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Morgan Kail-Ackerman

Experiential Learning

An awesome aspect about DePaul is that it prides itself with having classes having to do with being outside of the classroom. One example is the junior level class where students are required to take an Experiential Learning course. This could be a study abroad, an internship, or a specific class; however, this is a course where DePaul forces you to do something in your major outside of the classroom. 

I took the TCH 320: Exploring Teaching in Urban High School for my Experiential Learning course. Although I wanted to do an internship, this class is required for the TEACH program and also satisfied the credit. What I did not know going into this course is that students actually have to spend time in an urban high school. Students must have 20 student-teacher observation hours at a CPS (Chicago Public School) that you get placed at, in the subject matter you’re interested in teaching. 

Although I was very scared about going to some high school I did not know, this experience is going to stay as a highlight of my DePaul career so far. I was very nervous on my first day, but, since then, I have really been looking forward to doing my observation hours. I was placed at Noble Street College Prep School, a CPS school in between the West Village and Wicker Park. I followed three classes - an AP Literature class with seniors, and two different AP Language class with juniors. 

I am just finishing up my 20 hours right now and I am so happy about my decision. After spending time in an environment I have never been to before, I realized that I indeed do want to be a teacher. Coming from a very secluded and white area in Los Angeles, I was happy for the opportunity to see a very different type of school, and one that I hope I can work at for the future. My teacher has been an amazing mentor, and the school treated me well. Not only did I have an excellent experience, I now have a newfound knowledge of how education works and a connection with Noble Street for the future. The junior Experiential Learning courses and experiences are a great addition to the programs DePaul has to offer!


Small Classes and the Warehouse Writers

DePaul is known for having small classes sizes. Being from a small private school, it is nice to go into a classroom that I feel comfortable in. The biggest class I ever had was 40 students and, although it felt pretty big, it was not big enough to be overwhelming. The smallest class I was in had only 7 students. Compared to the dreaded 300-person lecture halls at other schools I looked at, I am very happy I chose a school with small class sizes.  

Because of the close-knit classes, I am able to really know my teachers, and, in turn, my other students. Due to the small class size in a Creative Writing class I took last year, I now have two really close friends. We are all in different majors but the discussion-based class allowed us to get to know one another and we soon became friends! The three of us, through a passion for writing, made a club together. We all decided that we wanted to continue writing outside of the classroom and, because DePaul allows us to make clubs with a minimum of four people, we were able to create a space where we could do just what we wanted - continue writing as a team. We named ourselves Warehouse Writers, referring to how we are not polished enough to work in a house or apartment, instead we are in-the-works, just like a warehouse. 

Today we still meet biweekly as a group to workshop writing pieces. We have twelve members now, and are still networking and growing. A few of the writers in our group have even been published in local literary magazines! DePaul, through the small class sizes, has given us the opportunity to learn and grow outside of the classroom. If you’re a writer and would like to workshop whatever you’re working on, please email me at morganerinka@gmail.com and we can set you up in our club! 


Being an English Major

Although many comedians, including Chicago’s own John Mulaney, make fun of English majors, I have really enjoyed my three years here at DePaul in my major. Here are the top five tips and positive attitudes I learned as an English major. 

1) An English degree is applicable to any job. When I decided to be an English major, I got a lot of comments about what I could do as a job. They would make fun of me saying that the only career you could get is being an English teacher. And, in fact, I do want to be an English teacher, but there is much more you can do with an English major. Being able to communicate efficiently, think critically, and analyze small details will never not help in any field. 

2) There is a lot of flexibility in choosing classes. The English major curriculum at DePaul is tailored so that English majors can study what they want. There are core classes and some required classes, but, for the most part, English students can take the literature time period they like. You prefer medieval literature? 16th century poetry? 19th century romance novels? LGBTQ narratives? Native American Literature? Well, you can tailor your schedule to have those specific classes. There are so many literature classes and the ability to choose what class you want to take is very exciting. 

