Today was the deadline for all Plan essays to be submitted to the Dean’s office, so for the last couple weeks all the sophomores have been freaking out over what they’re going to say, what a Plan essay should look like, and whether or not their Plan committee is going to approve it. Because I’m a senior who has been forced to write a more than usual number of Plan essays, one of my sophomore friends asked if she could read my first one in order to get an idea of what is expected.
Very reluctantly, I went digging through my old folders from fall 2009 to email her my first Plan essay. At first, I only opened it to make sure it was the right copy. In addition to being terrified of reading my old work, my Plan process has been so long and complicated that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to relive that first awkward Plan meeting. But in verifying that this was the copy I needed to email, I was intrigued by remembering that when I graduated high school, all I wanted to do was study Medieval Studies at Smith College, get my MA in Celtic Studies at University College Dublin, and spend the rest of my life mucking around in Irish bogs and libraries. So, out of pure curiosity, I read it.
For my first post for Tapped In, it seems appropriate that I introduce myself through my Plan process, which was, in a word, frustrating. When I transferred here as a sophomore two years ago, I told my Plan Committee that I wanted to concentrate in art history. I had been warned that art history is hard to do here, so I was prepared for a fight. They looked it over, asked me some questions, and said they would approve it so long as we met again in the spring. The next term, my Committee, featuring my new faculty advisor, really stirred things up (to put it lightly) by telling me that I didn’t want to do art history. In fact, what I was describing sounded more anthropological to them. So I went home, cried for half an hour, thought about it, and ended up agreeing that anthropology was a better lens through which to view my questions. But when it came time for me to write a thesis, my anthropology professor told me that what I was describing to her was actually more art historical, and that I probably shouldn’t be doing advanced work in anthropology.
After two years figuring out exactly what I want and how to articulate it, my Plan in art history AND anthropology has finally come to a good place. After so much time spent re-working my ideas and figuring out where I want to be, it seemed to me that I have travelled very far from the first questions and ideas that got me here. So I was really surprised to read that my first Plan essay described almost exactly what I am doing now.
The first time around, I wrote:
“I would like to explore the philosophy and morals of art, from the most basic question such as “What is art?”, to questions surrounding the place of art in our schools and society, to the more controversial questions over ancient art and issues of ownership, buying and selling, repatriation, and display…Along with needing to know more about the role of art in individual lives and cultures, I am curious about the contexts in which we view art, specifically how art has been displayed and used throughout history, and how methods of art presentation today are being altered and challenged for more effective or powerful experiences. Of particular interest to me, and currently my focus for a long term career, are issues of art crime throughout history, i.e. how looting has affected cultures, politics, and stylistic movements, how looting today feeds the art market and severely harms academic endeavors to study and preserve historical sites/works of art, and how looting could be prevented and diminished through firmer international policies and redirection of the goals of those who generate a need for looting.”
Fast forward to today: my senior work focuses on the rift between the museum and archaeological communities over unprovenanced and unscientifically excavated materials; I am using all of my courses this term as lenses for studying cultural heritage issues and the illicit antiquities trade; and I even have a whole blog dedicated to ranting about cultural heritage studies and the illicit antiquities trade.
The lesson here is: Same difference. The Plan Process isn’t about being “approved”; it’s about evolving and learning how to articulate how and why you want to do what you want to do. The things you want may change entirely; my roommate thought at first that she wanted to study environmental law. Now, she studies music. Or the things you want may stay the same, and the only thing that changes is your perspective of them. Either way, the important part is that you grow with the flow (haha) and keep finding ways to effectively communicate what you want.