The Keystone Project: Choose Something Fun!

By Marissa Carty (CAS’22)

The best advice I got from a Kilachand Alumni was to choose a Keystone Project that was fun. The Kilachand Keystone is a unique opportunity to do a year-long project on essentially whatever you want, with funding and advising. Many students choose to use an honors thesis in their major as the Keystone Project. However, for students looking to take on a more creative or interdisciplinary project, the Keystone Pathway is an amazing opportunity to think outside the box and not be bound to the requirements of a thesis. Students have designed playgrounds, written screenplays, written business plans, and so much more. If a traditional research thesis excites you, then go for it! But don’t be afraid to take a chance and do a unique project. I am so grateful that I took a less structured, but extremely rewarding path.

I love creative writing, and it’s been a life-long dream of mine to write a poetry collection. What started as a blurry passion project I inconsistently worked on turned into a beautiful piece of research and artwork. With the help of Professor Preston in the Keystone Proposal Workshop, I developed research questions to guide my writing, connected with two wonderful advisors, planned my goals and timeline, and submitted my proposal. The idea of a senior project can be intimidating, but the Keystone Proposal Workshop helps you work through your ideas slowly with a lot of feedback and guides you through the process to set you up for success.

As a psychology major, I knew I wanted to write my poetry collection about well-being. So often when we talk about mental health, we talk only about mental illness. I decided to focus on flourishing instead. The two questions that guided my research are:

What factors contribute to well-being in young adults and how do they manifest in us today?

How can poetry and psychology inform each other to develop a broader, more holistic definition of well-being?

I conducted a literature review on the psychology of well-being and a contemporary poetry review to study scientific, lyric, and visual forms of poetry. Then, I began to write and submit 5 poems a week to my advisors for revision. I also got to travel to Copenhagen, the city with the highest rates of human flourishing in the world, for my research! My writing centers around themes of love, belonging, mindfulness, spirituality, nature, and therapy. I used 3 main poetic techniques, 1) documentary poetry which uses archives like psychology textbooks or therapy exercises and draws out the poetry in them through lineation or erasure, 2) imagining the story of someone who embodies a research statistic to reinsert the humanity into that statistic, and 3) writing from a purely experiential perspective of well-being that does not rely on scientific data. I currently have a manuscript of 90+ edited poems and a first draft of my artist’s note, which details my process and reflections on the project. 

The best advice I can give you is to think about your interests as early as possible and to choose a project you’re sincerely passionate about, rather than doing what you think you “should” do or what others expect you to do. You may never get an opportunity like the Kilachand Keystone again!

The author in Copenhagen.

Vale vale vale

By Marie Kimball (CAS'23)

“Vale!” Hearing this expression in my home, in class, and on the streets was confusing at first. Throughout my time in high school and at Boston University, I had been learning Mexican Spanish. Now that I was in Spain, there was a lot of new lingo I had to learn, including “vale,” which pretty much means “OK.”

For my fall semester of 2021, I decided to study abroad in Madrid, Spain, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

On the very first day a bus dropped me off at my host family’s house, and this probably would’ve been the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life if I hadn’t just been on two different planes for ten hours. So actually, I was about to fall asleep and didn’t have anything else on my brain. But, I had never lived with a host family before, and didn’t know what to expect. Well, it was one of my favorite parts of the experience. I lived with a family with three young children, and between the lively family dinners, movie nights, and weekend strolls around the city, I grew very close to them and was sad to leave.

My classes were fantastic, as well. BU Study Abroad students in Madrid attend the Instituto Internacional, in which students from many American universities take classes in both English and Spanish. My three classes were about literature and women’s history, and all of them were in Spanish. Professors who had lived through the Movida of the 1980’s and Franco’s regime from 1939-1975 all shared their firsthand experiences with us while we learned from their expertise. It was a great experience.

While in Madrid, I also had an internship at La comisión para la investigación de los malos tratos a mujeres, or what was essentially Spain’s commission against gender violence and prostitution. Not having just gotten off of a plane this time, I was extremely nervous my first day. Tackling a job in my second language was a daunting task, but every day was better, and by the end I felt like I had developed meaningful relationships with all of my thoughtful and patient coworkers. My coworkers and I still text on what’s app to check in!

Also, I met great friends with whom I travelled within Spain and throughout Europe on the weekends. Between visiting Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial, Barcelona, Italy, and Portugal, I had so much fun, and learned so much about different cultures. That I had this opportunity to travel still seems surreal. It was incredible.

