In the years following the completion of their degrees, Keene State College graduates may go on to change the world as engineers, filmmakers, guidance counselors and the list goes on and on.
While some requirements for each respective major may seem crucial to real world application in any given field, some students question a few classes they must take.
KSC junior Julia Gardner plans to become a registered dietitian after graduating. Why she was asked to dissect a cat in her required human anatomy and physiology classes initially didn’t make much sense to her.
“I have a cat at home and after hearing that I would need to slice into one as part of the class requirement, I found myself distraught,” Gardner explained.
“I kept asking myself how exactly cutting a cat open had anything to do with me getting a degree in nutrition. However before the class was over, I learned just how important it was,” Gardner said.
Professor of Human Anatomy and Physiology Dr. Douglas Smith, parts one and two at KSC, explained just how useful the cats can be for his students.
“Cats serve as a very useful and relatable analog to human organ systems. True, the skeletal system has distinct differences, as well as the muscular system, but internally, they’re mammals just like we are and have all the same organs for all the same purposes,” Smith said.
Smith emphasized the importance of taking concepts learned in lecture and being able to apply them to something more physical, like dissecting cats in a lab.
“To see the organs connected to one another, how they’re carefully packed inside the thoracic and abdominal cavities, to see their proximity to each other is extremely useful for anyone to see how a human being is put together,” Smith explained.
While initially deterred by the idea of dissection, after completing the Human Anatomy and Physiology classes taught by Smith, Gardner was able to apply the lessons learned on the cat to the work she will be doing after graduating.
“Without having the cats to work with and use as hands-on learning materials, I would have had difficulty retaining so much information in such little time,” Gardner said.
“[I was able to] apply what I learned on the cat to how the cells function within organs, and within their biological systems, and how it affected the body as a whole, including how the food we eat factors into that system.”
Smith was able to explain the importance of dissection in all aspects of the health field.
“If you’re a nutrition major, for example, then you’re going to be talking about the stomach, the small intestine, large intestine and their abilities to absorb food.
With dissection in mind, you also gain a little perspective into how much time is food going to stay in the stomach or the small intestine,” Smith said.
Smith continued, “Even these concepts don’t directly affect your field of study, they will tangentially. There will be overlap where it will be helpful for a person [in any health field] to know how these things are physically fitting into the body.”
Smith said, “Knowing the location of organs will be important, even if you don’t spend a lot of time digging into a human being, it’s important to know where the chemistry is happening.”
And, just for clarification, KSC students aren’t dissecting pets. According to Smith, the cats are ordered from the Carolina Biological Company, which collects cats from parts of the world where they are seen as a pest species.
Unlike Gardner, senior computer science major Sean Stinehour is having a little more difficulty seeing how certain classes relate to his major, particularly the ITW class.
Stinehour, who is well on his way toward completing his degree at KSC and moving on to become a software engineer after graduating, is able to see the importance of becoming a well-rounded student, but said he was not happy when asked to write a twenty page paper as a first-year in the required Integrative Thinking and Writing (ITW) course.
ITW is a class KSC requires all students to take their first year. Throughout the semester-long class, students are guided through writing a twenty page research paper, which is then turned in as their final at the end of the class.
Stinehour said that as a computer scientist, the class was a complete waste of his time.
“Instead of taking a class that was practical or relatable to my major and future profession, I had to take a weird hybrid Poly-Sci/English class,” Stinehour said. “All it did was suck time and effort away from important classes and events that would have helped me further my career.”
Student tutors at KSC’s Center for Writing, junior Samantha Brault and senior Sophia Olsen said they unwaveringly disagreed with Stinehour.
Brault said, “It’s definitely important for students to take the ITW class, and for them to take it as a freshman. It’s the foundation of everything you do in your college career.”
Olsen added, “Once you finish ITW, every course you’re in has some element like that. It might not be a twenty page paper, but having that background in arguments is definitely helpful.”
Olsen then explained that writing isn’t just about writing.
“ITW helps students form arguments,” Olsen said. “If you’re in the real world and you’re challenged and are trying to stick to your guns about something, you need to be able to form a very valid argument.”
Brault and Olsen explained that skills learned in ITW other than research skills will apply to the real world, whether it be drafting out an email to a professor, or communicating with a boss.
Stinehour stated that his ITW touched on skills he already learned in high school, and that the class did nothing for him.
Stinehour said, “That class is not something I will be bragging about in future interviews.”
Stinehour continued, “Learning [research skills and essay writing] is a job for high school education, not college. If a person is shelling out over twenty thousand dollars for a college education, that’s what they should receive. Not some high school class in disguise.”
With that being said, Olsen stressed the importance of those skills and the importance of keeping those skills sharp.
“Formulating a paper, no matter the length, gives you the structure to form your argument and that right there is something I think every single person, no matter the major, can find helpful,” Olsen said.
Studio art major Avery Black thought the class would have been more helpful to her if it was formatted differently.
Black stated, “I didn’t particularly enjoy writing the paper, especially since I had already done a 20 page paper in the same format for high school and not enjoyed it.”
With that being said, Black said she felt like she was given a wider look on controversial topics like media and race, and that her ITW class made her feel like a more well-rounded student.
“I think that it’s good to have background in writing research papers because I know a lot of people will find themselves in research jobs after college, but I myself don’t feel like this is going to be a defining factor in my career path,” Black said.
In some respects, Black agrees with Olsen and Brault.
Black said, “I think students should be required to take a writing course because it is important to be able to correctly express yourself through writing and to be able to communicate information this way. But I think the topics of the writing class could either go more with a specific major or have major specific writing courses students could take to supplement the ITW.”
Senior Film Production major James Calnan had no complaints about classes he was required to take, but rather classes he wasn’t.
As a film major, Calnan is constantly working on different size film projects and shelling out money in the process.
As a sophomore, Calnan spent between $300-$400 on his projects. As a junior, each student in his group paid upwards of $800.“Learning how to finance, budget, examining in depth on handling student loans, or even basic skills would be a great idea [for all students]. Even though some of us know some of these skills, it would be great to refresh us and continuously work with them,” Calnan said.
Calnan explained that film students are encouraged to use fundraising websites like Kickstarter to help foot some of the bill, but that they aren’t really taught how to create a successful Kickstarter in class.
“I think there should be a much stronger time dedication in the curriculum toward teaching students how to raise funds properly. This can range from self-finance, Kickstarters, GoFundMe, producers, et cetera,” Calnan said.
All in all, Calnan has no major complaints about classes he’s taken over the duration of his time at KSC.
“I think all the classes I’ve taken and learned something from,” Calnan said.
Jill Giambruno can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org