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Veritas: A Student's Perspective

Natalia Quintana shares an insider's look at the Veritas Program.
Date: Oct 2012

"May your dreams find a place
In the garden of grace
May they grow where you’ve planted the seed
May your faith be a flame
That won’t die in the rain
May you never want more than you need."

-Craig Bickhart

Now, I’m not a huge fan of country music, nor am I an expert in songwriting, but that sounds like lyrical gold to me.

That song verse was written by guitar-wielding, country singing poet Craig Bickhardt, who us Veritas students had the privilege of having as our speaker during last week’s Veritas forum. After a brief introduction, Bickhardt went straight to singing and later on, enlightening his audience with advice about inspiration, life and, most importantly, metaphors. After hearing him speak to the Veritas community, it really came as no surprise to me that he’s written music for the likes of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Martina McBride and Alison Krauss. From the beginning to the end of the forum, Bickhardt had his audience transfixed by his voice, his guitar playing, and his beautiful songwriting.

Like a lot of other students I know, I can sometimes have a hard time with expressing myself in my writing, especially when it comes to school essays. The idea of trying to describe thoughts and emotions (which, as we all know, can sometimes end up being indescribable) freaked me out. I have a feeling that one of the reasons Bickhardt was chosen as a speaker for the Veritas program was to give Veritas students a sense of freedom when it came to writing. His lyrics, saturated with depth and emotion, reminded us that we could be just as powerful in our writing by using tools like metaphors and inspiration from life.

After Bickhardt had left the stage and the forum was over, I found myself inspired and ready to pick up a pencil to finish that essay that I’ve been trying to avoid. Of course it’s easier said than done, but Bickhardt’s musical lecture taught me that I could find inspiration anywhere to help me along. When looking back on the forum, I’d have to say that the Veritas program has again succeeded in helping me see the world a little differently

It is several weeks into the Veritas program, and already, drama is starting to brew. Not the catty, high school drama that you’re probably thinking of now (you know, with the gossip and the rumors and the cafeteria confrontations …) No, I’m talking about a whole different kind of drama: The intellectual kind. The kind that teaches us students to wrestle with the ideas of others as well as our own in terms of spirituality and the human nature. The kind that causes us to take sides with one perspective and oppose another. The kind that could start an ideological sparring match between classmates, or maybe even a professor. I guess it is kind of like high school drama, in a way -- you know, minus the hair-pulling.

The reading to blame for the “drama” taking place in my Veritas Symposium is called “Drugstore Athlete,” written by Malcolm Gladwell. In his writing, Gladwell raises plenty of thought-provoking questions: Is an athlete’s use of steroids the equivalent of, say, a depressed person’s use of Ritalin? Should the same rules that apply to the athletic realm also be applied to the social realm? Does dependence on an artificial aid always count as “cheating,” even in medicine? The excerpt was a short, five-minute read, but it was chock full of subtexts and implications that would take hours to read if also written out.

So you can already imagine the kinds of discussions and opinions that were raised in the class discussion. Some took the side of Gladwell, others took the opposite stance, and a few were somewhere in the middle. What really made the debates interesting, though, was how most of us were willing to use our personal experiences as weapons to support our points. Even I was able to gather the courage to share my personal experiences with the whole class, and trust me when I say that I’m not the type to share my personal life with just anyone.

I know a debate was worth my while when it leaves me thinking even long after the discussion ends, and that’s exactly what happened after the “Drugstore Athlete” class discussion was over. Seeing from the perspectives of other people (as well as disagreeing with them) helped me shape my own opinions about things that aren’t limited to those discussed in class -- not to mention that it was also pretty fun.

For those upperclassmen who are wondering what the Veritas program is, it is, in a nutshell, some really deep stuff. The complex class lectures in our Veritas Liberal Arts Symposiums, the mandatory intellectual panels, and the book readings might sound tedious to some, but hey-- they made us watch Wall-E as a class assignment. It’s really not as boring as it sounds. In fact, as a Veritas student, I’ve had the opportunity to think specifically about the role technology plays in our society and the human condition as a whole. Like I said—deep stuff.

What I’ve noticed about the Veritas Symposium—which you could say is a fancier freshman seminar -- is that it doesn’t deal with concepts that are distant to us as young adults and students. In fact, it pretty much hits the spot when it comes to teaching us things that will definitely come in handy someday; things that range from résumé writing and persuasive techniques, to being able to see the reality of technology in our ever-changing society. Not to mention that during the Veritas Symposium, I actually have a voice as a student. I’m not just sitting in the back of the classroom, taking notes while a professor drones on about a certain subject I barely know anything about. The Veritas course allows me to engage in debates and conversations with my classmates and professor. It gives me an opportunity to write essays and papers that reflect my arguments and opinions, as opposed to just answering a simple question and elaborating on it.

As a freshman at the Mount, I admit that I’m a newbie to this whole college thing— and a pretty awkward one at that. (Let’s just say that I’ve walked into the wrong classroom way more than once in the past few weeks…) But the Veritas Symposium has actually helped me warm up to it all pretty quickly. I have an awesome professor, I’ve met interesting classmates, and I’ve learned about things that I’ll definitely put to use in the future. So far, the Veritas program has succeeded in teaching me how to look at the world from different angles and from a deeper perspective. Will it only get better from here? I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

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