Finally, I learned more about myself than I had in the previous few semesters combined. Living in a different culture from your own, without any familiarity (at first at least) with the people around you allows you to unlock parts of yourself you couldn’t before. For instance, I learned how to spend time with myself, and began to love it. I spent plenty of time with myself, going to different museums and cafés, or even just walking around the city to explore and think. I enjoy being with myself like never before. Also, from all of the new experiences I’ve collected, I have a better perspective every day. This one is harder to explain, but I feel as though I have my priorities in line more now, and have achieved more balance in my lifestyle.

And it’s true that you might read all of this, and simply say “vale, vale.” However, I hope you take my experience as reason to study abroad yourself. You won’t regret it!


Photo credit: Marie K.

My Favorite Classes I’ve Taken at BU

By Marissa Carty (CAS’22)

When it comes to courses, Boston University has just about everything. Here’s a glimpse of some of my favorites!

Public Writing: CAS WR415

This course gives students the opportunity to write for a public audience on topics of their own choosing. I wrote a science communication article on romantic passion, edited a real Wikipedia page on Taylor Swift’s song All Too Well, and wrote and filmed a TED talk-style video on the health benefits of fun and joy. This class was all about impact and real world implications. The professor was wonderful and she even brought in guest speakers for us to learn from! 

Keystone Proposal Workshop: KHC HC451

This course is for Kilachand juniors who are looking to plan out their keystone project. The keystone project can be an honors project in your department (an honors thesis in psychology, the senior engineering design project) or can be a project of your own choosing through Kilachand. Students who pursue a project of their own usually do something more creative and interdisciplinary (like creating a theater production, designing a playground, or starting a podcast). 

I took the Keystone Proposal Workshop with Kilachand Director Dr. Carrie Preston, whose insight was invaluable. She helped me formulate a research question, find an advisor, and create a timeline for my project. (I’m writing a poetry collection on the science of well-being!) This class was also amazing because I got to watch the unique projects of my classmates develop over the course of the semester. Since Kilachand students come from all majors, I learned about an economics project on luxury handbags, a business plan on sustainable fashion, and a documentary on road trips.

Psychology of the Family: CAS PS370

For upperclassmen studying psychology, this course is a must! We learned the science behind marriage, divorce, flirting & dating, child-parent relationships, family dynamics, and overall communication and empathy. If you’re looking to reflect on your own life and role in relationships, this course is an excellent way to both learn the theories and try the strategies in practice. Taking this class has absolutely set me up for more resilient, stable, and healthy relationships. No other life experience inside or outside of college has been so meaningful to me. 

Jazz, Modern, Ballet, Yoga, & more: PDPs

Did you know that Boston University offers exercise classes at FitRec (our gym) that are open to all students? You can take anything from ice skating to tennis to zen meditation to ballroom dancing. Having PDP courses in my schedule ensured that I had time to move my body, and they were a fun break away from my academic courses. I highly recommend them to all BU students!

A Day in My Life as a Biomedical Engineering Major and Pre-med in Kilachand!

By Emma Hartman (ENG’23)

5:40 AM: I wake up. OK, OK: don’t panic reading this -- as hard as it is to believe, this is something I do to myself willingly and for reasons completely unrelated to academics. My favorite hot yoga class is at 6 am on Wednesdays at a yoga studio less than 5 minutes from my dorm. There are other yoga classes at normal times, but I really like this one.

6 AM: Hot Yoga! I started practicing yoga about a month ago to shake up my routine and quickly got addicted. I use it to manage my stress, stay in shape, and as something fun and COVID safe that I can do with friends.

7 AM: I take my time on the walk back to my dorm. I live in a safe area that’s incredibly pretty in the morning and I’m trying to enjoy it more. When I get back to my brownstone, I make some breakfast (I’m currently training in the art of microwave-based cooking) and shower before class.

Beacon Street in the morning, right by South Campus.
Beacon Street in the morning, right by South Campus.

9 AM: I arrive at the George Sherman Union (GSU), our student center, before my first class and meet up with my friend Sarah. Our Differential Equations lecture is remote learning only this semester, but we meet up to get Starbucks, catch up, and to take the class together in the library attached to the GSU. We claim that we keep each other accountable and focused, but we almost always wind up talking during the slow parts of class.

