More than a passing grade

Well, finished up yet another semester at Platteville, but still not a graduate quite yet; only a couple more classes to go before that can be a reality. This past semester was another rough one though, for a few reasons:

  • I missed out on the Fall semester prior, so it took me some time to get back into the school mindset again.
  • I ended up switching out one class with one called “Personalized Learning Experience,” which I’ll go more into detail later.
  • Between this new course and my other courses, I ended up getting piled on with projects, along with preparing for any exams or quizzes.
  • There were also some life issues that occurred throughout the semester; so those didn’t help any.

However, I am glad that I did pass most of my classes and my GPA hardly changed. I am also happy at the response I got from my advisor about the paper I wrote for my Personalized Learning Experience (PLE) course. All I did for this course was picked a topic, researched it, and wrote a paper on it. If I did it and did it well, I passed; if I didn’t do it well, or not at all, I failed. What I ended up getting was more than a passing grade; I got an opportunity.

The topic was homosexual behaviors in animals. My goal was to create an informative, updated piece that pools in various peer-reviewed resources and makes the argument that yes, homosexual behaviors are a natural phenomenon among the animal kingdom, however they are rare and may not necessarily be because of an individual’s “orientation” and only as a byproduct of their normal behaviors.

(I put that word “orientation” in quotes not as sarcasm, but simply as a label, as animals don’t exactly have the capability of self-identification regarding things like orientation, gender, race, etc. This, and my paper, have no intention of offending anyone within the LGBTQ community; I’m only using words like “orientation” or “homosexual” in a technical context.)

When I turned in a mostly completed draft to my advisor, he told me this in an email when he finally got back to me on it:
 
 
May 19

Hi Ben,

I’m sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I actually really adore the draft you got me already. I’m proud of you for picking a topic, outlining the motivations/goals/format for the paper, and doing an excellent job of (at least what I’ve seen so far) realizing these goals. If you could get the final paper to me by next Wednesday at noon, that would be great.

It’s too bad you’re not going to be here for another semester. Your paper actually inspired me to consider forming a journal housed in the Biology dept. that highlights outside-the-classroom student writing on biology. You’re definitely an exception in terms of you writing ability (in a good way) among Biology majors, but I think the chance for students to see their writing in print might be motivational to a certain subset of our student population. Let me know what you think. If there’s some way for you to help initiate such an endeavor, you’d be the natural choice to help me. [sic]

Thanks,
Ryan

 
 
This…this got me excited. When writing the paper, I wanted to make sure I did a good job and end up creating something I can be proud of. I did not want to bullshit around with this, since the stakes for this course were high: I either pass, or I fail; there’s no in-between. What I didn’t expect was an opportunity to start something that could boost other students in the Biology department. A student could put down that, yes, they got published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, even if it’s one started by an undergraduate university.

Also, this could be an opportunity for me to grow as a writer, but also as a Biologist, as this will be a Biology journal. While I know a fair amount about the publishing process and putting together a manuscript, book, etc., I don’t know much about the process for a scientific journal; I’d imagine it’s similar. Already I can see the biggest area of growth for me as a writer would be the layout, design, and organization of the journal; this will also be my first time experiencing the publishing process as a whole, and boy, will it be interesting.

I hope to get in touch with my advisor, Ryan, soon this summer. I would love to get this started ASAP, though it may not end up getting worked on until next Fall. It definitely sounds like both of us would like to see this happen.

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