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Why I Love DePaul

It’s pretty clear that I love DePaul. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have stayed at DePaul to get my master’s. I could have bounced right after the first four years and never looked back. Why didn’t I? Because DePaul has become a second home to me.

To be honest, the major reason I chose DePaul is because I wanted to be in Chicago. First and foremost, despite growing up in a town of less than 10,000, I always knew that I wanted to go to school in a big city. Plus, like I wrote about a few months ago, most of my extended family lives in the suburbs, so I was never completely on my own. And because it’s Chicago, there are always so many ways for me to get home to Wisconsin whenever I want. Most significantly, I had the best memories of taking trips to Chicago to see musicals with my dad, so being in the city had a lot of nostalgia for me.

Willy
Look at all the school spirit I had at my high school graduation party way back in the day.
Being in Chicago brings with it a lot of opportunities and possibilities. Because I chose to do the Discover Chicago program, I spent my first week at DePaul running around Chicago, examining issues of criminal justice. We sent books to women in prison, met with prison reform advocates, and toured the Chicago History Museum. And that kind of unique hands-on interaction really made a lasting impression on me. Professors construct assignments based on the opportunities here in Chicago; I’ve had to go to Spanish cultural activities, observe labor demonstrations, visit memorials, and go to film festivals for various classes. It’s a deeper way of learning that I really appreciate.

And most importantly, I’ve just had really good experiences with professors at DePaul. Just a few days ago, I was talking to one of my past professors (who is also one of the members of my thesis committee), and we were laughing about how I feel the need to list all of the ways that she’s changed my life every time I write her an email. But it’s totally true. My professors have pushed me to expect so much more from myself and for myself. When I first came to DePaul, my only goal was to graduate within four years. That was it. But my professors made me realize I had the potential to do so much more. Four and a half years after starting at DePaul, I just returned from a DePaul-funded research trip to Madrid and I’m finishing up my master’s in International Studies. It’s a no-brainer for me to say that I chose the right university.

The Next Phase of My Thesis

Previously, on the “Willy is Getting His Master’s” show, I was a mess. I mean, you can read that blog and tell I was a mess. Not much has changed in that regard, but I am in a completely different place in the thesis process now, which is VERY EXCITING. I’ve been working on thesis research for a long, long, long time. Like, at least a year and a half now. In that time, I’ve read so much on my topic and my topic has gone through so many revisions. 

For the past few months, I’ve been slowly putting together my thesis proposal, which essentially outlines my argument, some preliminary research, and the general outline of my thesis. Right at the end of Fall Quarter, I decided to sort of shift my topic and take a different approach. I threw out most of the work that I had done up until that point and started anew. Well, this week, I successfully defended my thesis proposal! WOOHOO! This means I can finally get started on actually writing my thesis. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m so excited to finally be done with the proposal.
 
MPSA
I’m almost as proud of this picture as I am of the picture of me auditioning for American Idol back in the day. 
On a similar note, one day back in October, I got an email from the International Studies department that the following day was the deadline for applications to present at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference. I was pretty sure that I had no interest in presenting, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to apply anyways. Sure enough, I got accepted! Despite my initial apathy, and despite now being incredibly nervous and intimidated, I’m officially registered to present at the Conference in April! I have no clue what the preparation process for presenting will look like, but I will definitely keep you all in the loop! 

Honors Program: What Actually Is It?

​​​​​​ANNOUNCEMENT (and update to my previous blog​): If you haven’t heard, DePaul Activities Board​ has announced that We The Kings​ will be playing at Polarpalooza​ this year!

It’s crazy to think about how my time as an undergraduate is coming to a close. Last quarter, I completed the last of the requirements for my Spanish major. After next quarter, I will have finished my International Studies major and will be registered as a graduate student at DePaul​. Right now, though, I’m taking my final Honors class.

No matter what you study at DePaul (during your undergraduate career, at least), you will have to take some series of liberal arts classes to fulfill your degree requirements. For most students, this requirement takes the form of the Liberal Studies Program​. For other students, the Honors Program​ replaces the Liberal Studies Program. I know when I was applying for the Honors Program, I really had no clue what it was. And now even as a senior, I still meet students who have never heard about the Honors Program and know nothing about it. With the deadline for Honors Program applications approaching quickly (March 2nd, in case you were wondering), I thought this would be a great time to talk about how the Honors Program differs from the Liberal Studies Program.

