One of the biggest reasons I chose Concordia College was the fact that it is a liberal arts college. Contrary to my stepdad’s belief that a liberal arts college turns its students into left-wingers, Concordia College prompts its students with the challenge to become responsibly engaged in the world. This is done over a period of four years where students cultivate a love for learning, develop foundational skills and transferable intellectual capacities, gain an understanding of disciplinary, interdisciplinary and intercultural perspectives, and nurture an examined cultural, ethical, physical, and spiritual self-understanding. Although students chooses a major in which they focus their studies, they must also complete the core curriculum. The core curriculum draws from diverse departments, allowing students to gain a well-rounded education. A major element of a Concordia education is the capstone course, which aims to draw together all of Concordia’s learning goals into one course. I chose Neurochemistry as my capstone course, and it did not disappoint.
As a biology major and chemistry minor, I am use to the traditional lecture-style course in which material is learned for quizzes and exams. Neurochemistry was not like this. Although there was some lecture early on in the class in order to gain the necessary knowledge for the rest of the class, the course was largely discussion based. Right off the bat we were told that we would get out of this class exactly what we put into it. We wouldn’t be tested on specific knowledge, so it would be our responsibility to be informed on each topic. Each week we would read a paper, discuss what we didn’t understand, research and present on these topics, and finally discuss the topic with a wider focus. While it was important to gain a full understanding of the paper and the disorder we were discussing, I came to understand that it was just as important to put it in a wider context and discuss the political, social, and economic implications. As a science major, I found it initially difficult to look beyond the science and consider a topic in a wider context. Throughout the course of the semester, however, this grew to be one of my favorite aspects of the class. In following the framework of a liberal arts education, neurochemistry allowed us to take an interdisciplinary approach to topics we may not have in the past.
Although the course was largely unconventional, we did still take exams. However, these exams were very different from any other I had taken. We were given a deconstructed version of a scientific paper upon which we were supposed to formulate a hypothesis. This hypothesis had to be based upon the science presented to us and explain the events that were noted. In addition, there was a take home portion of the exam in which we were given the full article and asked to critique the hypothesis we had formulated during the in class portion of the exam. I personally loved this style of exam as it forced us to not only think critically, but gave us the opportunity to learn from and correct any mistakes we had made.
Neurochemistry has proven to be one of my favorite courses I have taken while at Concordia. For me, the hallmark of a good class is one in which I am able to learn just as much about myself as I do about the material of the course. While learning about signaling of the brain, molecular pathways, and neurodegenerative diseases, I was also able to gain a greater sense of appreciation of lifelong learning, collaboration, and interdisciplinary work. More importantly, I was able to break outside of my often narrow focus of scientific topics and consider them in a broader scope. While I am thankful for the knowledge I have gained in this course, I am even more thankful for the fact that I have grown as a student and as an individual.