10 AM: Sarah and I leave the GSU and walk to our next classes together. I have my Cell Biology and Biotechnology lecture, where I run into Natalia, one of my friends from Kilachand. We met during our first semester of freshman year in a Kilachand seminar on Latin American music. I met a lot of engineers in that class since we all took it to fulfill the same HUB units. I still see a lot of them in my engineering classes or around campus!

Socially Distanced Biology Lecture in Agganis.
Socially distanced Biology lecture in Agganis.

12 PM: My lecture is over, and I want some lunch. Some days I’ll stay by Agganis Arena, where my lecture was, and eat with my friend Karolyn who lives in West Campus. Other days, I’ll head back eastward and eat with my friends Chloe and Sarah, who are studying at the GSU. No matter where I am, I always try and use meals as a time to see my friends.

1 PM: I head into the BU biomedical engineering research lab that I work in. We study mice to learn more about the neural circuits in the brain responsible for movement. Right now, I’m working with a PhD student on her latest project. Together we’ve been training our 3 mice—Matcha, Mocha, and Macchiato—to perform different behavioral tasks. Once they’re trained, we use electrophysiology probes and optogenetic techniques to record neural activity in different parts of their brains (basically: we stick a sensor into a genetically engineered mouse’s brain and choose what areas of the brain we want to record data from by using a laser to selectively silence groups of brain cells). I ask my grad student a truly annoying number of questions about the research, and she answers every last one because she’s genuinely happy to help me learn.

My lab mouse Matcha is in her tube and ready for training!
My lab mouse Matcha is in her tube and ready for training!

4 PM: It’s time to log onto Zoom for my HUB co-curricular, a course that I take in tandem with KHC HC 302. We teach Boston high schoolers about public health through a local program called Boston Area Health Education Center. It’s a great way to give back to the local community, learn more about public health and the Boston Public School system, and secure a coveted HUB unit.

6 PM: I log off of Zoom and knock on my roommate Iris’s door. We’re off to go find dinner so we can bring it back home, eat on the couch, and talk about our days. Sometimes we put on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or the Bachelor while we eat

7 PM: I do some homework and answer some emails for my Girls Who Code club.

8 PM: I log onto Zoom office hours for my engineering mechanics class. I work on my homework and private message my friend Jenny, who’s also here because she’s struggling with problem #7 too.

9 PM: My roommate wanders back out to our couch and wants to figure out our weekend plans. We bring our laptops to the couch and work while we talk. Eventually, we either finish or abandon our work and just relax.

10:15 PM: I start getting ready for bed, write in my journal about the day, and look at my color-coded Google Calendar as I write in my planner about tomorrow. Tomorrow’s schedule is incredibly different, but no less exciting!

Kilachand First-Year Seminars

By Jan Bhatt (CAS’23) and Michelle Roos (CAS’23)

Hey y’all!!

My name is Jan, and I am an English major on the Pre-Law track! I’m going to talk about my experience with freshman KHC courses as a humanities major, and my friend+roommate Michelle is going to touch upon her experiences as a STEM major. Please please please feel free to reach out to either of us if you have any questions or want to chat!

During my first semester, I signed up for a KHC seminar course called Global Shakespeares: Text, Culture, Appropriation. This was designed like an English course, which as an English major I thoroughly enjoyed. However, for the second semester, my advisor (go Eric!) suggested that I sign up for a course that is different from my major, and I signed up for a chemistry seminar called The Material World. This is the course that I’m going to elaborate on because it was very helpful, not only because it helped with HUB requirements, but also because I was able to learn and retain very important information revolving around climate change and resource depletion. I still remember the few cases that we studied in that class, and I love bringing them up when talking about accountability of large corporations. It was taught by Professor Linda Doerrer, who is a very fun, easy going and interesting professor. I enjoyed speaking with her and learning from her, especially due to her ability to simplify advanced concepts of chemistry. I am very grateful for the two Studio courses as well, because it enabled us to converse about the ongoing global humanitarian issues like immigration, racism, etc. It gave me a platform to participate in regulated, academic conversations about issues that are relevant to the current socio-political climate. I took both studios with Dr. Amanda Fish, who is absolutely wonderful, and is willing to be helpful to the best of her ability. The work-load seemed like a lot to me in the beginning, but that is mostly because I am a massive procrastinator and left the assignments to the last minute.  I eventually got the hang of time management and not leaving most of my work to the last minute and it helped me a lot! So that would be a portion of my piece of advice: time management, and communication. Reach out to your professors if you are confused about the assignment, if you need an extension, or if you need extra help! Nine times out of ten, the professors are more than willing to accommodate and help you out! To summarize, my experience with first year KHC courses, minus some hiccups (mostly caused due to my personal shortcomings), was overall incredibly positive and rewarding!


