my pathway experience

Xanthe Hilton '11 is a History, Society & Culture major from Greencastle, Pa. Xanthe is an active citizen of the Colby-Sawyer community and serves as vice president of the Class of 2011. She is also a Student Government Association senator for the Class of 2011, president of the Colby-Sawyer College Student Democrats, president of Students Achieving Gender Equality, treasurer of the History, Society & Culture Club, and is a resident assistant.

Here, she discusses her Pathway course, “Revelations, Revolutions and Reconstruction: The Nature of Change,” taught by Professor of Social Sciences and Education Janice Ewing. Pathways, the foundation of Colby-Sawyer's Liberal Education Program, are a group of theme-based, interdisciplinary seminars that students choose for their first and second years.

The first-year seminar of Revelations, Revolutions and Reconstruction uses literature to focus on the nature of change in individuals, family and community. Students begin to examine change processes (revelations, revolutions and reconstructions) as they relate to the individual, the family and the community. The sophomore seminar uses nonfiction texts to extend the study of change to a broader societal focus.

Why did you choose this Pathway, and what are some of the important things you learned through the course?

I chose this Pathway because I recognized the change I would experience moving from southern Pennsylvania, a place where the cultures and traditions of the historic South are still present, to northern New England. The changes in culture and geography, however, were not the only changes I experienced in the first-year Pathway seminar. When I came to Colby-Sawyer, I was finally able to be whoever I wanted to be and make myself into who I wanted to be. To make those changes I needed to understand change, and that is what my Pathway empowered me to do.

Pathways are designed as theme-based and interdisciplinary. What do you see as some of the major themes discussed in the course?

My Pathway professor, Dr. Janice Ewing, helped us to understand the power of change. We all have experienced change in our lives, and knowing this, Professor Ewing made the class conversation-based. Initially the class was structured around reading and discussion. When we started looking at change, we used the title of the course as a thesis to examine change on the individual, local and global level. By the end of the course we were talking about changes such as global warming and the possible changes in the then-looming presidential elections.

My Stepping Stone experience – the courses I chose that directly related to my Pathway course - enriched and expanded the Pathway experience. My first was Art History. The others were a government course, an Environmental Studies course and a Western History class. These last three classes, especially, allowed me to examine change from a global perspective. The environmental studies course was interesting because, more than examining change, it looked at how we are changing the world, and how we can stop the destructive changes.

Please describe some of the resources used in the class (texts, films, web sites, etc.)

We did a lot of reading for our Pathway, but our readings were always integrated into class through discussion or a film. What had the greatest impact on me was reading a section of Che Guevara's Motorcycle Diaries, and then watching the film version. We watched Che's experiences and personal changes turn into a revolution; we saw how a revolutionary is created. This had a profound impact on me not because I would say I am a revolutionary, but because I am someone who derives action from principle. This requires a change of oneself from a spectator with an idea to an actor.

What kinds of projects did you complete for the course?

One of our last assignments was a research project which looked at a major change. My partner and I looked at the civil rights movement and the change in status of African Americans as they transitioned into equal members of society. As I read the experiences of Malcolm X, I came to understand who he was as a person, not just as a leader of the militant African American Society.

The name “Pathway” suggests that these courses take students on a journey to a new place or level of understanding. How has this course, and you and your classmates, evolved from one year to the next?

Our last major writing assignment for the class was how we have changed in our two years at Colby-Sawyer. This was interesting because in the time that I began the Pathway course and completed it, I had indeed done a lot of changing: I had changed from being a freshman and therefore somewhat of an outsider to a leader within the Colby-Sawyer community; I had changed from being apolitical to a politician. I am now a person with more articulate goals; the Pathway experience has been a journey which has taken me to a deeper understanding of who I am.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I've talked a lot about the impact of the Pathway experience, but it is important to note my experiences outside the classroom, which were separate but still a vital part of the Pathway experience, as everything has been integrated. When I came to Colby-Sawyer and began the Pathway program, I was also just beginning to work for the Obama campaign. My experiences, which included meeting President Obama; enjoying the wonderful hospitality of others when they opened their houses and hearts to me; moving across the country to do work that seemed to never end with unforgiving hours - coupled with President Obama's victory in November and the Pathway experience - have shown me that change is hard to bring about. Change involves a revelation, a revolution and a reconstruction: I have lived that, and I continue to.