I have recently registered for my last semester here at Whitman and found myself thinking about all the classes I have taken that have gotten me to this point. Ask anyone and they will inevitably have stories of classes they took that they expected to love and absolutely hated, but the good news most people only have about one of those. Another good thing is that the reverse is also true, everyone has had a class or two that has really shaped their experience here and has shaped the way he or she views the world. For me the two classes that have impacted me the most are Voice and Movement for the Actor, and Poverty and Child Development.
Being a theatre major it would make sense that one of my favorite classes is was in the theater, but this class did more for me than teach me how to move, it made me look at the world in a completely different way. In this class we did a lot of technique work with what are called viewpoints. These viewpoints things to be aware of when a person is on stage, such as the shape of your body, the spacial relationship you have with other people on stage, the architecture of your surroundings and how you interact with it, and so on. After working on these for a semester I began to take more notice of how people hold themselves, my physical surroundings and how it affected me. As someone who used to be very literal this class introduced me to the absurd side of myself and suddenly I was enjoying more abstract plays and eventually did a final project that was only slightly rooted in reality. This class not only gave me tools that would help me improve as an actor, but also opened my eyes to a part of the world I had never taken much notice of before.
On the completely other side of things the second class that changed the way I view the world was a class I took in the Psychology department on Poverty and Child Development. In this class we read articles on child development and the effects nutrition and home environment played in that process. We got to design our own studies and we used video footage of 23 infant participants from the surrounding community, that were from both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. With these videos we were able to do our studies and see if there was any developmental differences between those in a high SES and those in a low. While the end goal of the class was to give us experience designing and running a study, this class did much more than that. It opened my eyes to the things we take for granted and how important little things like the stress of a mother during pregnancy can be in determining the future of a child. It also made me increasingly aware that there is not simply one solution to a problem and to really understand how to fix it you need to know everything that is at play.
As a senior, it’s a comfort to know that I can truly say that no matter where I end up, that I have had an academic experience that has shifted the way I think and opened my eyes to the world around me. No matter what I do with my life, Whitman has given me something to hold on to and shaped the world around me.