Throughout the semester, this course had a specific epigraph that linked all assignments together. It is derived from Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild” and was very crucial to our course. It states, “If we’re not your animals, if these are adult things, accept the risk. There is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner.” It appeared in the short story after the protagonist, Gan, requested an equal partnership from his family friend T’Gatoi, instead of a relationship where T’Gatoi has power over him. This epigraph acted as a throughline and every essay was linked back to it. For example, our “Bloodchild” essay was about how Gan teaches college students about the risks and rewards of academic partnership. My facilities/heating plant essay also discussed how Facilities Services and “Bloodchild” contribute to academic partnership. By using an epigraph as a course throughline, we were able to stay focused and engaged throughout the semester. My initial understanding of the epigraph was quite simple: there is always risk in partnered work. As the semester continued, I was able to develop a more complicated understanding of what risks and rewards actually meant in academic partnership.
I had little expectations of this course in the beginning of the semester. I thought that it was silly to require all freshmen to take a writing course and that it would be an easy A. Afterall, I had been in AP English my junior and senior year of highschool. I thought I already knew everything the course would offer and that my writing skills were already college level. I had so many assumptions of college writing from my highschool that I believed I would receive minimal information from this course. As soon as the semester began I quickly learned that I did not already know everything about college writing. I learned so many different skills that will benefit my writing across all subjects. There were many things from this course that surprised me. I was in complete shock when I found out we would be writing in the first person. My high school teachers warned that we would never do so in college, and always made us remove it from our essays. Because of this change, I was able to properly express my true thoughts on the subject and write to the best of my ability. Similarly, I was also surprised when I was instructed to put a quote into my introduction paragraph. Again, this was discouraged at my highschool. We were taught the introduction should briefly summarize the paragraphs and have a thesis statement, but never have any additional information. Both of these changes encouraged me to become a better writer. While not every essay should use “I”, using a quotation in an introduction paragraph can help enhance the thesis statement. Even these writing techniques can be drawn back to the course epigraph. There are both risks and rewards of contradicting passed instructions to rewrite old ones. While initially this could be confusing, a stronger essay works as a greater reward.
After this course, I could see a significant change in my writing. Even looking solely at my grades, my essay scores gradually went from an 83%, to a 90%, to a 100%. This is just one aspect that shows how my writing has improved. I have been more aware of wordiness in sentences, which makes my essays sound more concrete and professional. Although I sometimes still struggle with this problem, I am more aware of it and attempt to correct it when I can. I have also been working to add more direct evidence to my work, where applicable. This helps me completely develop my thesis statement and makes my writing easier for the reader to follow. I’ve noticed that adding quotes from “Bloodchild” and other articles allowed properly explain my arguments. Originally I disliked adding quotes because I felt like it was unnecessary and redundant, but now I see that it simply works to enhance my essay. After weighing the risks and rewards of adding quotes into essays, it is better to include them than to not.
Throughout the entirety of the course, we had the opportunity to develop our own interpretation of the course epigraph. With multiple essays and class discussions, we strengthened our interpretation. We also were able to see several perspectives after speaking with some of Geneseo’s faculty. For example, robbie routenberg discussed the factors that consent plays in the risks and rewards of academic partnership. They explained that consent is sometimes given without always realizing or acknowledging it. For instance, we consented to attend all of the activities at our welcome week when we confirmed our stay. There are risks in doing this, as generalized consent could encourage generalized consent in all situations. This would be problematic, however in this case it was countered by the rewards. The seminars were consented to go to involved sexual abuse, drug, and alcohol awareness. This was very important for college students to hear, so it was a necessary risking for rewarding information. Robbie’s conversation allowed me to expand my thinking and interpretation of our course epigraph by giving me other contexts to work with.
Joe Cope also expanded my interpretation of the risks and rewards of academic partnership. Joe gave a specific example of a relevant situation that had multiple risks and rewards that are often overlooked. With our current remote learning situations, students were given less restrictive measures when converting courses to pass/fail. I originally thought there were low risks of converting a course grade to pass/fail. There were many more risks than I had anticipated. For example, some graduate schools might not accept those scores. Because of this, students who plan on attending graduate school would have to refrain from pass/fail grading. Another risk is the lack of material learned. The pass/fail system might cause some students to slack in their school work because they think it will not affect them. However, it could negatively alter their future years in college or in the workforce. If someone is taking a prerequisite and they do not learn the material, the next class would be overly difficult for them. While the obvious benefits are allowing a bad numerical grade to be removed and not be counted in your GPA, it is important to understand the risks before doing so. This allowed me to see risks and rewards in a different light. If I were to want a course to be converted to pass/fail I would have done so without weighing the risks and rewards. Joe’s conversation taught me that every situation has risks and rewards, and it is important to assess both aspects before making a decision.
Looking back on my previous work in this course, I see a substantial difference. While academic growth in any course is important, it is also necessary by the standards of GLOBE. GLOBE’s learning outcomes include critical thinking as a mandatory learning aspect that was put in place to assist us throughout our careers. The GLOBE website explains, “Geneseo prepares students for twenty-first century challenges through the development of intellectual and practical skills that transcend disciplinary boundaries and are applicable throughout their lives.” This course has helped improve my skills, especially critical thinking. My goals for this course were to “improve on my critical thinking and writing style”, as stated in my goal setting essay from January. As I complete my final essay, I think of my original goals. I have met my goals in ways that I did not know were possible. I was able to improve my critical thinking by digging deeper into tasks and by portraying more than surface level thinking. This will continue to help my writing, but also influences my thinking in nonacademic settings. Even only considering the course epigraph, my interpretation of the “Bloodchild” quote is extremely different than it was a few months ago. My writing style has changed drastically because of the direction Dr. McCoy led us in. In my goal setting essay I stated, “Our academic growth will skyrocket because of the risks we are encouraged to be taking this semester”. This has held true in every aspect of the course.