January 31, 2005

Essay #2

Posted in writing at 3:11 pm by Marise Phillips

Assignment: A brief (approximately 1-page) description of how your background would contribute to the diverse points of view in the classroom.

Response: Raised by two liberal intellectuals in a conservative enclave of inland Orange County, California, I learned from an early age how to listen and respond to conflicting points of view. Through elementary, junior high and high school, my overarching strategy was to nod, smile and blend in with the crowd. By the time I graduated college in 1992, the wall of my reserve had lowered somewhat and I learned to speak my mind, but much more confidently in writing than face-to-face. Two years� membership in an evangelical Presbyterian congregation followed; while my mid-twenties conversion to Christianity horrified my atheist parents, I gained a great deal of insight into how the �other side� thinks. Over the past decade or so as a high-tech creative professional in the politically-progressive Bay Area, my once avid faith has mellowed into an agnostic tolerance which has put me back in my parents� good graces. Lastly, the business meetings I�ve facilitated and the public speaking contests I�ve entered have provided me with a clear and steady voice that is nearly as well-developed as the listening skills I acquired early in life.

As an adult Continuing Studies student, I find myself even more enthusiastic and prepared than I was in my favorite classes as an undergraduate. The novels I�ve read, the films I�ve seen and the countries I�ve visited contribute to a higher level of insight that I am able to bring to classroom discussions. Moreover, the people I�ve met and worked with along the way have taught me cherished lessons about the inescapable and astonishing paradoxes of human interaction. I know now that learning is equal parts speaking, reading, writing and listening. And most importantly, that blending in with the crowd is not the most effective way to get the most out of life. Speaking in turn, honestly and thoughtfully, at the risk of disagreeing with others, is the one of the most challenging things I�ve found the courage to do.


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