Professors offer wisdom for graduating seniors

by Mika Jehoon Lee | 10/26/16 12:30am

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As part of the Dartmouth Annual Last Lectures series, professors gave words of wisdom to senior students. 

by Hollye Swinehart / The Dartmouth Staff

Yesterday, three professors shared their wisdom in a TED Talk-style lecture to an audience of about 30 seniors in Rockefeller Center 003. Psychological and brain sciences professor William Hudenko, history professor Annelise Orleck and government professor Russell Muirhead spoke about mindfulness, risk-taking and privilege.

What energizes people, Muirhead said, is leisure — a concept he defined as “activities that are intrinsically worthwhile.” Leisure, he said, “might not help you make a living, but it will help you live.”

Muirhead also encouraged students to think about the purpose of the education they are receiving. He said that human beings have a desire for knowledge that is rooted in their minds and that a liberal education can help access and satisfy that desire.

To emphasize the power of a positive mindset, Hudenko opened his speech by recounting a story from his youth about visiting a zoo. Elephants, he explained, stay put in their designated zoo areas because they feel restrained by physical ropes, despite the fact that they could easily overpower their restraints. He said early experiences, in which elephants are shackled by heavy, iron chains, instill mental restraint within the animals.

Hudenko asked seniors to experiment with different ideas and activities to broaden their horizons.

“I challenge each and every one of you to think about the chains that are in your lives and the things you cannot break,” Hudenko said. “Pull on it to see if it is actually a rope, and, if you do that, your mind will be more free, because the only prison that has ever been created is your mind.”

Orleck, the last speaker of the day, discussed the significance of recognizing one’s privilege, reminding students that their privileges at Dartmouth may not necessarily extend into the future. She also encouraged students to be more reflective of their daily experiences.

“The first thing you should do in senior year is slow down because it is possible to look so far in the future that this quarter will just go,” Orleck said. “I encourage you to have one moment of panic and to take that terror and uncertainty as an opportunity and think about what you can do to give [your life] meaning [that] somehow pays the bills.”

This lecture was part of the second Annual Last Lecture Series sponsored by the Undergraduate Dean’s Office and the Senior Class Deans’ Office Student Consultants. Every year, members of the graduating class nominate “engaging, charismatic and inspiring” professors from various disciplines to participate in the Last Lecture Series,” DOSC Lulu Carter ’17 said.

DOSC Josh Warzecha ’17 added that the series has been successful over the past few years and presents students with great opportunities to hear from professors outside of their majors and to reflect on their remaining time on campus.

Jonathan Huang ’17,who attended the lecture, said he appreciated that the speakers all challenged him to broaden his thinking.

“We were challenged to change our perspective on our problems and struggle to push ourselves and grow in ways that we would not have thought about before,” he said.

The lecture was also a positive learning experience for Amy Liang ’17.

“It was interesting to see what challenges [the three professors] faced and how they overcame [them],” Liang said.

Seniors that missed yesterday’s lecture can attend additional Last Lecture Series events later in the year.