A Life of Usefulness and Reputation

A Life of Usefulness and Reputation

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A Life of Usefulness and Reputation

The moral responsibility of training individuals for a life of usefulness and reputation rests within the university. However, it is difficult to define what this type of life entails. College education, therefore, is not about supplying students with specific moral obligations to be completed over the course of their lives; instead, universities teach their students to be proactive, to question everything, and to never be afraid to make mistakes. I am confident that my education at Brown, both in and out of the classroom, as well as my interests and concerns reflects my acquisition of these moral obligations.


When I entered Brown University as a freshman, I was completely intimidated by my fellow classmates. I was afraid to ask questions in class for fear of sounding unintelligent. I seldom attended my professors' office hours. Paranoid, I spent hours in the libraries trying to memorize all of my material without fully understanding it. At the end of first semester, I returned home feeling unfulfilled academically and socially. Was this what the next four years of my life would be like?


Over winter break, I came to realize that I had been looking at my educational experience completely backwards. In this way, Brown University is a scary place because you can miss the point completely; there is no one looking out for you, holding your hand to tell you to make the right decisions. This is why college is the obvious environment to teach students how to acquire reputable and useful lives. This type of life is not just thrown at you, as it might be in high school. It is the student's job to create a place for himself where he will be academically and socially fulfilled. This is what I learned from my first semester and this is the environment I have tried to create for myself ever since.


Both inside and outside class, I learned to be proactive, to question everything, and never to be satisfied with imperfection. I learned that my classmates were not evil rivals, but fellow comrades with the same educational goals as my own. I found them to be invaluable sources of help and guidance in my education. Although extremely different, each Brown student is incredibly passionate about whatever they love to do. I still like nothing better than to sit in a room with a few friends and discuss ideas and concepts that were presented in class.

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This is a far cry from the frantic memorization I did freshman year, something I am very proud to say I have outgrown.


One of the hardest lessons I learned was to stop being afraid. I ask questions, both of my professors and of my peers. I raise my hand in a large lecture class to ask the professor to clarify a point or to challenge one of his ideas. I am also not afraid to have my own opinions about issues I am concerned with. I am that girl in section who holds her ground while people side against her. But that is the beauty of being in an educational environment like Brown. Opinions, questions, and ideas are all respected, although none of them are taken for granted. Brown students understand that part of learning is to make mistakes along the way. It is the students who take the biggest risks who are the most prepared to live a reputable and useful life outside of the Brown bubble; these are the students who will be tomorrow's leaders.


These skills have transferred to my own personal interests and concerns in innumerable ways. My inquisitive nature paired with my drive for perfection will no doubt help me in the field of cognitive neuroscience. In this field, I plan to research the acquisition of language in children, especially the acquisition of sign language. I will need to have good interpersonal skills to relate to my patients and to my colleagues in this field. I know that I have learned countless interpersonal skills through working with my classmates in a variety of roles on campus. I am a Meiklejohn student advisor, a Study Skills Facilitator, and a tutor for a woman trying to pass her GED. Although each of these activities is extremely different, they all involve interacting with people. It is important for the leaders of tomorrow to be able to tell their peers their ideas in a coherent way as well as work with them in group situations. I know these extracurricular activities have helped me in these situations.


One of my largest concerns is the state of education in our society. I feel that the way to make our country stronger is to have a well-educated population. Here at Brown, I am helping to reach that goal by tutoring a woman who is trying to pass her GED. Outside of Brown, I volunteer at a local shelter for homeless women and their children and have taught a class on parenting skills to the mothers there. Education is a fluid process; as I learn more, I realize how much more I do not know. This does not frighten me, however. As I tell the woman I tutor, neither one of us is going to single-handedly change the world but each of us has a responsibility to keep trying. I have learned to look at a beach filled with dying starfish with hope instead of despair. I know that with a large enough team of supporters, we will be able to throw the starfish back into the water. It is my belief that after four years at Brown University, every student understands his moral obligation to live a life of usefulness and reputation. I know that with the help of every student here at Brown, we can change the world.


Therefore I feel that society should and must trust college graduates to live their life in keeping with the moral responsibility of usefulness and reputation. I agree with William James that the "tone" of college students is very different from any other group of people. We are the movers and shakers exactly because we have spent four years in college acquiring a yearning for knowledge and a desire to share this knowledge with as many people as we can touch. Each of us has struggled with our own personal fears but have conquered them by the time we graduate. No Brown student is afraid to be proactive, to ask questions or to make mistakes; it is the acquisition of these skills that sets college students apart from the rest of society. These skills will be the foundation to a life of usefulness and reputation, something I am confident that I - and all of my classmates - will lead.
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