The Liberal Studies Program is comprised of two parts: the Common Core​ and the Learning Domains​. The Common Core is a series of 7-8 classes that all students in the program have to take, including the Chicago Quarter​ class, the Focal Point Seminar​, and the Sophomore Seminar on Multiculturalism. The Learning Domains, on the other hand, are extremely broad categories. Each student must take at least one class (depending on your major) from each of the six Learning Domains. Each Learning Domain can be fulfilled by taking one of ~100 eligible electives​.

A genuinely embarrassing throwback photo from freshman year. Here I am with the incomparable Steph Wade at an Honors event.

The Honors Program is designed for students who want an extra academic challenge. In particular, the Honors classes really emphasize writing and critical analysis. That being said, participation in the Honors Program severely limits your course options. While Honors students similarly have to meet the same Common Core and Learning Domain requirements as Liberal Studies students, Honors students are generally limited to the courses offered by the Honors department. For instance, while Liberal Studies students can choose from a list of over 100 courses​ to fulfill the Arts and Literature requirement, Honors students take HON101: World Literature​ (to be fair, the content of which can vary with the professor). While I’ve heard of one or two people that really didn’t like the limited options, I can say in all honesty that I’ve been genuinely satisfied with almost every class I’ve taken in the Honors Program.

In addition to your transcript reading “Honors Program Graduate,” the Honors Program offers a ton of perks​. Seriously, I tell everyone to apply to the Honors Program for one main reason: priority registration. At DePaul, freshmen get last choice for signing up for classes. By the end of registration week, a lot of classes are already full. As an Honors student, you have first choice for signing up for classes, even before seniors. It’s amazing (and a good way to make sure you always get the schedule you want). Beyond that, the Honors classes are never more than 20 students. Never. I have four years worth of emails from the Honors advisors reminding students not to waste their time asking professors to make an exception for them. Because the program is relatively small, you end up seeing a lot of familiar faces in your classes. And if you want even more of a familial atmosphere, the Honors Program has its own floor​ in Seton Hall​.

The Honors Program may not be right for everyone, but I recommend it to anyone who thinks it might be right for them.​ Check out their website​ and apply soon!


Why (and How) I Chose DePaul

​​​When I tell people I grew up near Madison, I’m always asked why I didn’t go to University of Wisconsin-Madison and why I ended up at DePaul. 

To answer the first part, almost everyone (more likely 10%, but it seems like everyone) from my high school goes to UW-Madison. Let’s be honest: four years of high school was already four years too many. Furthermore, the campus is just impossibly big. Not only am I prone to getting lost (one time, a police officer had to help me because I got lost in my hometown), but also I have no interest in walking a 5k in order to get to my next class.

As to the second part of the question, to be honest, my choice to apply to DePaul was sort of a “Why not?” moment. My parents had been pushing me pretty hard in the direction of small liberal arts colleges. Naturally, I had been rebelling (like a typical teenager) and applying to huge public universities on the side. As I went to submit my Comm​on Appli​cation​, I saw DePaul on the list of schools that accepted the Common Application. At the last second, I thought to myself, “They have great pizza in Chicago…and I guess I have some family who lives there, too,” and decided to apply.
 
Me at my graduation party. Clearly very excited about DePaul and about hitting the piñata with my face on it.
As I went from touring colleges that were the size of my high school to universities five times the size of my entire hometown, I realized that I felt no connection to any of them. I wanted a compromise between the two. I wanted a big school, but I didn’t want to be taught by teaching assistants or have 100 person classes. I wanted to be in a big city, but I wanted the campus to be compact (and navigable, for my sake).  

Confession time: I never toured ​DePaul. I literally drove past the campus with my dad and was like, “Okay, that seems nice.” But after I was accepted to the Honors Program and was guaranteed that all of my basic liberal arts classes were capped at 20 students, I realized that DePaul had everything I wanted.

As it got closer and closer to the deadline to commit to a school, I grew more and more sure that DePaul was right for me. I liked that DePaul is concerned with social justice and responsibility. I liked that I would be closer to my extended family (my dad has nine siblings and eight of them live in the Chicago suburbs). I like the quarter system and the fact I’m on break during all of December​. I also liked that there was a great bakery basically right on campus. With that in mind, I decided to pick DePaul. I’ve become a regular customer at the bakery (just for the record, Sweet Mandy B’s really is one of the greatest bakeries ever) and life has been uphill ever since.