Hi! I'm Michelle, a neuroscience major and chemistry minor in KHC. In the fall of my freshman year, I took the same Shakespeare seminar as Jan, where we were given the opportunity to read and analyze a wide range of adaptations of Shakespeare's classic works. Last spring, I selected another first-year seminar entitled “Whose Schools: Power, Equality, and Public Education”. In this class, I found it insightful to learn not only of the inequalities in Boston Public Schools, but also how the education system ties into larger, systemic, socio-economic issues. In addition to these seminars, I also completed two semesters of Studio during my first year at KHC. I liked how most of the writing assignments for this class were relatively open-ended, with the opportunity to construct a research paper on any topic given in the second semester. I chose to write about the treatment of individuals with psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders under the U.S. healthcare and criminal justice systems; this paper is only one example of how a KHC class enabled me to consider the information relevant to courses in my major under a new light.

I am grateful to KHC and the academic advising I have received (shoutout to Amanda!) for encouraging me to take interesting classes that I would not have otherwise taken. These classes have allowed me to expand my interests and gain an interdisciplinary perspective of many of the world's most challenging dilemmas. As a STEM major, I often find it more comfortable to stick to hardcore science courses than to grapple with the tough questions that are presented in KHC classes. Nevertheless, there is something especially rewarding about completing a difficult paper or engaging in a class discussion that I do not experience in my STEM classes. By forcing me out of my comfort zone, I believe that the courses that I have taken and will take in the future in KHC will allow me to emerge from college as a more well-rounded individual who is (hopefully) more prepared for graduate school.

Kilachand Hall. Credit Jan B.
Kilachand Hall. Credit Jan B.

How to Pick Your Classes

By Jackson Wallace (CAS’22)

One thing that I wish I had known to think about a little more before I came to Boston University and Kilachand in particular is how to pick my classes, especially the first-year seminar. There are a lot of little things that one might not consider at first, so it can be important to sit down, think things over, and not just take the first cool looking class that comes to mind.

An aspect of particular importance is the Hub! Every class at BU comes with some Hub credits and you need to obtain a variety of these credits in order to graduate. So, before you pick a class, you should take a look at what credits you can get through the classes you’ll have to take in your major, as well as the required KHC classes. This way, you can start to get some trickier credits (looking at you, Individual in the Community) out of the way. Your seminar is an especially potent opportunity because a wide variety of classes with a range of credits are offered, many of which are much more interesting than Generic Class 100 you might take otherwise. That said, don’t be afraid to pick a seminar that you think will be cool even if it does not help your Hub (that’s what I and many others inadvertently do and we turned out fine), but it is good to keep in mind.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should prepare some backup classes. Sometimes, the class that you want to take will be all filled up by the time you register. Sometimes, the really interesting sounding class is not being offered this year. Or, most frustrating, you realize that the class is happening at the same time as a class you need to take for your major. So, it is a good idea to be prepared and have a list of classes you’d be interested in. Otherwise, you may get to registration day and find yourself scrambling to fill in a spot.

A final note to keep in mind is that you should try to make sure you have a good idea of why you want to take a class. There’s nothing worse than signing up for a class only to realize halfway through the semester that you actually detest architecture and want nothing to do with the class. To try and prevent this from happening to you, make sure you know what you’re in for, or at least have a system in place that can get you through tough classes. For instance, maybe you know the subject material is different from what you usually like to learn about, but you’re looking to balance out the other classes you’re taking. Or perhaps you have some friends who can help carry you through the class. No matter what, make sure you know what you’re getting into before you register for classes! And don’t worry, because you will have plenty of resources, from friends to faculty to Kilachand’s own advisors to help get you to that point.

How Kilachand and Questrom Have Shaped My BU Experience

By Rebecca Sarkisian (Questrom’23)

While there are many factors that influence each BU student’s unique college experience, there’s no doubt that which BU college you’re in has a major impact. For me, being a student in the Questrom School of Business and Kilachand Honors College has been a cornerstone of my time at BU. Questrom and Kilachand courses are different from each other, but being a student in both colleges has helped me in a few ways.

