When I signed up for a Neurochemistry capstone course at Concordia, I was pretty terrified at what I was getting myself into. Every graduate of Concordia must have the capstone experience, as it is supposed to be the culmination of your liberal arts education. I thought that meant that this class would have to be the hardest class I had ever taken in my college career. I was definitely wrong about that, though. While this was certainly a very challenging course, the topics were extremely interesting, so I enjoyed putting in the time necessary to be prepared for class. Before I talk about the class, I would like to talk about Concordia’s goals for each student receiving a liberal arts education. Concordia states five goals for their liberal learning:
- Instill a love for learning
- Develop foundational skills and transferable intellectual capacities
- Develop an understanding of disciplinary, interdisciplinary and intercultural perspectives and their connections
- Cultivate an examined cultural, ethical, physical and spiritual self-understanding
- Encourage responsible participation in the world
I am most certainly biased, but I believe that as a Chemistry major, my classes have been excellent in working toward achieving these goals for my education, this capstone course in particular. Although we spent the first few weeks of this class in a more typical lecture setting to ensure everyone had a solid foundation of neurochemistry in the brain and the many different pathways there are, the rest of the semester was focused on learning about specific neurodegenerative diseases and brain systems. These included:
- Mental illness
- Alzheimer’s disease
The format of our class made it extremely discussion-based: on Mondays we would split into groups of four, and have initial discussions of the paper we read over the weekend, Wednesdays were for “speed dating,” where we would pair up and spend five minutes discussing the topics each individual was assigned to research from Monday, and Fridays were for any final questions about the paper, and splitting into two groups and reviewing the week’s information. Fridays were the most fun day of the week, and as we grew to be a very close-knit class, we decided to go out for breakfast during our final Friday class. This was a great stress relieving time before the week of finals!
Having us perform our own research into topics of our choice from each paper helped not only instill a love for learning, but also with developing an understanding of disciplinary, interdisciplinary and intercultural perspectives (goal number three). My favorite aspect of this was being able to research the current pharmaceuticals used to treat these diseases. I am extremely interested in how drugs work in the body and how you can achieve specific targeting of the brain and different receptors by drugs. Another favorite thing of mine to research was diagnosis of diseases. A lot of the diseases we learned about had very similar symptoms to other, sometimes less severe, diseases. The fine line between some similar diseases may seem arbitrary, but could have major effects on the treatment of the disease.
Along with out weekly papers, I had the opportunity to do a community outreach project in this course. My group of three fellow Neurochemistry students and two Social Work partner students was able to give a presentation on anxiety and coping with it using mindfulness techniques to five classes at Moorhead High School over a period of three days. While this project was very time-consuming and involved a lot of planning, it was so well worth the time. After reading through responses we got on the paper survey we asked each class to fill out, I really felt as though we made an impact in quite a few students’ lives. I am positive that when I think back to this class in the future, this was the part that had the greatest effect on me. The opportunity to present to high school students, mostly seniors, who are nearing the transition from high school into college or adult life was very exciting. This community outreach project was a great way to put Concordia’s biggest theme, BREW, into action.
BREW stands for Becoming Responsible Engaged in the World. While some colleges may say they aspire to prepare you to become responsible global citizens, I do not believe they achieve this goal. Concordia is a different story. From the very first week we spend on campus as a freshman, Cobbers are already being sent out into the world – the Fargo-Moorhead community, in this case – to make a difference and impact lives and communities in a positive way. As one of the final courses I will take here at Concordia, I thought this community outreach project was a great way to show the culmination of my years of being told to BREW.
To end with one final thought…. ROLL COBBS!