Senior Year Reflection: THANK YOU, PPP

One of the reasons that I came to Xavier was for the PPP program. I didn’t totally understand what it was about, but I knew that we would take courses in history, political science, and philosophy, and at the time, that all sounded good to me because it combined many of my interests. When I walked onto campus and met Dr. Colella, I knew there was something special about this interdisciplinary honors program.

But as I attended my first two PPP classes at Xavier: Intro to Ethics and European History, I quite frankly didn’t know if I was in the right program. I struggled through philosophy, reading and rereading the material. Dr. Korros tore through my history papers with her comments, and I began to realize that maybe I wasn’t as good a writer as I thought (little did I know then how much I would appreciate these comments and writing lessons in later semesters). I loved Xavier, but I wasn’t sure if this program was what I wanted.  Second semester helped to alleviate my worries. Dr. Colella had returned from sabbatical, and he brought philosophy to life for me. As we studied Descartes, Locke, Kant, Hegel, and Habermas, among others, I examined what role reason and passions played in our lives, asked what the public was, and questioned how philosophy related to my life.

The sophomore year of the program with Dr. Fairfield and Dr. Beaupre taught me how to push myself, how to get out of my comfort zone and try things new things. I had been warned about how hard the classes would be, but I couldn’t know how time consuming the coursework would be until I was in the class. Dr. Fairfield had us reading about one hundred pages of reading per class and writing revision upon revision of longer papers. The discussions in class challenged me to read carefully and critically, asking questions like: why are cities important? What is liberalism and what are its strengths and weaknesses? What is our relationship to the public? He encouraged a desire in me to become a good writer, and his constant demand for my best work truly made me a better student and person. Dr. Beaupre had us working in city council campaigns in the fall, writing and presenting our own campaign plan, and analyzing election results on city cable at the Board of Elections. In the spring, he had us working on a legislative issue of our choice, conducting research to have meetings and advance the issue with legislators locally and in DC, as well as think tanks, interest groups, and community councils. Through his class, Dr. Beaupre gave me the confidence and the passion to become more involved in the public around me, and he solidified that PPP was the right major for me.

After coming off an experiential semester filled with practical experience out in the community, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dr. Frankel’s class, besides him being a tough grader. On the very first day of class, he had us all go around in a circle and answer what we thought progress was, which produced an interesting discussion. As we battled through discussions about Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, and Rousseau, I found myself thinking back to my experiences in the political realm and connecting what I was learning about philosophy to those things. In the spring semester, he taught about philosophy and revolutions, specifically the French Revolution and got us excited for the summer trip to Paris, France immediately following final exams. Dr. Frankel got everyone involved in class, always working the comments and questions people had to offer into his overall lesson. In the second semester, many of us also took a course with Dr. Ray in which we discussed the Federalist Papers in contrast to the Anti-Federalist argument, as well as read some of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and throughout the course of the semester, I found my voice and my thesis topic. I ended the semester with a summer abroad in Paris and later Rome, learning about new cultures as well as about America and myself. These experiences and the people I shared them with were some of the most formative of my Xavier career.

This year, as I wrote (and deleted) numerous pages of my thesis with my fellow classmates, I also had the opportunity to help out with the sophomore block and take a class with the junior PPPers, a rare opportunity to spend time with three PPP grades at one time. For the culmination of my Xavier experience, I would have to say this was one of the best things that could have happened because I was reminded of not only how far I had come, but I got to witness how many other students in the programs were growing in similar (and different) ways.

While the academics of this program have challenged me profoundly, I was also lucky enough to be able to experience the PPP program from another side- working for Dr. Beaupre. I didn’t know what to expect at first, but as I settled into a routine with him and Kat Ryder, a fellow PPPer one year my senior, I loved preparing for his class, the PPP retreat, the DC trip, and doing research for the university. Through this job, I saw the talents of the different classes and individuals within them, while at the same time experiencing the hard work of the faculty and staff that make this program possible. We often do not take the time to thank these individuals for what they do, but I have seen how much they care about us students and about helping us to become the best we can be. And Kat- she taught me the true meaning of the word leader. Each time we worked together, she led by example with her organization, energy, kindness, and intelligence. She knew when to seek the opinion of others and ask for help, but she always worked hard herself. When Kat graduated and Ros Erney joined the team, we too developed a good relationship. Ros brought creativity (something I often lack) and a fun spirit to the team. Her research and writing skills constantly taught me new skills and lessons, and she has kept me calm and organized through big events and projects. I have confidence that she will do great things, both for the program and in her future. Finally, over the course of my two years working with Dr. Beaupre, he has become more than a professor or a boss, but also a friend. I would not be the person I am today without him, and I cannot thank him enough for that.

How can I even explain how much this program means to me in one post? Every member of this program has touched my life in a way that they probably don’t even fully know- whether that was on a study abroad trip, in a classroom experience, out in the public, or in the hallways of Xavier. As I look back upon my past four years here and try to pinpoint the moments that have formed me into the person that I am today, so many of them came from being a part of this program…the relationships that I formed with the professors and my peers, the skills that I gained out in the community and in the classroom, the lessons that I learned about myself, and the experiences at home and abroad.  History provided me with the critical thinking skills to develop an understanding of the past that informs my thoughts on current problems. Political science helped me to experience the politic institutions and governing process which I became involved with, and philosophy provided the glue the entire way to always get me to reflect on why. But the people in this program, even more than that, taught me about the person that I want to be and taught me the meaning of community. I am happy to have such great lifelong friends.

Yesterday was my final day at Xavier. As I finished my last exam, I walked out onto the academic mall and sat on the back steps of Bellarmine Chapel, reflecting upon my past four years. A sophomore PPPer whom I respect very much saw me sitting there and stopped to thank me for the work I had done throughout the semester with his class. As we talked a little bit about the upcoming summer and what was next for both of us, I saw just how much this program has given me and how many PPPers have changed my life.

This program was worth every hour I put into it.

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