1. Exploring My Business Courses from Different Perspectives (and my Kilachand Courses from a Business Perspective)

Questrom and Kilachand courses are definitely distinct from one another! But that just means that there’s more opportunities to expand your thinking about different subjects. I personally like the way that Kilachand, with its focus on the global community, complements my business education. Kilachand encourages students to bring their knowledge from their major to their Kilachand classes. For example, for my Kilachand class on climate change, I wrote my final paper on mandating corporate environmental reporting standards similar to financial reporting standards. I’ve also definitely applied my Kilachand experiences to my Questrom courses as well.

2. Having a Plan to Fulfill Hub Requirements

One of the first things I did when I decided to attend BU was start making a spreadsheet of the courses I wanted to take throughout my four years here. I started with my required Questrom courses, then my Kilachand courses, and finally the courses for my Accounting concentration within Questrom. Then, I figured out which Hub units each required course satisfies. The BU Hub is essentially BU’s general education requirement, and can be fulfilled by courses both in and out of your major. When I planned it all out, I found out that my required Questrom and Kilachand courses will fulfill nearly all of my requirements, and I was able to fulfill the rest through my first-year Kilachand seminar selections. Obviously this will not be the same for everyone, but working with your advisors can help to determine your path through the Hub and how your major works with Kilachand.

3. Flexibility of the Kilachand Curriculum and Working with Advisors

Both Questrom and Kilachand have their own dedicated advisors, which has greatly helped me around course registration time. Being able to quickly go to Questrom drop-in advising, and then to an appointment with my Kilachand advisor has made the registration process so much smoother. All of the advisors do their very best to guide students’ unique academic paths. For example, working with my Kilachand advisor helped me realize that I could rearrange my Kilachand course load so that I’m not taking a 4-credit Kilachand course on top of the intensive 16-credit Questrom Core courses and additional Questrom Honors Program class I’m taking this semester. It’s also just reassuring to have a group of people to go to with questions throughout the year.

One of the best parts of being in Questrom is walking into this building every day.
One of the best parts of being in Questrom is walking into this building every day. Credit: Rebecca S.

That’s just a little bit about my personal experience as a student in both Questrom and Kilachand. But no matter what you’re majoring in, you’ll find the support in Kilachand to shape whatever path you decide to take.

 

ENG & KHC: Balancing Academics, Extracurriculars, and Social Life

By Peyton Tierney (ENG’21) & Deema Abdel-Meguid (ENG’21)

DeemaPeyton
Peyton & Deema, March 2021: Four years later, still each other’s ENG and KHC partner in crime <3

Freshman Year (Don’t worry about the extra credits!)

Peyton: Freshman year on paper is daunting, and I’m not going to lie it wasn’t easy. Since both KHC and the engineering core curriculum are front-loaded, you will be taking 2-3 more credits than your peers who are either in just ENG or just KHC. The good news is the extra credits are primarily just for the first year, and once you get the hang of it you're in a better place to deal with the more fun and challenging work that follows in your next few years. Deema and I survived the freshman year workload while also joining clubs and making friends so we are here to tell you that you can do it too!

Deema: Freshman year certainly was not an easy one. I was maxed out on credits, signing up for a bunch of clubs and organizations and trying to maintain the clean pink and grey aesthetic I had chosen for my second floor KHC double. Finding a balance was challenging at first, but knowing I was not the only engineering student going through it helped tremendously. I quickly got into the swing of things. My peers and I encouraged and supported each other to keep pushing through. I distinctly remember Peyton, who was amazing at chemistry, teaching me about moles using a tree and leaves metaphor when we were freshmen. Who knows what would have happened in that class without her...

Eventually, freshman year was over, and it was on to the next. Being in ENG and Kilachand is more work than your major alone, but it is ABSOLUTELY doable and highly worth it. There is a lot of talk about the retention rate in Kilachand when you are an engineering student, but the reality is that if you are willing to put in the work and you value the balanced education Kilachand gives you, you will pull through and you will make some of the strongest academic connections imaginable when you do.

Peyton and Deema in New York, 2018
Peyton and Deema in New York, 2018

Advising (Plan ahead)

Peyton: I am graduating this year as a KHC, biomedical engineering student with a concentration in nanotechnology and completing the pre-med track while having studied abroad and worked in a lab for 3 years. It takes lots of advanced planning, good time management, and a lot of hard work and dedication, but you can accomplish whatever your goals are. And you don’t have to do it alone, you have a veritable fleet of advisors to help you navigate class registration, extracurriculars, and future planning. I have a KHC advisor, an ENG advisor, and a premed advisor to ensure that I am fulfilling all of the necessary requirements for my degree. All are extremely supportive of my goals and have also helped me plan what research/extracurricular I should strive for as well as helped refine my post-grad plans.

