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Running the Extra Mile

Posted by on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 in Academics, College Life.

During finals week I walked into the Murray House kitchen to use the microwave. I met a couple of my classmates – gossiping, laughing and working over “something.” Not an uncommon sight around campus. I said, “Hi!” and went about my business.

I figured out the “something” was an extra-credit assignment for an Education class. You had to design colorful, decorative yet meaningful charts and posters for kids in elementary school. My classmates were busy coloring a poster of that kind.

There are so many different ways to enjoy a Vanderbilt class. An awesome professor, an engaging subject or topic, inspiring and industrious peers – you name it. Something which can frequently add a lot to what you get out of a class – and is simply often not duly recognized – is an “extra-credit” assignment. The reason why these tasks can get so interesting is because they can be such a contrast to our everyday work in the class.

In my roommate’s Neuroscience class, for instance, the extra-credit assignment was to listen to a series of TED talks on the brain and how it functions, and to write an explicative summary of each talk. (One of them is this very interesting one by Jill Bolte Taylor – “My Stroke of Insight.”) Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately enough! :P), he had lost his headphones that day, so I enjoyed the opportunity of getting to learn how the brain works and finishing my English final paper at the same time.

What inspired me to write on extra-credit assignments, however, is my own experience. In my Organic Chemistry class, we were asked to make a video to convey the importance of organic chemistry to someone who has not taken it yet. The video could feature slam poetry, a song about some chemical reaction (check this out to see what I mean!), a mechanism “dance” or even a testimonial from a professional.

So imagine this – from hours and hours of practice problems and curly arrows to actually setting aside some time to do something as creative as this just before finals – only at a place like Vanderbilt can this be reality. To my classmates and me, it was the best stress-reliever we have ever had before any major examination we have had to take.

This is what I ended up with – not very creative as it stands – but quite a lot went into making this much, so I hope it’s not too bad!

My Video – Interview with Dr. Roger Cone

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