Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bachelor of Erstwhile

I've been at my current job for a little under a year; I started on February 11th, 2008. As many of you already know, I work for the University of Toronto. For a variety of reasons, I love my job. I work in a small, congenial office with great people. My work involves all sorts of interesting projects and initiatives, and unlike some admin jobs that I or friends have suffered through, mine is for an organization that actually benefits humanity.

Another reason that I love my job is that universities, by their nature, are supportive of education and life-long learning.

When I studied Theatre at York University, there were a lot of courses outside of (and even inside) the Faculty of Fine Arts and the Theatre Department that I couldn't take, despite being interested in them, because of scheduling conflicts and the like. And many of the courses I did take had a more practical than traditionally academic flavour (although I was the only Theatre major I knew who took a Political Science course for fun.)

So I always felt like I'd missed out on some opportunities to expand my horizons, think more deeply, really get into the university experience, and read the books you should read to be culturally literate but only actually do read when they're going to be on the final exam (I'm looking at you, James Joyce!)

Which was a pity, but so it goes. I figured that academia was behind me. It wasn't as though I had the time, or especially the money, to go back to school

And this brings me to the other opportunity to get back from erstwhile that I've been mentioning. One particularly amazing perk of being an employee of the University is that I can essentially get a degree for free. More than one -- I can pursue a course of study up to the Master's level.

There are some reasonable limits, of course. The benefit covers the equivalent of a general arts degree; if a program had additional fees, I'd be on the hook for them. It only covers a part-time course load, which is about the most I'd try to schedule around work, writing and my family anyway. And, big as U. of T. is, it doesn't cover every possible field of study, certainly not at the downtown campus where I work and where it makes sense for me to take courses.

But those are trivial issues. This is, as I said, a really freaking amazing opportunity. It would be ridiculous not to take advantage of it.

The problem is, I can't decide how to proceed. There are so many amazing possibilities, I'm not sure what field of study to pursue.

So, in addition to my own thinking on the subject, I thought I'd take this to you, my illustrious peanut gallery. You know me. Or you know me well enough to have a sense of some of my skills, strengths and interests. Or you don't know me at all, which will at the very least liven up the discussion, so don't let that hold you back.

I ask you: What sort of degree should I go for?

I'm going to share some of my thoughts, then open up the floor to you for comments and suggestions.

Books. Lots and lots of books. This strikes me as a great excuse to get caught up on some of the canon that I missed out on due to the specialized nature of my earlier studies. This would be a degree, then, pursued purely for personal enrichment, not to advance any particular goals re: my career. U. of T., like many universities, now has courses in genre fiction and graphic novels in the English department. That would be interesting, and I'd be curious to see how my practical experience in the field meshed with an academic take on the subject. I've also thought about using this, along with some Art courses, to sort of invent a degree in comics for myself.

Cinema Studies
A degree that requires watching a lot of movies is about as awesome as one that requires reading a lot of books. Cinema Studies at U. of T. is an academic program, so it's not really "film school". Which is good, because I have an aversion to guys who wear their baseball caps backwards because that's how Spielberg does it. The program would focus on analysis, which does interest me, and which I'm good at. I figure at the very least, I'd emerge being able to use the phrase "mise-en-scene" correctly in a sentence, which would be a net gain.

I love history. A lot of my pleasure reading is non-fiction, focusing on history. An undergraduate History degree could lead to the Medieval Studies program, which strikes me as extremely cool. Because I am a huge geek. Regardless, an opportunity to learn Middle English is not to be casually tossed aside.

Something Else?
So what do you think. Is there a possibility that I haven't considered? Something that's a natural fit for me that I haven't mentioned? Let me know, in a comment below or by email!

Whew. That's what's on my mind right now. But next time out, I think I'll actually talk about writing again...


LizB said...

i would think that english would be the first one, followed by the cinema one.

Are there any other courses offered? Not knowing what classes there ARE there, i can't advise on others.

Anonymous said...

You didn't mention Philosophy. It involves analysis and synthesis of ideas, and writing, to communicate your philosophy to others. I could give you more food for thought about things like democracy and secrecy in fantasy fiction.

Unknown said...

@LizB Oh, U. of T. is literally huge. Counting all three campuses, there are 50,000 Undergraduate students (people pursuing something on the level of a Bachelor's degree).

The St. George campus, downtown, where I work and want to study, is home to the Faculties of:
Applied Science & Engineering
Architecture, Landscape & Design
Arts & Science
Information Studies
Physical Education and Health
Social Work

...Plus many other more specialized schools and institutes.

Some of the Faculties are not large, comprising only one field of study with a few internal specializations.

But then there are Applied Science & Engineering, Arts & Sciences and Medicine.

Arts & Sciences alone contains the Departments of:
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Cell and Systems Biology
Computer Science
East Asian Studies
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations
Political Science
The Study of Religion
Slavic Languages and Literatures
Spanish and Portuguese
Statistics and Actuarial Science

That doesn't even touch on the Colleges, which are the remnants of different universities that were amalgamated into U. of T. years ago (I'm vastly oversimplifying the governance, here). Cinema Studies is at one of the Colleges, for instance. Not all of them offer Undergraduate degrees, and some of them are very specialized.

So yes, there are a lot of options!

LizB said...

well, then i would think that the basic question might be do you wish to study "for fun" or to pick up another skill set?

Fun, i would go with the ones you listed. Skill set, i would go nursing, dentistry, psychology. The employment boom in those areas over the next few years is going to be HUGE. And if something ever goes with the current job, then you've got something else to fall on.

just my 2 pennies.

Unknown said...

DUDE! Guess what? You can take all three. Just do a triple minor.

: )


Anonymous said...

Well, what about doing a double major in English and Cinema Studies?
Or, what do they have in the way of interdiciplinary degrees/studies where the candidate proposes their own focus and own course of studies?
I know York is known as an interdisciplinary university (and certainly that was my experience there, but again I was a FASP major and now I work in new media art mixed with cultural studies -- so hey), but I don't know what's going on that way at U of T.

Laura said...

Info studies!!! Librarianship is awesome :-). Kidding. Do what you love. Comics all the way baby.

Hi Stephen - don't quite know how I stumbled upon you, but that's the magic of the interbunny.

Glad to find you happy and thriving. Best, Laura Smart