by Mia Schatz
My story is hardly one of an obvious trajectory from infancy to the academy. Amidst the mass of largely uncaring students and under-qualified teachers at my high school, it was difficult to see beyond the functional value of education because every topic I encountered at school seemed to point towards a dead end; questions took the form of demands with preordained (and often quite antiquated) responses. Yet, for me, education’s utility, though monotonous, was nevertheless quite real. So, breaking rank with most of my high school friends, I dutifully enrolled in college with the intention of pursuing a rewarding and “fulfilling” degree in business. But my four-year plan towards “insert business title” was quickly thrown into disarray as I became privy to the ostensibly secret world of intellectual discussion within the humanities. Since jumping out of the proverbial rat race, my sights have been set on a subtler, yet increasingly rigorous race for positions within higher academia. The challenges presented by this quite different and perhaps less familiar struggle have forced me to face trying questions: Is this a “practical” career path given the job market’s current climate? Am I intellectually capable of following through with a life of thinking and inviting others to evaluate, analyze, and criticize my thoughts? Is an academic really what I want to “be?” My experience as a fellow at the Fox Center has unexpectedly aided me in answering each.
When I applied for a fellows’ position at the Fox Center, I imagined that it would be convenient to have a space to house my books and free printing is a luxury that any student can easily appreciate. Yet, as much assistance as these generous conveniences of Fox fellowship provided me, it turns out that the best part of being an undergraduate honors fellow at the Fox Center is participating in the Center itself. Attending events such as the annual Faculty Response Forum or weekly fellows’ lunches, as well as becoming acquainted with faculty, post-grads, and grad students in a uniquely informal and friendly environment has shaped my sense of academia and the experience of intellectual life within the professional world.
The beautiful thing about life as an academic, to my mind, is the fact that it is not about “me.” Certainly, our personal experiences inform individual research interests and motivate projects, but intellectual discourse transcends all boundaries – physical and imagined, self-inflicted and super-imposed. Simply put, the sense that I got during each discussion I participated in as a Fox fellow was that each person brought his or her own perception of various topics to the table, but did so in order to advance something larger, something more important than a subjective interest. The sense of academic community I derived from my time at the Fox Center profoundly informed the way in which I conceived of broader societal questions as I wrote my thesis this past semester and, importantly, solidified my desire to sacrifice the certainty of a “9 to 5” in order to pursue my academic passions. As my time at Emory comes to a close and I begin to prepare for graduate school, I have no doubt that I will carry the intellectual experience with which the fellows and staff at the Fox Center have provided me throughout the rest of my academic career – whatever direction it might be headed.