My mind has been occupied lately. Mid-terms, assignments, this blog and world events that seem extremely loud and incredibly close (I’m reading Jonathan Safran Foer for my Cook the Books class at the moment) are mentally taking its toll on me. I decided, for the first time, to contact a Trinity Academic Don. As a student who does not live in residence, I’ve never had a lot of contact with Dons who traditionally live on campus among students. I knew I didn’t want to talk about an assignment (due today!) or a course at school to a Don. I wanted to talk about the growing global occupation movement that has seized my mind since Thanksgiving weekend when I visited New York and went down to Occupy Wall Street.
I know it might sound awkward to randomly meet up with an Academic Don (total stranger) to talk about whatever is on your mind but I can assure you, it is not as uncomfortable as it sounds. Whether you live on or off campus, Dons are student mentors who are trained to help you, not only with school and university resources but also social and personal problems. I’m also pretty sure that Dons would rather feel utilized instead of completely useless.
I decided to contact Trinity Academic Don Nicholas Riegel who obtained his PhD in Philosophy at the University of Toronto. Why Riegel? Some insider information reveals that he worked on Wall Street (he actually mentioned this during an orientation event during FROSH week) as an Investigation Analyst for the New York Stock Exchange. Riegel encouraged students to take full advantage of their Academic Dons, not only using them in the traditional capacity (mainly essay consultations, course counseling) but even dropping a line to ask them something like, “What are your thoughts on Occupy Wall Street?”
That’s exactly what I asked Riegel when I met up with him at The Buttery and I’m really happy that I made an effort to have a casual conversation with a Don. It was rewarding to hear someone in an academic position at U of T talk candidly about something that feels so huge, so immediate and so complicated. I was feeling repressed in some of my classes, both physically and mentally, as current issues are often ignored in order to keep the course running on schedule. However, I have also been awestruck, particularly with how Professor Reibetanz has seamlessly weaved contemporary world events into class discussions about Romantic poetry and prose. Although I’m sure she’s taught the course a number of times, there is nothing more refreshing and exciting when a professor punctuates lectures with events that are happening here and now.
At The Buttery, Riegel talked about his own experience working on Wall Street, and, as expected, made some classical Greek references. Since the setting was so informal and non-judgmental (no marks were involved), conversation strayed from the topic of Occupy Wall Street to whatever else was on my mind. I suppose what I appreciated the most was how Riegel exuded a calm demeanor. After feeling overwhelmed by shouting, dialogue, diy projects, singing, drums, speeches and signage at protests in New York and Toronto, as well as distracting myself with online videos and media, curling up with a cup of tea and sitting across from one person to chat was comforting.
If you want to talk about school (or not), I highly recommend that all students connect to a Don at least once during the academic year.
P.S. Riegel mentioned the Trinity Academic Dons are organizing an event to discuss the global Occupy Movement. If you’re interested in more details, leave a message and I’ll get back to you with a date/time!