Memories of Awe Episode 27

Liz wondered about the phrase crucible moments that Professor McKown had used as a motivation for moral beauty. She wasn’t quite sure what a crucible moment was. That was to be the focus of today’s interview.

LJ: Could you share a story about a crucible moment with me? I’m not sure what it is, and your stories really help anchor ideas in my mind.

KMcK:  Sure, let me tell you about Jessica.

Jessica was a Chinese American student who was having difficulty with the English language when I first met her as a freshman. She had a terrible first semester. During her second semester, I arranged for Jessica to have a mentor. I don’t think I’ve ever known a student who worked harder to improve her grades than Jessica. Unfortunately, her grades didn’t get better. Initially I thought Jessica’s difficulties were language related, but her language skills got better and her grades didn’t. In the fall of Jessica’s sophomore year, I decided to have a conversation with her about her career when we met to do her advising.

LJ: I’m intrigued. What did you talk about?

KMcK:  Her father was a noted scientist and had pushed Jessica into a STEM major. Both Jessica and I arrived at the same conclusion: a stem major just wasn’t for her. I asked if she had thought about another major. She had. She decided she wanted to go into Art. I was worried because Art was a difficult major to get accepted into. I asked Jessica if she had a portfolio. She got a big smile on her face when she said “I do, would you like to see it?”

What Jessica showed me was incredible. I looked at her and apologized. I told her that we should have had this conversation much earlier.

LJWas she able to transfer to an Art major?

KMcK:  She was accepted. Once Jessica transferred to Art, she would occasionally stop by my office to show me her work. She was doing beautiful sketches, and her grades had improved tremendously. Most importantly, she was happy. Jessica eventually transferred to a prestigious college of art and design and was on her way to a career that took advantage of her natural talents. Later, I saw a notification on LinkedIn that she had her own exhibit. Critics raved about her work.

LJ: What a wonderful story. I know of students who have become trapped in the wrong major but never got the help that Jessica had. I hope you share this story with others.

KMcK:  I do for two reasons. First, to let them know that not everyone has the background or aptitude for their first major. Second, I want them to know that my support continues after the course is over and even if they are no longer in our college.

LJ: Does anyone ever come to you later on?

KMcK:  Yes many do, but one in particular stands out. I had a student come by my office the day after I had taught this class. He was a big guy, about 280/6’8’ tall. I asked him how I could help him. He looked at me and said, “I’m Jessica.”

* * *

“The important talent is the talent to develop one’s talent.” – Howard Stein (creator of the mutual fund industry)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.