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Last year I went to a lecture in Phillips Audi­torium titled: “The wolves and moose of Isle Royale: the world’s longest study of a predatory-prey system.” I’m an English major, but I went because Dr. Houghton said if I came and signed the thinly-pop­u­lated list of attending stu­dents, I could earn extra credit in Biology 101 — which I sorely needed. So I wan­dered in quietly and found the room filled with eager science majors flipping open yellow notepads, pre­pared to scribble down all the gory details of the coming lecture. I scanned the room ‘till I found a fellow human­ities major and met their gaze with a shrug that said: “better get this over with.”

Roughly five minutes into the lecture, I was hooked. I kept trying to con­vince myself that the predatory-prey system couldn’t pos­sibly be this intriguing to someone as lit­er­ature-minded as I, but it was no use. The speaker, Research Pro­fessor at Michigan Tech­no­logical Uni­versity Rolf Peterson, had with him a fas­ci­nating col­lection of film footage chron­i­cling the battle for sur­vival between the lum­bering, giant moose and the cunning wolf packs that had to coor­dinate to suc­cess­fully bring down their dan­gerous dinner.

It was fas­ci­nating. And it got me thinking. What other oppor­tu­nities had I skipped over because they didn’t fit my “area of expertise” — if an under­graduate can ever use that phrase — or sound familiar enough? I never would have gone to a lecture on the predator-prey system if not for Dr. Houghton’s prompting, and yet it was remarkably enlight­ening.

On a campus as brimming full of developed talent as Hillsdale, it is intim­i­dating to dabble in the unfa­miliar. It is an ego-deflating expe­rience to sit in a room sur­rounded by sci­en­tists who nod along with the ter­mi­nology while I’m still trying to spell “hypothesis.” It is much more com­fortable to sit in a lecture on poetry and pat myself on the back that I under­stand T.S. Eliot’s ref­erence to the “bedded axle-tree.”

But there is such worth in sitting through a 50-minute dis­cussion on Astronomy or a Q&A on the Korean War. Unlike a standard uni­versity, the goal at Hillsdale isn’t to find a niche and begin spinning your life around that one thing. There is worth in the well-rounded edu­cation — it pro­duces a more com­plete person, a person whose per­sonal achieve­ments do not define them. The stu­dents who leave here instead should have well-developed skills aug­mented by a knowledge of the world around them.

This requires embracing those obscure oppor­tu­nities that pop up around campus. It requires not turning away from the dis­cus­sions that don’t directly align with your major or your career choice. There is worth in a biology major attending a dis­cussion on “Art and the Media,” or a pol­itics major signing up for a CCA on science fiction movies. Hillsdale College stu­dents have a mul­titude of classes available in their area of interest — it would hardly hurt to spend an hour out of the week learning some­thing com­pletely unfa­miliar.

Psy­chi­a­trist Thomas Szasz says, “Every act of con­scious learning requires the will­ingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem.” So, yes, next semester I will be taking the CCA on the federal income tax. Should be fun.