Deema: Throughout my time in the Honors College, I worked with my ENG advisors and my KHC advisors to flesh out my schedule and academic goals. At one point, I wanted to minor in Biology, and even with my Kilachand schedule and requirements, I was able to work with the department to make it possible. I ended up starting a minor in Mechanical Engineering and was able to take a few extra classes and opportunities to work towards it. My advisors were supportive every step of the way.

Peyton and Deema in Salem for Halloween, 2017 (Left), and having high tea at the Boston Public Libraries, 2017 (Right)
Peyton and Deema in Salem for Halloween, 2017 (Left), and having high tea at the Boston Public Libraries, 2017 (Right)

Finding Balance (Class, Life, Lab)

Peyton: While good time management is essential to managing the busy schedule of ENG KHC student, finding activities you enjoy and friends to hang out with is critical to your success and wellbeing. Growing up with a family who plays a lot of boardgames, I joined the BU Boardgame club my freshman year. Through this group, I met the majority of my friends outside of KHC and ENG and used our Thursday night meeting times as both incentives to finish all my weekly problem sets a day early and to ensure I always had a night off to have fun. Boardgames have been a part of my weekly routine for 4 years now, and I am the current president of the club. Making sure to give yourself a couple of nights off every week despite how busy you are is a great way to ensure you always have the energy you need for your busy schedule. Managing lab work and classes also gets easier starting your junior year as you are finished with the engineering core curriculum and have a greater say over your electives and class schedule. This makes scheduling blocks of time to participate in research a lot smoother. Also, there are a number of opportunities for paid summer/semester research work for engineering students so you can get paid for these hours.

Deema: Looking back on my four years at BU, it was really the people I met who helped me find balance. It was the friends I made in my Dance Theater Group who made the late rehearsals after a long day of academics worth it. It was my colleagues in my research labs who were also up late nights making incredible research happen who helped me push through my own late nights. It was the Brothers I met in my professional fraternity who became my family in Engineering and made me smile during the tougher weeks. It was the KHC friends that I got to bond with during classes that made every moment in Kilachand worth it. Finding balance for me was about finding the right support groups and people who kept me on my toes and reminded me of the activities that I enjoy the most. Balance was about finding moments between classes like walking or eating at the dining hall to catch up with friends.

Making time for the things you love and the people you care about (including yourself) is absolutely key for navigating whatever academic path you choose to pursue. Taking care of your physical and mental health, whatever that looks like for you, will re-energize you and enable you to better fulfill your obligations. The road was bumpy at times, but here I am getting ready to graduate!

Peyton and I have done almost every project possible together when given the choice. We are both BME, so we have been in most of the same classes both within KHC and in ENG. We always worked together well, but it was really the common experience we shared of both being in KHC and having similar ways of thinking that brought us success and honestly a lot of fun while we worked on a ton of deliverables together. Our story is not unique, and many people in ENG and KHC tend to pair up because they are the best equipped to support each other through the entire process.

Peyton: My best piece of advice is finding a group of friends to become your study group. Since we all tend to be busy, we often schedule longer than necessary group meetings or study sessions so that we can also use these work periods to hang out. These study sessions work even when we are not working on the same sets of assignments, it's just nice to have the blocked off to keep each other accountable and catch up on the week!

Existential Crises and Cookies: My Experience in KHC UC 105

By Nicole Chiulli (CAS’23)

Liberty, Fanaticism (Religious and Secular), and Civic Unity (also known as UC105, a philosophy course); this was my Fall first-year seminar in KHC, and I’ll be honest - to this day, I still have no idea why I chose to take it.

I’ve always been a lover of STEM; I knew with absolute certainty coming into college that I was going to major in neuroscience. I appreciate the concreteness of science, the clear answers and tangible outcomes. It’s how I entered neuro in the first place - I studied psychology in high school, and found myself frustrated at the open-endedness of it all. It seemed to me that there were no actual answers; just contradicting theories, innumerable “what-if’s” and “possibly, maybe’s.” The subjectivity of it disheartened me. I was amazed by the human mind and all it entailed, but psychology was unfulfilling and general biology was unsatisfying. (Of course, once I discovered that I could major in neuroscience specifically, I was sold - going into painstaking detail about anything and everything neurobiological was exactly what I wanted.)

