I’m in grad school.
The Master’s of Liberal Arts at the University of Chicago is a degree tailed for professionals who need classes at night/on the weekends. It provides a curated buffet of (magnificent) everything rather than focusing on just one discipline, e.g., aeronautics or French philosophy. Candidates take biology classes, humanities courses, physical science courses, etc. I applied and was accepted earlier this year. When I had my interview, I realized just how different grad school at the University of Chicago would be compared to my previous college experience. That experience was great (B.A.,Theater Arts, University of Iowa, ’01) but this seemed instantly to be a world apart.
The program’s director, upon welcoming me into his office, offered me a chair and then looked out the window. Then back at me. Then back to the window.
“It’s a lovely day. Let’s take a walk.” My heart sank. Surely I hadn’t gotten in.
Mr. Ciaccia put on a hat and a trench coat and I collected my purse. We walked across the beautiful Hyde Park campus; he pointed out buildings and houses of note. The sun was shining after a rainstorm, and we skirted puddles as we talked about architecture, the gods, music. It was so grad school-y, I almost giggled about six times. I think he used the word “epoch” a couple times.
Turns out I did get in. By the time we rounded the corner to the building where we began, I had to ask. “So… Mr. Ciaccia, did I get in?” He looked at me with a warm smile.
“Yes, you did.”
I squealed and jumped up and down. (I’m a nitwit like that.)
Last semester I took a class called “The New Cosmology,” which was all about space, particle physics, dark matter, etc. It was so mind-blowing, so awe-inspiring, I got misty a couple times in class. This semester, I’ll be in a class called “The Problem of Evil.” Check it:
“This course will consider the theological problem of evil, starting with the Book of Job. We will next investigate the problem from the perspectives of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, for whom evil was the major, stumbling block in the proof of God’s existence. At issue will be the question of whether the view of evil initiated by Augustine as the “privation of good” represents an adequate explanation of evil. This pursuit will lead into the problem of theodicy: can–or should–God’s ways be justified to human beings? We will look at theodicy in selections from the works of Hume, Bayle, Voltaire, Leibniz, and Kant. We will then study several fictional treatments of the problem of evil, including Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Melville’s Billy Budd, and the Coen Brothers’ movie No Country for Old Men, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy.”
For a geek like me, the prospect of starting this class in a couple weeks is like sitting in a mink coat on a generous tuffet as someone brings me an entire pecan pie a la mode, a spoon, and a note from a doctor who has ordered me to put on a few pounds. I’m excited.