‘Cat in the Stacks: Lessons of the Past
I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your new ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey’s role.
I encouraged you last week to look ahead to the upcoming semester, to revise your goals and think about your place in the current academic year and your college experience holistically. I’d like to use this week’s post to encourage you to look back a little bit at where you’ve been as well.
The future holds all of our goals, ambitions and aspirations. It’s important, and increasingly so in the modern world, to get a jump on your plans in order to stand out against the competition. Where you’re coming from, however, contains a host of information about oneself that is equally important to reflect upon.
I talked about how first year students have the chance to revise their first impressions in the upcoming semester, how they might consider getting some extra feedback or taking on extra classes, depending upon the circumstances. I discussed how sophomores and juniors sometimes bite off a lot more than they can chew, and recalled my mixed feelings of nostalgia and anticipation in senior year.
What I failed to mention, however, was the extent to which remembering one’s own past might figure into the process of revising goals. First years may need to revise goals upward or downward, but, by virtue of your attending a top 50 university, you have already accomplished a lot so far. Don’t rest on your achievements, but do remember the tradition of academic and extracurricular success that has brought you thus far and apply the lessons learned to your current situation.
The same advice goes for sophomores and juniors, albeit in a slightly altered form. Familiarization with a process makes that process less stressful. As a sophomore or junior who has taken on tons of responsibilities, try to remember the stress of completing those first couple semesters during your freshman year. The short research paper and final exams seemed overwhelming back then, but were totally surmountable, and what you feel now may be no different.
Seniors, too, have myriad college experiences to draw on to help them complete their undergraduate experience. Their goals, however, usually have to do with what comes next. Looking at only your own past, seniors, might be too narrow. To truly understand how prepared you are for the professional world, take a look at the résumés of the most prolific people in your field; many of their successful careers started with a college degree – and so does yours.
Too often anymore, the past is seen as something retrograde or regressive, history viewed as something to be censored or brought up-to-date with new trends. This ‘Cat, on the other hand, encourages you to remember your past accomplishments as exciting and impressive in and of themselves and urges you to use the lessons learned as you push ever forward into the sometimes uncertain future.
I would argue that this same value – revising goals through remembrance of the past – plays a crucial role in Villanova University’s celebrations of its 175th birthday. As we continue to construct new and efficient buildings, remembering the rich Augustinian tradition that led us to this year will help us understanding where the university is headed and why.
If we come to understanding one’s own past as indicative of his/her present situation, then understanding the current attitudes of another is intricately entwined with learning that person’s history. By commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the Falvey hopes to offer you that chance on the national level. After all, as President Harry Truman wrote, “The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.”
Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.
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