Capture inspiration

Aug 242008
Authors: Anne Marie Merline

I think it is important that as students, you take the opportunity to understand what instructors do in the college classroom, their motivations and their actions. Especially in a large university like CSU, it is difficult to connect with those standing at the whiteboard because of the sheer numbers of students in most classes.

I am privileged to teach in the Honors Program, where I have no more than 22 students in any one class. One of the most important aspects of the Honors Program is the quality of interaction between the instructors and the students. This was true for me as an undergraduate and as a graduate student.

Now, as an instructor, this is my job — to foster an understanding between the students and the instructors on campus. What follows is my first contemplation of the new year. I wrote most of the following last May.

I can think of no better way to start the new academic year than with the word “commencement.” Commencement means both the beginning of something and the ceremonies that mark the end of an educational journey. It is the end that marks the start.

For the first-year students now on campus, the end of high school is months behind you, and the beginning of at least four years of very hard work begins. This is a profound thought.

Reflecting on last year, I believe events at the end of the previous academic year tend to be forgotten by the beginning of the new school year. I wanted to capture the inspiration of graduation when I wrote this column, in hopes that it carries both you and me through the next year and, perhaps, through the rest of your collegiate days. On May 16 I attended the annual graduation reception for the honors students who finished their tenure here at CSU. I do this every year. Of course, this sentiment is forgotten by the time I am tearing my hair out to get my courses ready to go in August.

At the end of every year, I am in awe that the students that are walking past the podium have already completed their studies. They have made it four years, completed every paper due, studied for every exam, experienced personal growth and have been enlightened by what they have learned. The girls have become women, the boys, men, and, as for me, I have more gray hair. We are all four years older now. I sit in the audience and shake my head in disbelief. How is it that these students are already graduating? Time has passed quickly from beginning to end in this context.

Each year will provide opportunities for discontentment. If you are sticking to your studies, then you are yearning for fun and free time and the blissful void of noth ingness. If you are paying too much attention to the co-ed down the hall or to the other distractions of college life, you may be disappointed with the grades that you earn. If last year was not the stellar success you had envisioned, try to make this year more productive and joyful as possible. A good way to celebrate the commencement of school is to consider the lyrics from my favorite album of 2006, Jack Johnson’s “Sing-A-Longs And Lullabies For The Film Curious George.”

My favorite 4-year-old friend, Theo, introduced this song to me, a cover of a 2002 song by the White Stripes. The song begins:

“Fall is here, hear the yell

Back to school, ring the bell

Brand new shoes, walking blues

Climb the fence, books and pens

I can tell that we are going to be friends

Yes I can tell that we are going to be friends.”

Make it a good year CSU.

Anne Marie Merline is an instructor for the University Honors Program. Her column appears biweekly Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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