The core question that guided our class, Ways of Knowing, last semester was: “What are people for?” This felt daunting at first. I was just getting the hang of things when suddenly I was asked to academically evaluate the purpose of my existence. Regardless of the intimidating question, my classmates and I powered through, and I’m very glad we did.

Entering university can be quite intimidating, especially when stepping into a completely unfamiliar environment. It’s natural to feel uncertain about what lies ahead. However, one of the most reassuring aspects of the Ways of Knowing course was the shared sense of unfamiliarity among everyone. Since each student in the class was in their first year, we were all in the same boat, navigating the newness together. This created a unique atmosphere where we could lean on each other for support as we figured out how to balance all that came at us. Thanks to the small class sizes, I found myself engaging with classmates I might not have crossed paths with otherwise, leading to the formation of lasting friendships.

Once a month, we would combine with two other Ways of Knowing class sections, to partake in a roundtable discussion. These sessions gave us the opportunity to delve deeper into the concepts that were explored in our weekly readings. They served as a fantastic way for us to broaden our perspectives and engage in conversations with both peers and professors alike. During these discussions we were strongly encouraged to intermingle with students from different classes, which forced us to reach out and form new connections that may have otherwise remained undiscovered. Many of my friendships here at CMU were sparked in these classes. Without having this shared experience with all my fellow first years, I’m certain I would not have made as many connections as I have.

This class gave everyone an opportunity to let their creativity flourish. As the semester drew to a close, each student was tasked with crafting a representation of their own understanding of the core inquiry of the course, “What are people for?” The finished projects were showcased during a symposium held at the end of the year. The open-ended prompt led to a diverse array of projects, ranging from cultural culinary explorations to large catapult designs, from original musical compositions to life-sized tree models. This experience emphasized the inevitable variety that surfaces when projects are approached with such openness, highlighting the individuality of each student’s response to the main question. It was truly incredible to see what everyone came up with when given the opportunity to creatively represent their opinion.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of university life, the Ways of Knowing class felt like a breath of fresh air. The professors were awesome—they genuinely cared about how we were doing and put in a considerable amount of effort to ensure we had fun in class. There were many activities that accompanied the material we read prior to class, and we were often rewarded with chocolate (shoutout Professor Karen Ridd!). This course created a space where our voices were not only heard, but valued. Ways of Knowing was truly a blast!

Sarah Wood just completed her first year of a Bachelor of Arts degree.