The 590 Independent Study Revisited

In digging through files a few days ago, I came across a bulging folder with all my History papers from college; a collection of gems and duds. I spent hours pouring over them bringing me back to what feels like a lifetime ago in college. It brought me back to a time when I found myself having to take a final semester of 19 credits to graduate. Due, not to failure, but simply because Purdue didn’t accept a slew of credits when I transferred from Lafayette College my Junior year.

I was a History major and generally loved my classes and my professors. I didn’t mind the massive reading lists and became an efficient machine knocking out 20+ page papers left and right. As the end of college approached, in a panic I actually entertained the idea of staying and working toward a PhD. I know… really? What was I thinking? Clearly I hadn’t formulated a grand plan for employment post graduation. Since daddy’s gravy train was soon coming to a screeching halt upon commencement, staying a student seemed, at the time, a reasonable means to remain on the train! I think the splat is still audible as my idea got squashed pretty fast and I graduated and summarily got kicked off the train.

So, back to the boat load of credits my last semester.

I opted to do a 590 Independent Study with one of my favorite professors, Professor Gabin. It was a one-off, all or nothing, four credit independent study. Develop my own original topic/premise and deliver a thesis defending it at the end. Drop the ball, no credits, no graduation, no diploma and for sure a swift kick off the train.

All ended well, I enjoyed the process, turned the sucker in early and earned myself a fat ass A. I moved on. I filed it away, packed up my belongings into my car, closed the doors on college life and began anew. Through the years, I haven’t spent much time thinking about any of it until I pulled the file out a few days ago.

It was fascinating to revisit my writing and remind myself I actually knew things and appeared intelligent. It was a welcome feeling considering nowadays my days are filled with remembering to pack lunches, sign homework, put on underwear, where I put that damn to do list and trying to appear that I have my thoughts collected in meetings.

I felt compelled to reach out to Professor Gabin and say hello. For sure she wouldn’t remember me after all these years and after all the students she had taught and advised. What the hell, why not try.

I shot out an email; included a cursory update on my life, career life, motherhood and of course the existence of the beloved piece of shit brain tumor and my work as a patient advocate. I shared with her my unexpected discovery of the 590 paper and what great memories it brought back, how much I enjoyed the project and thanked her for her mentorship.

I was shocked with her quick response and to learn she most certainly remembered me and there was more….

Here is a snippet of what she wrote me…

How wonderful to hear from you!  I do remember you and well, I might add.  After you did that independent reading course with me, I developed a course on America in the 1960s, drawing in part on your enthusiasm for the period and your response to the readings we selected.  It is HIST 304:  America in the 1960s and it enrolls 80-90 students every time I teach it (about once every three or four semesters).  I see your writing skills have indeed served you well–your blog is poignant and beautifully written. 

Well, hot damn. Wow! Who would have thought? Not me!

There was unfortunately a sad connection that emerged between us aside from academia. Diminishing my excitement for the course she developed from our work together, she shared with me that her sister had battled Brain Cancer during the 1990’s and that she would be praying for me. It’s devastating to make these types of connections to people.

Aside from a sad shared thread of life’s unpredictable and unfair twists and turns between us, it was amazing to connect after all these years. I thanked her again for her mentorship and time, vowed to keep her updated on our lives and my advocacy work, and what an amazing moment it was to learn after all these years that I had actually left a small legacy behind.

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One thought on “The 590 Independent Study Revisited

  1. What a feel good moment Jen! It is crazy how we leave impressions when we don’t even realize it. I recently had a student that I taught in 5th grade my first year out of college contact me via facebook. Considering it was my first year teaching I didn’t think it was that exceptional, but reading her kind words made me change my perspective.

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