In other words, I thrive on working with the physical problems of the world. Which explains why, when I told my parents which course I chose for my first semester, they looked at me with a whole new level of incredulousness. My dad recovered first, concealing his confusion with a hesitant, “Well, I’m glad you’re leaving your comfort zone.” My mom asked me point blank: “Why on earth would you do that?”

I really didn’t have an answer. I remember scrolling through the first-year seminar options, meticulously reading each description. They all looked interesting, and a good number of them lined up with subjects I liked. And yet, for some reason, I got stuck on UC105. I kept going back to the description, couldn’t get it out of my head despite the many choices which fit me better. I had never taken a class before on the topics it listed, had never even mentioned them throughout high school. Philosophy was something completely unfamiliar to me, and everything I knew about myself suggested that I would hate it.

I took it anyway. I remember my first day of the class, walking through the doors of the School of Theology; it was held in a cozy little room on the fifth floor where there was a single long table and, three out of the four walls were entirely covered by bookshelves. There were twelve of us, and we sat around the table with Professor Griswold at the head. We went over the course structure - there were no exams, no final projects. We simply had to read different material for every class by various philosophers; then, every week we each had to write a one page paper which somehow connected to the class topics. Over the semester, we were all expected to read at least two of our papers out loud to the class and lead discussion, but other than that, there were no assignments.

I remember trying to write my very first paper and having no idea where to begin. These papers had no prompts, just a strict one-page limit and the vague direction to be thoughtful. This was bizarre to me, and it was two in the morning, and all of the philosophical jargon from the readings was making my brain hurt. So, I wrote a page about how entirely confused I was. I pointed out all of the things I didn’t understand, and why I didn’t understand them, and how I was approaching them in my head. Basically, it was an entire page of my inner monologue, stream-of-consciousness style. The next day I regretfully handed it in with the knowledge that I was going to fail my first paper. Imagine my surprise when it was marked as an A.

From there, things only went up. Class consisted of an hour and fifteen minutes of pure conversation. We would talk, ask questions, argue - sometimes about the readings and our papers, sometimes about things going on in the world around us. I won’t spoil the topics for those who are planning on taking it, but they were ridiculously engaging. We would debate and debate and debate and come up with no answers. My suitemate happened to be in the class with me, and she and I would press on for hours back in our dorm. Both in and out of class, we would agonize over philosophical questions, having minor existential crises every other day. At some point in the semester, Professor Griswold began bringing in cookies - “vitamins for the mind,” as he called them - to sustain us throughout our endeavors. Every class ended with more questions than we started with, and we never reached any conclusions. It was frustrating and painful and confusing, and surprisingly, I loved every minute of it.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that we never would find the answers, and that that was okay. I learned that thinking through the abstract, impossible questions isn’t pointless, even when there’s no solution in sight. I gained a better understanding of myself, my friends and my world in the process (and ate a whole lot of cookies). To this day, UC105 remains my favorite class I’ve ever taken. The professor was amazing, the topics were fascinating, and the class structure was awesome. I don’t know why I took it, but I’m incredibly glad that I did.

Compare and Contrast: Confessions of Siblings in KHC

By Kadie Cathcart (CAS’23)

For just barely being a freshman in high school in August of 2015, moving my sister into Kilachand Hall for her first semester of college was an eye-opening experience for me. As cliché as it may sound, BU felt like home to me from that day on. Reflecting back on that moment as I finish my second semester of sophomore year, I can’t help but think about how significantly KHC has continued to impact myself and my family. My sister Charlotte graduated in 2019—the same year I started at BU—from both KHC and the College of Engineering with a degree in mechanical engineering. Now a PhD candidate at Princeton University, I thought I would compare and contrast our experiences as two very different KHC students.

1. What was/is your experience like in KHC?

Charlotte: KHC was my break from a rigorous STEM schedule in mechanical engineering. In my major studies, every question had an answer, neatly binarizing my work into “right” or “wrong.” KHC classes gave me a chance to discuss bigger, more conceptual problems with my friends and peers, each with their own expertise or bias. We examined things critically and explored the moral or ethical shades of gray that exist in real world problems. While this might not be as satisfying as having a clearly defined solution to whatever problem was at hand, I found these conversations, and the community that fostered them, so fulfilling.

