Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Orientation Week

Orientation began this week. Through a series of meetings and sessions and workshops throughout the week we'll be acquainted with all the people and places and things we'll need to know during our time here... and most likely forget a large chunk of it, and have to ask someone again later, or search the school's website. Maybe that's just me.

It's a bit like starting a new job. You go into the office on your first day, and you're not sure where to park, or which way the bathroom is, or which refrigerator you're supposed to use. You meet several dozen new people, some of whom already know who you are, and you have trouble keeping straight which one was Jack Johnson and which one was John Jackson, and you think one gal's name was "Sally," but it might have been "Hallie," or possibly "Sandy," and the only way you're going to find out is to try one of them, or sort of slur them all together: "Oh, hi... Sa-hal-an-dy...." The expectations for your performance goals for the first year are laid out for you, and you feel like maybe if you'd started three months earlier you might be able to get it all done. But the people are nice, and your cubicle faces a window so you can see outside, and you figure if you take things one crisis at a time, you'll survive with most of your limbs intact.

Seriously though, it wasn't too bad of a time. All of the staff I've met up to this point have been extremely friendly and helpful. The faculty have all been genial and interesting and demonstrated themselves to be exceptionally sharp. My own incoming classmates are an interesting bunch, meant in the most positive way: the lay students range from kids who just finished their bachelor's degrees to a white-haired medical doctor who somehow got himself into operating oil rigs all over the world for the past several years; we have people who studied classics and religion and bioengineering; we have a retired Marine aviation technician; and several Dominican student brothers (i.e. seminarians) who seem like quite the cast of characters (also meant in the most positive way). Quite the motley crew.

Our day yesterday ended with a very eloquent address from the school's president, Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP, on the importance of using philosophy and theology to engage the important social questions of the day, followed by a wine & cheese social that allowed us to cap off the day with some mingling and conviviality. There I ran into several of the current students I'd met when I visited the school (and my brother) back in April. A pleasant reunion it was.

Today featured a very important workshop on navigating the master's program. This session was designed to give students the necessary tools and tips to complete the program in a timely manner, and to get the most out of it. Helpful hints included things like: "The foreign language requirement is intended to help you develop a research tool, i.e. being able to read competently in another language--it's not just a hoop to jump through!" "Students don't come to talk with their professors nearly often enough"; "Plan on revising your thesis several times"; and "Use your electives to pursue and develop your interests." Sensible policies for a happier student body.

A note about the DSPT campus: it's a really small school. Like, really small. I think the plot of land my parents' house sits on is of a comparable size, not counting the wheat field. There are a grand total of 103 students at DSPT. Hmm... I think some basic facts about DSPT might warrant its own post. That will be forthcoming.

Nothing required on Wednesday, but Thursday I'll take a tour of the GTU library, and attend the first of two sessions of a workshop called "Gifted and Called to Study." Should be good. And, of course, Notre Dame kicks off its football seasons this Saturday against Navy, IN IRELAND! I'm going to have to find somewhere to watch it...

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