Saturday, January 21, 2012

World's Oldest College Student?

I don't know, but it seems that way. After successfully navigating Indiana University's sometimes bewildering bureaucratic labyrinth, a process that took most of the summer and fall, I was accepted as a student November 11th, 2011. I discovered that IU was like most monolithic bureaucracies; that is if you don't get the answer you want the first time you ask, keep asking and eventually you will get the answer you want from someone. In this case, I wanted to enter IU as a transfer student in the Fine Arts department with credits transferred from UT as well as my Mechanical Engineering degree from another school. After asking Admissions, Transmissions, Omissions, Submissions, the Department of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the Department of Redundancy Department, I found out if I entered as a General Studies Major, my wish would be granted.

I attended UT in 1982, Pellissippi in 1992. Therefore, some of my credits were in the archaic quarter system and some in semesters. After calling in various necromancers to translate my credits, I consulted with an adviser in the Fine Arts department to determine my academic standing. My plan is to graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and go one to a Master's of Fine Arts Degree. She was stunned to find I had a total of 142 transferred credits. You need 120 to graduate. "Excellent," I said. "I can go on to Grad school."

"Well, "I was told. "We like you to have 20 credits on-campus in studio."

"I understand, but I'd like to go on to Grad school."

The good news was I have all math, English, history, etc. long satisfied. However, due to changing standards I have a language deficiency, so must take Italian. Cool, my Graduate thesis will be Renaissance studio techniques so it will be handy to read those old manuscripts in the original lingo. Plus Twenty hours of painting and drawing lab, no big deal. Then on to Grad School.

But the hilarious item of this bon adventura was I was required to attend New Student Orientation. I tried to get out of it; I really did. Piteous e-mails to every official I could pin down was ineffectual. I even attempted bribery. No avail nor solace. I had to go.

I arrived early, as is my obsessive-compulsive wont, and realized I was going to orientated by kids young enough to be my children. I befriended a couple of them posthaste and learned that everything we would cover that day--and I mean everything--I had already accomplished.

So after the opening obsequies, and after several well-meaning people attempted to steer me to the room where Parent's Orientation was taking place, I found an adult and explained I had already registered for class and displayed my schedule. I also explained I had already had three appointments with an adviser. She looked at me in surprise. "You're already registered for classes?"

"Yes, here is my schedule, and I have seen my adviser, she's the department head."

"Well, all you need to do is get your books and Student ID."

"I already have those." I showed her my ID, with a picture of me grinning like a rottweiler.

She looked a little offended. "Then you don't need to be here. You can go."

Which is what I had been trying to tell them for three weeks. I tried to toss her a bone. "You mean it? I'm kind of disappointed."

She actually snorted. "I'll bet." She crossed my name off of some computer list, or perhaps made a note on my PERMANENT RECORD: "Troublemaker: Too Smart For His Own Good. Acts Independently. Doesn't Run With The Sheep. Keep an eye on him.

I've been going to classes for two weeks now and the process is a lot easier than it was in 1982. Transportation is more efficient. There are on-line resources that make studying a cinch. I watched a video for one of my classes that placed so much emphasis on attendance it pretty much promised if you just showed up for class, you would get a passing grade.

I'm delighted, almost giddy with the realization that I am back in school, continuing the thread that broke in 1982. Yet I feel a little slow. Perhaps the weight of my years and experience lay heavy on me. I was watching my fellow art students and realized they still sailed toward something they saw on the far horizon. It didn't bother them that their artwork was flawed because they knew someday they could be great artists--they had time. I know I have no horizon. I don't care about the finished product of my artwork--the drawing or painting-- because when I paint or draw I do so for different reasons. I'm more fascinated by the process itself. I don't care at all about the finished product. I can't. If I did, I would be in utter despair, because the product itself is unsatisfying compared to the effort put into it. I more often than not give them away.

I know I'll never be a great artist, or even a good one. But I can be a better artist, so for me the process of creation is where I find my satisfaction, and if I find an incremental improvement, or some discovery along the way, or learn something about myself or the world, there is my art.

Monday: Two quizzes. How exciting.