Chapter 11: Wrapping Up the First Year of Grad School
[Editor’s Note: Jeremy Johnson ’12 and Katlyn Lee ’12 are writing monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their own post-graduation experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life After Ripon!]
As April drew to a close, so too did my first year of graduate studies. Thus far, it has been an interesting ride. Looking back on the year, I’m very much proud of what I’ve done. I finished my first year exactly as I would have it: writing excellent papers and doing a little bit of traveling. I couldn’t imagine anything better.
The first part of April was filled with writing. I went about writing one of my papers during the first week of the month. I would say it turned out quite well. I composed the paper for my class on classical rhetoric (including the works of thinkers such as Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, and more). I ended up writing about mourning through eulogies and the impact of multiple or fragmented identity. Frankly, it probably makes more sense through my example.
Sean Smith was a US Foreign Service worker killed in the US Embassy in Libya. He was their IT guy. He was also an avid player of the online video game EVE Online. In the game, he was perhaps the most prominent diplomat, working to bring worlds together. In the “real world” he did the same. I looked at the way news agencies, fellow gamers, and even Hillary Clinton talked about both Smith and his video game persona, “Vile Rat.” There’s obviously a lot more to it, but that should at least give you some sense of what I’m studying, particularly as this paper will be part of my Master’s Thesis.
Toward the middle of the month, I went to West Virginia to judge at the National Forensic Association national tournament. Last year, the NFA tournament was kind to me — I made two quarterfinal rounds and won a national championship in another event. This year Ripon sent a student, Bill Heinze ’13, who did a fantastic job and had a wonderful time. I served as Ripon’s official judge for the tournament. It’s about a six hour drive to Huntington from State College, so it wasn’t any further traveling than what I was used to as a student and competitor at Ripon. Bill traveled to the tournament on a bus with the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire and the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, and I met them at the tournament.
The NFA tournament spans four days: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. As a competitor, it was absolutely brutal. Everyone calls it a marathon, and it really is. Even as a judge, it was incredibly tiring. I judged most of the preliminary rounds, as just about every judge does, so I felt tuckered out even by mid-day on Sunday. I was pleased, though, to be able to judge multiple elimination rounds, including two quarterfinals, a semifinal, and the national final round of Rhetorical Criticism. It was a fantastic experience being on the other side of the ballot, critiquing the students. I certainly had a great time hanging out with Bill and the UW – Eau Claire team. Unfortunately, I had to drive the six hours home after the awards ceremony, so I drove from 10:00 pm to 4:30 am. That was definitely a rough journey home, but I made it back just fine.
After returning from NFA, I set about finishing the semester here. I wrote my second paper the weekend after I got back. That paper is about how Reddit, an online community, responded to the crisis of having one of its members’ real identities revealed. The guy was honestly very creepy, but a lot of people were still upset that he was “unmasked” even though communication on the site is supposed to remain anonymous. I also prepared and delivered a presentation for my third course. I now have my grades from the semester, so I know that my work was well received. I’m pleased to have excelled in my first year of studies here at Penn State.
During this month (May) I get to start teaching my first class. I’ll be teaching public speaking to undergraduate students here during the first summer session, which runs from mid-May through late June. I’m incredibly excited. I want to be a professor—that’s why I’m in grad school—so it’s going to be great finally being able to work with students in the classroom. I’ve enjoyed my research thus far, but I think I’ll be a lot happier now that I get to teach. Here’s to the start of a great summer.
Jeremy D. Johnson ’12