Strategies

How do IS students find their way to a big project?

First off: they do some post-secondary studies or some long work out in the world. Nobody comes straight in from high school. Some have been at York for a year or two; others transfer in from college, from some other university, or from an interesting career.

Why so? It really pays to know your way around a university, and to know your skills and goals.

Students start off with an interest, and a passion, be it moral, intellectual or artistic, or perhaps some mixture. Let’s call that their subject.

Then, gradually, they come to have a goal. This goal might be a question: what makes my subject tick? Or it might be esthetic: they want to produce some splendid thing. And, again, they might want to combine the intellectual and the artistic, to create something splendid, and also to explain how that creation worked. And, for many students, this goal has a pragmatic or moral streak, to make our world somehow a better place.

Then there comes the time to sit down and talk things out with the program coordinator. The conversation is wide-ranging, over tea or coffee, and enjoyably unrushed.

The coordinator and the student look the whole university over. And, sometimes, the student has met a professor who looks just perfect, a fine supervisor. But not always, so there then follows a time of scouting, via the York web and out into leads about who writes how and who does what. And the leads then give rise to conversations: the student tracks down professors. Exploration, a big job!

What for?

For more advice. Every professor knows more professors, all around the university. So, all the while the student tracks a special adviser, other names pop up, furnishing a whole web of knowledge, inquiry, and production.

So students talk their way towards the project and the major. This business of scouting is itself splendid training, in ingenuity, patience, and ferocious persistence. Victory goes not to the swift but to the stubborn and ingenious.

When it is at last over, the student has a fine list of courses, and has garnered ideas enough to write that two-page, single-space description of what this whole major will involve. It takes weeks to get it all together. When the draft comes in, the coordinator lets the student join IS.

So what is the big secret?

Act like the knight in chess.

Think in all directions, part out front, part-sideways.

Then jump!

Your move!