by Anna Schwartz
I started my college career at Millsaps’ antithesis, the University of Alabama, which appears to be some Millsapians’ dream: it has a comparatively low cost, easy classes, minimal core requirements and no undergraduate comps—oh, and professors who couldn’t care less about undergraduates or the 300 students in their introductory classes. I’m frequently asked why I decided to transfer, and while my answer is certainly multifaceted, it can be summed up in a sentence: State schools do not provide the personal and comprehensive learning environment that liberal arts colleges like Millsaps afford.
State schools have completely different educational environments than Millsaps in that their environments are not conducive to learning. My classes at UA ranged from 130 to 320 students and were held in huge, cramped lecture rooms. Asking questions was impossible, and it was impractical for professors to learn hundreds of student names, so they didn’t try. In one class, my fellow students and I were assigned numbers to use on assignments instead of our names. Do you know who else are assigned identification numbers? Prisoners.
Generic PowerPoint presentations were central to all lectures, making analytical thinking a foreign concept. All homework had to be completed online, and in my calculus class, my professor gave all tests on a computer. Tests that weren’t computerized were on Scantron sheets, meaning that professors never had to touch the tests, much less give their feedback.
During lectures, professors voiced their disdain of teaching freshman-level classes, blatantly saving their effort and enthusiasm for their coveted PhD students. These PhD students not only received all of the professors’ attention, but they also did a significant amount of undergraduate instruction. When I went to professors’ office hours or attended any of my science laboratory classes, I was instructed not by PhD-wielding, experienced professors but by graduate student TAs, some of whom had fewer than a year of post-graduate education and no teaching experience.
A year ago, I shed my number for a name, escaped from prison and transferred to Millsaps. It was, to quote Aladdin, “A whole new world.” Millsaps ameliorated my entire college experience, compensating for everything Alabama lacked. At Millsaps, we have miniscule class sizes and professors who not only know our names but are also genuinely concerned with furthering our education. They don’t have PhD students—we are their priority pupils. Office hours are just suggestions, and if professors are in their offices, their doors are open. Their office doors are open so often that I’m convinced many of them live in there. They answer emails from home, ask you to babysit their kids, introduce you to their esteemed peers, and give you their cell phone numbers for urgent questions.
By having such a small student body, we have the privilege of having professors who hold us accountable and give us constructive criticism when needed, both of which ultimately lead to our becoming the best possible scholars. State schools educate an enormous number of students, but by doing so, there is an enormous amount of student detachment intrinsic in the classroom.