Minor: African-American Studies
Favorite Class: Aerial Dance
For a small liberal arts school, Washington and Lee seems to offer an unparalleled array of classes and major options in an environment that encourages curiosity. I chose to come here because it was one of the few small schools with an established Neuroscience program, something that I knew I wanted to pursue in college. And while I am still a Neuroscience major and planning to pursue a career in medical research, the various paths that I have been able to explore while at college have afforded me opportunities I would have never imagined in high school.
When most people think of research laboratories they envision large, public universities with hoards of graduate students and substantial funding. It therefore often comes as a surprise to people when I tell them that I have been working in a cognitive neuroscience lab since the beginning of sophomore year. The facilities on our campus and lack of graduate students allow undergraduates the chance to work closely with professors on their research, something that very few other institutions offer. I am able to run electroencephalography studies or conduct pupil movement trials with the hope of observing a result that no one else in the world has ever seen before, a joy so sublime and rewarding that it serves as motivation even after months of setbacks.
One of the best parts about doing undergraduate research at a liberal arts college is that it is at a liberal arts college. In no way are you restricted to working at the lab, and all professors will encourage you to continue to explore your other interests. I have competed with the track and cross country teams throughout college, and they have become a second family of sorts. Freshman year I took an introductory course in African-American studies, and after being so intrigued by the subject and the professors, I decided to pursue a minor in the field.
But perhaps the best class that I have taken here was Aerial Dance in the spring of sophomore year. We were suspended on a 50-foot wall by steel cables and told to use the wall as a dance stage--the first time that a university in the United States had offered such a class. My friend and I decided on the second day of class that we were going to do a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style piece, and we received three higher level arts credits for doing backflips and fighting each other, Matrix-style. Since neither of us had any martial arts background, one of my English professors, who is also a triple black belt in judo, helped us with hand-to-hand combat technique--even though he was on sabbatical at the time.
By encouraging students to explore various aspects of campus, Washington and Lee allows for learning to extend beyond whatever specific field students are focusing on at the moment. The patience and control that I learn from the high jump is used when I am running multiple reactions in organic chemistry lab. But I learn the most from the peers that I study with, practice with, and dance with. By encouraging such an open community, Washington and Lee offers every student endless opportunities to expand their education.