3) English classes are challenging yet getting a good grade is pretty easy. Although there are exceptions, a lot of English professors grade based on big assignments being completed, not “good”. In all the classes I’ve taken so far, and that is a considerable amount, the professor will give me credit for thinking critically about the work and backing up my sources with textual evidence. The classes are difficult, especially my class where we read Paradise Lost and The Canterbury Tales, however I was able to get a good grade because I did the work. Unlike other types of fields like Math where you need to get the correct score to pass, in English, you can almost always do well by interpreting something and having the evidence to support it. 

4) Similarly, I love that in English there is no wrong answer (for the most part). Because the poems and literature we’re studying have so many interpretations that could be possible, I never feel put-down in my classes. In some other fields, I always struggle because I feel as if I cannot find my way to the correct answer. In English, whatever you think may be true, as long as you have evidence and a logical progression of thought in your argument. I love that there is no wrong answer in English, so I am able to rhetorically persuade my audience that my answer is a correct one. 

5) Lastly, the best part of being an English major is that I get to study stories. Although some literature is very difficult, I am proud to say that I read stories for a living. And I do. Literature, outside of essays, are all fiction and created through imagination of these amazing thinkers and writers in different time periods. Instead of reading textbooks, I get to read fun stories from all time periods. In addition to how much less money I am spending for textbooks, I love how creative and interesting English can be. 


Living in Liberal Arts

One part of DePaul I was originally conflicted about was the liberal arts aspect of our curriculum. We have our major classes, which are interesting classes we really care about, but then we also have “learning domains” and “liberal studies program” classes, which are what the university tells us we have to take. 

The learning domains are broken into six different categories - Arts & Literature, Philosophical Inquiry, Scientific Inquiry, Religious Dimensions, Understanding the Past, and Social, Cultural, & Behavioral Inquiry.  Depending on what major you declare, you’ll have a certain amount of classes in each of these domains. If you’re in the Honors program or another specialized program, these run differently, but, for the most part, you get to choose from at least thirty different classes in each of these categories. So you are forced to take, let’s say, a history class that fulfills a Understanding the Past credit, however you can choose what historical context you like. I have taken an interesting Greco-Roman history class that I enjoyed so much!

The liberal studies program is the same for every student throughout the university, per specific exceptions. It includes the first year classes - two rhetoric classes, two math classes, a Chicago Quarter class, and a focal point. Then there are a class you have to take each of the successive years - a multicultural seminar sophomore year, an experiential learning junior year, and a capstone senior year. 

At first, I didn’t really know how I felt about this. I have friends at other colleges who are allowed to take whatever classes they wanted. But now I really appreciate having taken all these other classes that are outside my major. Some of these classes were even better than my major classes. Looking back at all the learning domains I’ve taken, I am happy I could have taken a break from my literature and education classes to learn about topics that I am also interested in, but not enough to study it for a degree. Having learning domains and a liberal arts program allowed me to have a wide variety of knowledge, and still focus on the classes that I care about.


The Transition into Winter Quarter

Fall Quarter, especially for freshman, is an introduction to DePaul. For the most part, the classes are easy and they can seamlessly learn and transition into college. The focus is on making friends, figuring out living outside of home, and attempting to learn in a higher education. Because we are a quarter system, everything goes very quick and, after eleven weeks, students are right back home for a very long six week break. 

As lovely as it is that DePaul students can spend their Thanksgiving at home, it is quite a shock spending six weeks with family after living for a few months without parents. For six weeks, freedom feels much different than it did for the Fall Quarter. 

Then, after break, students are right back for Winter Quarter. For a lot of people, the transition is difficult. Especially if students are a West Coast kid like I am, the transition back into freedom, along with the shock of realizing that Chicago is very cold in January, is a struggle. Coming into Winter Quarter can be hard, with the new added stress of moving back in, starting another quick quarter, and the seasonal depression that could kick in. 

