Arts and Humanities student describes the LAC experience
Managing your time efficiently can help you reach your goals, according to Kelsey Danforth who has been a college student since the fall semester in 2007 and is looking forward to graduating with a bachelor’s degree in May 2013. She attended classes at two different University of Maine campuses before finding her fit at USM's Lewiston-Auburn College in 2009.
Taking classes full time for five years while working full time has brought Danforth to the brink of graduation with little debt. “I have always been a full-time student, taking winter courses, summer courses, fall and spring courses; whenever I could take courses, I took them so that I wouldn’t be in school forever just to graduate with a four-year degree,” said Danforth.
Danforth was in the nursing program at Orono before switching to the nursing program in Portland, but then she discovered the nursing program at USM LAC. “After a year of nursing school, I decided to switch to the arts and humanities program at LAC and so I had to start meeting that program’s course requirements,” said Danforth, explaining why she has been taking classes for five school years.
Switching programs and even schools after the first or second semester in college is common among students who begin college right out of high school. Danforth explained why she switched from the nursing program to the arts and humanities program at LAC. “The arts and humanities program is about communication and much of the required reading and writing was actually interesting to me, rather than being scientific and sterile as in the nursing program. It was nice to connect with people and discuss current and past issues in my humanities classes. This program was very different from my original school plans.”
The humanities program prepares students for employment by cultivating communication skills through reading, writing, speaking, the arts, and digital communications. Surveys provide evidence that local employers across a wide spectrum of industries seek creative, critical thinkers and strong communicators. In other words, a humanities degree is versatile.
“Some arts and humanities courses required an essay each week and transitioning from the nursing program was a little hard at first trying to fit in the necessary time to do all that writing. At first I didn’t realize how much writing there would be, but after my first semester in the humanities program I got used to it,” Danforth said. On the plus side, most quizzes and tests in the arts and humanities program are take-home essays or research papers and not memorization of formulas or scientific data for tests taken in class, she added. “This style of learning worked for me.”
Group projects that take students into the local and global community are a common denominator in the arts and humanities classes. “My humanities projects have required cultural research such as local Franco American history,” said Danforth. “It was interesting to not only read about the culture, but to see it, like the Franco-American Heritage Center which is where I’m getting married after discovering this place through my project research.”
Working on group projects and participating in or leading class discussions happens in many arts and humanities classes. Hearing other students’ opinions is important and beneficial because each student offers ideas that arise from different personal backgrounds. “The age range of students at LAC is much different than in any other school I’ve attended,” said Danforth. “Being among older students is helpful when I hear about their experiences and what worked for them and what didn’t.”
Danforth had originally hoped to go into teaching after graduation. “I took and passed one state teaching certification test, but at the same time got a promotion at work requiring a two-year verbal commitment.” After her work commitment expires in a few years, Danforth will look at her career and education options. “I have the opportunity to take the second state education test. I have all the course requirements completed, so I might go into education after a couple years in hotel management. My career is all over the map, but that’s the good thing about an arts and humanities degree; you can go anywhere with it.”
Time management skills are very important at the college level no matter what program you’re in. Danforth was struggling at times to complete all her classwork assignments while working full-time and part-time jobs. She said, “I stumbled every now and then and re-took some courses because I wasn’t happy with a C grade. After a while I learned that I could go to my professors while I was having trouble keeping up with my assignments rather than wait. It’s been my experience that the professors at LAC will make time to talk with you.”
Evening classes made Danforth’s work/school schedule so much easier to coordinate, she said. “I was able to work all day and then take classes in the evening. At LAC, it seems as though the class schedule was made for me or made for people who have full-time day jobs; people who have busy lives already and are trying to make school happen for themselves.”
Another helpful tip from Danforth is to seek work study opportunities. She started working at the LAC bookstore in the fall semester 2012. Until that time, she had never pursued work study and had been trying to pay all her bills out-of-pocket. “Things were getting a little tight because of paying for an apartment and school, even though tuition at LAC is pretty inexpensive compared to everywhere else.”
Smartphone calendar apps can be set up to remind busy people where they need to be an hour before the event. “Last year I had to actually set up reminders to eat because I was so busy I wasn’t even stopping for lunch.”
“I have two calendars: a pocket calendar for my purse and a big calendar on my fridge where I can check the times of all my tasks and job hours and make sure nothing is overlapping. I try to schedule in a little bit of ‘me’ time if it’s at all possible.”
Every once in a while Danforth will take a full day for herself, a paid vacation, and try to do something fun, like snowboarding. A well-deserved, occasional day off helps prevent burn-out. A typical day for Danforth starts at 6 a.m. when she gets up to feed and walk the dog, followed by 10 hours at work, and school work sometimes until midnight. “Then the next day I get up and do it all over again. Some days I get up even earlier than 6 a.m.” she said. “I rarely sleep in.”
Danforth has not ruled out enrolling in a master’s program but thinks she’ll take a break from school after graduating with her bachelor’s degree. School is something she feels she can always go back to later. She knows her time management skills make her dreams possible.