New2UCDavis : Balance

“A blog series for newly admitted University of California students considering the Davis campus”

 

You’ve just been admitted to a bunch of University of California campuses! Now you just have to ask your self, how do you choose which one to go to?

There are a plethora of factors that go into choosing the right campus for you. Not only does it come down to rankings (of which UC Davis holds many), but to factors that focus on the individual, i.e your self.

Let’s talk about one area many often forget about: balance

 

The University of California is a model public research institution, consisting of 10 campuses that focus on cutting edge mainly STEM research. It can be fair to say that an overwhelming number of you will study those majors at UC (Take a look at UC Davis student major profiles). While in these majors, it is common for students to regard classes from disciplines in the humanities and language or other liberal arts disciplines to be “distractions” – or classes that only serve the purpose of fulling mandated GE requirements.

What many undergraduate students discover while attending university, is that it is not all about sticking one’s head in their own specific field and specialization really comes to fruition in graduate and professional schools. Institutions and companies these days are ideally looking for graduates that are well balanced. This term “balanced” is new to many as it never was emphasized widely as a part of undergraduate education. However, it is one of the most important things to have as a student.

So really, what does the term balanced refer to in the context of a university? In brief, no matter what field you are studying – taking classes that are not in your immediate field can benefit your overall education and experience. The ability to solve problems using multiple methods of approaches and thinking is something that is becoming more valuable with each passing minute. In academia, a person that is “balanced” is referred to as an interdisciplinary researcher or learner. As an example, this person combines knowledge from Biology, Sociology, Language, and Engineering to solve a situation or problem that he or she is tackling.

Is UC Davis a place to find that sort of interdisciplinary learning?

 

Meet Professor Tobias Warner, PhD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Professor Warner is an Assistant Professor of French, and Faculty of Comparative Literature in the UC Davis Department of French and Italian.

You’ve probably seen some funny comics these days and in the past, but have you ever wanted to know the story behind the development, structure, and context of these comics? Do you want to know the true origins of Superman and his use in social manipulation and politics of South America? Professor Warner makes it one of his missions in life to get students excited and thinking about the origins and meanings behind the popular comics of past and present. In addition to helping French students discover their passion for the language, he teaches a widely popular Humanities class on “How to be a Critic: Comics”.

An interesting aspect about Professor Warner’s life is that his parents were STEM majors, and one can imagine that they had a little push on him to pursue something in the STEM field. He was exposed to those classes in his educational career, but found the languages and in particular, French more appealing. However, just because he had a change in focus – does not mean the value of STEM degraded over time. At UC Davis, the non-STEM liberal arts majors are not taught simply at face value. With faculty like Professor Warner, each major extended into the same processes of learning that STEM fields typically use. Research is conducted and valued, and boundaries are pushed to discover new things in the field, under the guidance of experienced faculty like Professor Warner.

The more important aspect of this, Professor Warner describes, is the use of the STEM like research methods in order to understand things like literature, language, and the humanities. As one would develop their analytical skills and technical skills in a Chemistry course, classes like the Comics class allow one to develop their critical thinking and analysis skills. In combination, this expands one’s perspective and ways of thinking. In talking with Professor Warner, we both thought that a push is needed by undergraduate educators to put emphasis on the interdisciplinary way of thinking. Instead of seeing classes outside of ones major as “required” courses to fulfill graduation, a shift in thinking is needed to think of these courses as further enrichment to achieving one’s goal.

So what basic advice would Professor Warner give to new students at UC Davis? “While finding your passion, explore options to enhance it by checking out classes that can add to your education – keep an open mind and keep your class loads balanced.”

 

UC Davis places a special importance on research in all disciplines. Whether you are on the cutting edge of protein research in mouses or discovering new information about the French colonies and how literature progressed, you will gain experience and tools that can carry over in any discipline. This net gain of knowledge across different disciplines places more tools in one’s toolbox, so that when you’re faced with an incredible problem – you have a diverse skill set to use.

As you join your new university this fall, make sure to visit faculty like Professor Warner and explore the wonderful classes UC Davis has to offer!

 

*Please note that in all New2UCDavis blog posts, these informal discussions are paraphrased and never direct quotes.

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