I would suggest making sure to really take care of yourself coming into Winter Quarter. Everyone, including the Professors, is struggling with the transition from the holidays back into work. Keep a to-do list to keep yourself on track. Make sure to stay on top of your work, but also give time to see your friends and do something fun. The transition may be a little bit of trouble but another wonderful quarter is ahead and in a few weeks everything will go back to normal.  


Favorite Professors

Looking back at my two years here at DePaul, I’ve had some wonderful Professors who I would love to take another class with. Some of these I had chosen because the class worked with my schedule or I heard recommendations, but these professors listed below were just incredible. I would highly recommend taking one of their classes if you can!

From the English department, I have taken two professors who just blew me away – Eric Selinger and Kathleen Rooney. I took a required course ENG 207 Literature from the 1900s - Present taught by Professor Eric Selinger. I was not all that excited for this English core class. It ended up being one of the best courses I have ever taken! He is so passionate and knowledgeable. He also treats his students like the adults they are, which I appreciate. Kathleen Rooney is a Creative Writing teacher and I took her ENG 291 Craft of Fiction Writing. Similarly, she is so invested in her students and passionate that, although there were some short stories I didn’t like reading, her desire to show what makes good writing can’t help but make you fall in love with her and her craft. She is a lot of work but absolutely worth it!

From the Film department, before I switched my major to English, I had two wonderful professors - Firas Aladai and Nick Schmidt. Firas Aladai taught my DC 110 Foundations of Cinema class. It was one of my first classes I took at DePaul and, surprisingly enough, it was his first class! He was a little shy at the time but he is so nice, eloquent, and taught us about some really interesting movies and basics of creating movies! My second class at DePaul was TV 110 Foundations of Television and was taught by Nick Schmidt. As a Film & Television student, I knew I wanted to focus more on Television and I was so blown away with what Nick taught us about the Television industry and some foundational television shows. I’m lucky right now because Nick is my boss on my on-campus job so I get to keep working with him!

Lastly, there are two Liberal Arts professors, Tim Mazurek and Zoaib Mirza, whose classes I really enjoyed. Professor Tim Mazurek, who taught LSP 110 Discover Chicago: Careers in Art and Culture, really inspires me to want to go out and pursue the arts. He is amazing, in particular with switching up the lessons so it was not always just a lecture and I appreciated that. Zoaib Mirza taught my LSP 121 Quantitative Reasoning II class. Although I am not someone who likes math and this class was not my favorite subject matter-wise, Zoaib made the classes interesting and pertinent to real life. I love how he always ended his classes saying “wasn’t that sweet and easy like a Hershey's kiss?”

Overall, I’m lucky to have had these great Professors and I’d highly recommend them! For me at least, a good Professor can make a bad class great!


Choosing Your Major

Choosing your major is a daunting task. Basically, you have to choose what area of study you want to devote four years of your life to and then you must spend the rest of your career in a job somewhere related to that field. As an 18-year-old, that’s terrifying. How do you know what you want to do? How can you choose a major when there are so many? How do you know you’ll want to stick with it for the rest of your adult life?

The beauty of being a junior and looking back at when I applied to DePaul is I realize now that I put a lot of pressure on a decision that I ended up changing. My high school counselors stressed me out because they told me picking and changing my major would affect my future and even hurt my chances of getting a steady and high-paying job. That is not true. I was admitted into DePaul as a Film & Television major. Sophomore year I decided that Film was just not for me and, after considering a transfer to the Theatre School, I landed on being an English major with a concentration in Creative Writing. Right now I am in the process of changing that to a concentration in Literature so that I can apply for the TEACH program and maybe someday teach secondary education English.

And I am still doing okay. The world has not imploded, I am not behind in my studies, and I will still be graduating in four years. And I changed my major three times. So if you are having trouble picking a major, that is normal. If you want to radically flip a major in a whole new field, that is okay. I have a friend who was a pre-med student and now is a directing major in The Theatre School. But if you love your major and don’t want to change it, that is normal too! Do what feels right and you’ll figure it out. If you are struggling, contact an Academic Advisor on campus and they can help steer you in the right direction. I promise everything will work out.