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Moderation is the dirtiest word

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I am convinced that doing anything more than a single major is total folly. It distresses me to see students piling on the majors and minors. I have heard a variety of excuses for this excessive behavior. Not being able to get in a certain class is the biggest one. I have a single major, the most superior major offered of history, and have had no trouble taking the classes in political science, theology, peace studies, etc. I wanted.

Sometimes, it involved something few are ready to do – go to the professor and ask to be in the class. I mostly take classes based on the teacher anyway. Books are books, but a great instructor is treasure. Also, instead of looking at classes like the five-dollar buffet, piling the plate only because it is there and available, be picky, get a good plate and enjoy.

Others say they are trying to make their primary major more complete. I cannot understand the need to do more than one major there either. Like roses cluttered with filler flowers, less is always more. Granted, people have different interests and may want to draw from other disciples to complement their primary interest. That is what guided reading, a thesis or independent study is for, in my mind. I wrote a history paper on Martin Luther King, Jr. for a peace studies conference to combine my varied interests. It shows more creativity and character to design and execute your own project than heaping on the majors for extra run around and grief.

Next people say they have multiple majors because it’s college and they want to study as much as they can. This is the worst rationalization to me. Students see college as the last chance power drive for learning, which is the opposite of what it should be. Here we can gain the praxis to be good thinkers, readers and writers for a lifetime of learning. Trust me, there are good libraries, bookstores and smart people outside of Notre Dame. Relax. Focus. Learn more through taking risks and doing projects that challenge you.

Also, this attitude takes a shortsighted view of college. We should be developing all our faculties – the mind, the heart and the gut. The mind finds release through asking question upon question and digging deeper. The heart wants real friendships and mentorships with people. The gut wants to take risks, make mistakes and become a legend.

Notre Dame is a treasure trove of resources and people to help us grow in faith, intellect, character, relationships and experience. The Notre Dame archives are stocked with primary sources from distinguished people and important events. Spending time on the sixth floor of the library encountering history is better than bean-counting classes for your majors or burying yourself in secondary sources, regurgitating other people’s ideas on the past.

Try forming a real relationship with a great professor outside of regular classes. Either through an independent project or more informal arrangement – find a mentor to really invest time with you and you with them. Yet, do not be a leech and pull on multiple people. Find your mentor and stick.

Go to retreats, but do not become a retreat junkie. Reflection is important and better to integrate to you daily (or weekly) life than running off campus every other weekend. I recommend using Campus Ministry resources – they know their stuff and that is a resource you will be hard pressed to find outside of Catholic strongholds like Notre Dame.

Go to lectures, but do not make them your master. Try, instead of sitting in the audience, organizing your own panel or lecture.

Last, do not simply run through the packing machine, but leave something behind for others to continue, enjoy and ponder. You can either be the person that does great things, or the person that hangs out with the great people. News flash, you cannot become accomplished and talented through osmosis – make your life extraordinary or stop leeching.

The people we heroicize were not hand-picked beforehand by some prophecy, but wanted to live intentionally. When you enter a room or meet a new person, think about how you will change the energy of that space and make an impression on that person. How will your presence and talents revolutionize this campus? How will Notre Dame be better for having accepted you? Get a reputation and leave a legacy.

Everything we are given in the end is not really for us. Our lives, gifts, opportunities and abilities to love and take action – all are for the greater glory of God. With that as our goal, how can we distract ourselves with stockpiling classes and majors? We have such important work to do. Use Notre Dame to prepare you for this life long journey – glorifying the creator and bringing about the Kingdom of God.

Kamaria Porter congratulates Sister Sue Dunn on her new office in Student Affairs. Also, a big shout out to the #89 Red team: Kathryn, Tim, Nicole, Patrick, Nick, Jennifer, Chris, Megan, Paris, Todd and Fr. Jim. E-mail her for a non-violent duel at [email protected] to challenge the obvious supremacy of the history major.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.