Kadie: For me, as a political science student, KHC offers a more intimate space outside of a lecture hall surrounded by hundreds of other students. Typically where my non-KHC courses fail in leaving much room for discussion or analysis, my KHC courses make up for. I thoroughly enjoy discussing our curriculum through my specific policy/political centered lens while simultaneously hearing analysis from my peers through their differing major and minor focuses. My KHC classes have been the place where I really develop my opinions on a number of academic and social topics which I can bring to my other classes. Unlike my sister, who experienced very little interdisciplinary overlap, the convergence of my non-KHC and KHC courses have both focused and broadened my thinking as a student.

2. How did you meet friends when starting at KHC?

C: Honestly, mostly from classes and luck! I also did the tried and true method of leaving my door open for the first week or so of freshman year which let me meet my hallmates, as well as talking to them after our floor meetings hosted by our RA. Truly, though, our discussions in KHC studio classes let me talk to and get to know my classmates, and then that branched off into hanging out at the dining hall or the 9th floor together! Then I met their roommates and their friends, then their roommate’s friends, and on and on until finally I’d met my entire class! I met my best friend and future roommate at KHC just by hearing my other friends mention that she had great notes for our chemistry class and so we headed to the 9th floor to see them. You never really know how or why you’ll meet your people, but KHC let me meet everyone in the program quickly so I could find them easier!

K: Similar to my sister, the spider-web of existing KHC student relationships is how I met a lot of my class. As daunting as it was to transition from knowing most people in my high school to knowing no one entering college, putting yourself out there is the best advice I can give on making friends. My roommates and I did a lot of knocking on other people’s doors in KHC just to say hi and introduce ourselves during the first few weeks. From these initial meetings it was much easier to recognize people in classes and get to know them better. My current roommate and I met while walking from KHC to Nickerson Field for Splash; both being political science students we decided to walk around the tables together and through conversation realized we had classes together! From that point on we started sitting next to each other in classes, walking back to KHC after, and hanging on the weekends in our dorm rooms. It truly only takes making one connection to get to know everyone in KHC!

3. Where did you prefer studying within KHC? Are you a 9th floor girl or common room girl?

C: Absolutely the 9th floor. I would spend entire evenings up there with a group of friends hanging out under the guise of working. I actually had to study in my room to get any actual work done because the 9th floor was really my favorite spot to socialize.

K: I am also team 9th floor. The 9th floor is great if you need a change of scenery while studying or doing work and also, of course, is a great place to socialize and get away from studying or doing work. It was also great for getting help from KHC classmates on assignments and topics.

4. What was your favorite KHC class you took? Who was it with?

C: It’d have to be a tie between my freshman year seminars — Spaces of Art with Professor Dana Clancy (a wonderful class on art and curation in contemporary museums, which meant our classrooms were the great museums of Boston! Weekly trips out to the ICA, MFA, ISG, and Harvard Art were an incredible way to get to know my classmates and the city) or Broken Bones, Buried Bodies: Forensic Anthropology and Human Rights with Dr. Jonathan Bethard (now working at USF). Each allowed open-format discussion between students, hands on exploration of the course’s materials, all with the insight and guidance from some of the most thoughtful and passionate teachers I’ve ever had.

K: I would also have to say my favorite course was the forensic anthropology class offered in my freshman year of study called Fractured Lives and Bodies: Forensic Anthropology, Disasters, and Human Rights with Professor Sean Tallman—an updated version of the exact course my sister took four years before. This class was quite a step outside my comfort zone and truly allowed me to get a new understanding of a topic I most likely would never have learned about if not for KHC.

5. Since graduating from KHC what have you taken with you from the program?

C: The ability to care and critically think about a variety of topics! The work we did examining ethics across disciplines - public health, history, ecology, engineering, literature - impacts and inspires the way that I navigate the world and academia. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to participate in such illuminating, sometimes infuriating, always exciting discussions over the course of my studies in KHC. From all of that work in presenting our own ideas as well as listening and absorbing those brought by other students or scholars, I feel as though I’m always ready, willing, and excited to talk with basically anyone about basically anything. In graduate school, your studies can become so hyper-individualized that it can be hard to break back into the big wide world of reality. I like to think that the work I did while in the KHC program helps keep me more well-rounded (academically and on the whole) than I would have been otherwise.

My sister, Charlotte, and I at my matriculation!
My sister, Charlotte, and I at my matriculation!