Friday, March 27, 2009

The Exploring Transfer Program


By Luis K. Feliz

I fell in love with Vassar College during the Exploring Transfer Program in the summer of 2008. I remember walking into Dr. Mills’s office in Swift Hall and not being turned away, but rather leaving with a new book to add to my reading list. The fact that not only was Dr. Mills available to meet with me, but also genuinely cared about my ideas, reflects Vassar’s commitment to the intellectual growth of every student and to promoting a love of learning for its own sake. The individual attention and the close-knit residential community at Vassar transformed me. Unlike, a larger city-based commuter school, like LaGuardia Community College, where professors teach up to four classes a semester, Vassar was much more intimate, a supportive intellectual community built upon collaborative learning. Experiencing Vassar in this capacity gave me the opportunity to glimpse a different college experience.

The intellectual exchange among students was another aspect of my experience at Vassar. If anyone can capture the character of an institution, I believe it is the students. Such an individual was Mikey Velarde. Mikey was one of the counselors for the course Writing Historical Fiction. Just as Dr. Mills kept his door open to every student, so, too, did Mikey; he went beyond his responsibilities as a counselor. I cannot count the times that he stayed up reading over my drafts, helping me become a better writer. Mikey’s work ethic and dedication to the success of every student in the ET program serves as model for the educational philosophy of Vassar.

Most importantly, Vassar allowed me to develop intellectually. When I first arrived at Vassar, I did not expect to have one of those overrated life-changing-experiences. In fact, I often feared that I didn’t belong there. I felt that I was living in Central Park, and needed to escape the oasis. The monumental architecture and the general ambience made me feel out of place. But as I got pulled into debates, I started to feel a sense of pride in my voice and to believe that my perspective was worth something. At LaGuardia, students have to juggle multiple responsibilities. Derrida, Foucault, performative gender? No one has time.

At Vassar, the students are critical thinkers with the luxury to expand their consciousness through critical inquiry. Consequently, the debates were rich, but also very heated. One of the biggest challenges was adjusting to such an ideologically charged environment. In class, it was no different. We had debates that carried on after class. I set up study groups in which people read aloud and argued points of view.

By the end of the ET program, I learned that Vassar students do not settle for simple prescriptive approaches to complex problems; instead, alternate points of view are introduced to deconstruct issues and solutions. The greatest reward of taking part in the ET program was being exposed to thoughtful debate and learning to cherish it. If I learned nothing else at Vassar, it was to take a stand, present an issue and defend my ideas.


For more information about the program and eligibility, you should speak to Cecilia Macheski, M403.

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