April 27, 2006 Like many Hamilton students, I live on Cafe Opus espresso drinks and Dunkin Donuts iced coffee. Last week, I wished they made IVs of the stuff. I bought a pair of comfy pants the weekend before my thesis was due, and proclaimed to Professor Doran that I'd be wearing them all week. (A prediction that became almost true.) My room looked like it was hit by a tornado-- Although my friends are accustomed to...well...let's say "occasional mess," this time, you could tell I meant business: stacks of books and papers everwhere, bottles of vitamin water scattered about my room. I had crawled into my thesis-hole, and was determined to get it done-- and get it done well-- before I dared crawl out of it. No Thursday night stop at the pub, no time to watch a movie. I made sure my friends knew that I was occupied with my new 20-something-page best friend. My AIM away message said it best: "Thesis: talk to me Friday."
So when Friday came, it was evident that the final push was going to be a hard one. I had spent the semester determining the moral purpose of the family, and I had until midnight to get it done... or I'd turn into a pumpkin. (A pumpkin who would be in serious trouble.) I must say, it had been a challenging semester. My proposal to write a Philosophy Honors Thesis was approved in December, and since then, I'd been scouring books in ethics, feminist philosophy, and especially Aristotle, to find what I needed. And even when I had all the right books lined up, I still had to come up with my argument, and work the sources in to provide the necessary support. Two years ago, when I declared my philosophy major, I had no idea the work would be like this. I remember once my father asked, "What do philosophers do? Just sit on rocks and think?" Well, thinking is certainly a big part of it, but it's much harder than just sitting with your chin on your hand. (Thanks, Rodin.)
And so, by the time Friday came along, I certainly started to feel what the word "culmination" really meant. Wow, four years of philosophy, and here I am, working on my thesis. Thankfully, as hard as it got, my professors were always available to help. Professor Franklin told us that the structure of our theses was like a set of monkey bars...and that we had to make them strong enough to withstand the tugs of 300-pound philosophers. As a result, he started tugging right away at our ideas to make sure they were solid, maintaining the sense of humor that produced the 300-pound-philosopher image. And I could always catch Professor Janack in Cafe Opus when I needed her. She was willing to share an Opus cookie with me at the end of the day, sticking around a little longer on campus just to help me make sure my paper was on track.
And finally, on the day it was due, Professor Friend met with me at a local coffeeshop to talk about my thesis. I brought my draft, and she read it right then and there. Not only did she give me final comments then, but she also gave me her home phone number to call if I had trouble, and offered to read over a section of my thesis via e-mail, only a few hours before it was due! And, because she lives nearby, she also said that if I needed anything in the hour or two after she left our meeting, I could knock on her door for help.
When I was applying to Hamilton, I knew that I would have a good chance of getting to know my professors simply because it's a smaller school-- our student-faculty ratio shows that. But what the statistics don't show is the sincere, personal attention I've received from my professors-- even up to the very day I turn in my senior thesis! (What other professors would review it on the day it's due?) ...and because today is the oral exam for my thesis, I'll be getting especially personal attention as they question me on my argument... a little scary, I must admit. But at least I've got the image of a 300-pound philosopher, tugging on monkey bars, to get me through...