graduation and did not want to head straight into graduate school for forensics.
Crook applied for a post-bacc opportunity proposed by Chair of Asian Studies Weihong Du, which made the application process straightforward, but did not ease frustration over how late the process takes place.
“By the time everybody has already figured out where they’re going to live for the next year, we are just starting our application. So it’s like scrambling at the end of the year,” Crook said.
It was especially an issue for Anand, as she had to deal with the uncertainty over her ability to remain in the United States.
“As an international student, you need to figure out life beforehand. You need to figure out what you’re going to do and where you’re going to be, and post-baccs don’t get that opportunity,” Anand said. “You don’t get time to find a house for yourself when you’re coming back because most places are taken by then.”
Anand said that she had her position too late to arrange to be roommates with friends as she likely otherwise would have, instead having to secure a residence in Galesburg while out of town.
David Petrak ‘19 was aware the process’ timing was a stressful issue for other students but one he avoided because he knew he was the only applicant for his post-bacc position.
Petrak, who wanted a year to work on grad school applications as well as focus on his own art, is serving as a studio manager at the Whitcomb Art Center.
“I really want to reach out and help younger students because in the past there were post-baccs who made themselves very available to students, so I also wanted to do that,” he said.
Petrak’s role also includes helping with exhibitions at Borzello Hall and personal projects like setting up pop-up shows and art expos.
“It’s nice only having a clear focus. Being an undergrad and having to take other classes that aren’t your major was kind of difficult for me since I was really into the art-making and I really only wanted to do that,” he said.
Anand is working at the Career Center, which she said she was very familiar with from her four years at Knox. As manager of the new Peer Career Leader Program, she will be training the four students who have been hired as peer career leaders.
However, this situation contributed to another frustration for Anand: she will not be paid for her post-bacc while managing students who will be paid.
This creates a financial strain for Anand, who doesn’t have the time for an additional job and wouldn’t be able to acquire one in Galesburg as an international student.
“I’ve been lucky enough my brother can afford my education, my parents can afford it, but not everyone can do it,” Anand said. “If I had the option to take classes for free or get paid I’d definitely choose getting paid. Because four classes in a year is hardly anything.”
Crook’s project for the Asian Studies department is developing content for the Knox website that would promote the department.
She faces a loaded work schedule because aside from working as a post-bacc, she’s juggling classes, continuing to participate in ultimate frisbee and has a job at a bar in Galesburg.
“It’s an okay balance right now … it is a long day, but it works. Thankfully, I found a job that was willing to deal with the schedule because that is pretty hard being technically a part time student, having a job that doesn’t pay and being on a sports team,” Crook said.
While the post-bacc students commented on what they feel appears to be a larger amount of post-baccs this year, Provost and Dean Michael Schneider responded that this was not the case.
Schneider estimated that there was around 18 post-baccs on campus currently, but claimed 15-20 post-baccs was already the norm. He stated the school was neither specifically interested in decreasing or increasing the number of post-baccs.
“I think the main push is to make sure post-baccs are meaningful. That is to say we don’t want someone making xeroxes and coffee as part of their post-bacc,” Schneider said.
He acknowledged that it was possible that there’s been inconsistency with how the post-bacc program has been run due to the revolving door of the dean position, which in just the past four years has shifted between Schneider and former deans Laura Behling and Kai Campbell.
“The post-bacc program has been evolving for the last few years to try to make sure that it has kind of a dual purpose which is to support students — but it also needs to connect specifically to something the institution is trying to accomplish,” Schneider said.
Crook is now applying to the Fulbright Program to teach English in Vietnam, a route Crook had considered last year but postponed due to her uncertainty.
Petrak, who intends to pursue an MFA, feels like the post-bacc has been beneficial in preparing him for potential career paths such as teaching or working for a gallery.
“I know sometimes when people graduate, the first thing they want to do is leave Galesburg … but I think this program can really prepare you to be a level ahead of some other people if it’s right for your career,” he said.
Anand, who intends to work in economic development issues, also commented that despite her frustrations, she believed post-baccing was a good opportunity for those interested in taking a gap year while remaining in the area.
“The post-bacc experience gives you an opportunity to figure out life and figure out where to move forward … But yeah, there are disadvantages to it,” Anand said.