Invite, gather, collaborate and talk
Allie Tollaksen | Thursday, December 4, 2014
This year, an anthology of essays called “Should I Go To Grad School?” came out through Bloomsbury Publishing, featuring takes on the question from authors, artists and other creative-types. While the book’s title question has become increasingly representative of my own post-graduate anxieties, the reason the anthology originally caught my eye was because of an excerpt featured in the New Yorker in May. In it, author Sheila Heti not only shares her opinions on graduate school education but also stories about meeting and learning from other people as an adult.
Part way through, Heti mentions the importance of having regular, planned gatherings and throwing events as a young adult. She emphasizes that bringing people together to learn and collaborate was foundational and educational for her as a young adult.
In a world where “partying” means dimly-lit houses or dorm rooms and music turned up to 11 while “education” conjures up images of study sessions and late nights in the library, I was envious as I read the article. But as she and her interviewer, writer Jessica Loudis, chatted about parties in which young people could converse and connect, the idea that important conversations could consistently be had in a venue outside of the classroom started feeling like a real possibility — someone just had to host them.
Fortunately, I had a good friend with a similar vision, and he and I have collaborated to make a schedule of regular talks, salons and gatherings for students and friends in South Bend. With a mailing list, a ban on cellphones (a rule heavily-contested and reluctantly obeyed by guests) and a new topic each week, we kicked off the project this semester. Starting small, we’ve been able to have conversations on topics ranging from best-selling novels to neighborhood development in our own homes, and we’re only getting started — we have a long list of brainstormed topics and anticipated guest speakers ahead of us.
Though we’re often able to engage in debate or talk seriously to each other in classes, I’ve really come to believe that having a time for students to discuss topics relevant to their lives and environment — in their own spaces and on their own terms — is invaluable to the college experience. To speak candidly with our peers creates opportunities, forms friendships and allows us to build communities within the larger Notre Dame and South Bend communities. Already, the project has been eye-opening.
At the risk of sounding preachy, I guess I’m here echoing the advice Heti gave: host gatherings. Invite the interesting people you meet in class or out in South Bend to them. Brainstorm ideas. Collaborate. Take full advantage of the lectures, forums and salons on campus. Of course your classes are important, but so is this four-year opportunity to assemble and debate and create in a space saturated with curious, smart and young people.