Cross-enrollment at Shimer College proves pleasant experience

Sun, 2013/09/22

Oddly enough, my parents are most concerned with me enjoying and getting the most out of the college experience. They worry that I'm moving too fast and pushing so hard in academics that I'm forgetting to smell the proverbial roses. Universities have always been seen as a magical wonderland of academic and emotional exploration. Freedom is king at college, I was told, and after receiving pounds of flashy college advertisement literature I believed it. I was ready for the academic ride of a lifetime, completely unprepared for some of the rough surprises ahead.

After being forced to sign up for one of a whopping three IIT humanities, all of which excited a groan, I learned of Shimer's offerings. Shimer College is a tiny liberal arts campus that's connected to IIT, but it is so much more.

Expansive and interesting just scratch the surface of the courses offered at Shimer. Classes range from Ethical studies to basic Latin. There is even a Kubrick film studies course! Kubrick just so happens to be my favorite director. I realize that at a tech school’s humanities will be scant, but 3 is preposterous. After being put to sleep by my required courses at IIT, the dream of academic excitement was reignited by the opportunity to study on my own terms. This is where the nightmare begins.

Even at a small school like IIT, you must fight for personalized attention with administration. Do you remember when you had to call customer service for the first time? Trying to get a class at Shimer was like that.

“Hi there, I’d like to enroll in a class at Shimer.”

“Yea sure, go get a form, fill it out, and we’ll review it. We’ll get back to you in a couple of days. Make sure you put your email on it.”

“Yes. I’m familiar with the form, I have one already, but I was hoping to talk to som-”

“No need. Just fill out the form and we’ll get back to you.”

“No, see. I need to talk to someone because I have a special case. You see, I’m a freshmen and I–”

“You’re a Freshmen?”


“Have you taken a 100 level humanities?”

“Well no, but you see I hav­–”

“Ok, well. Fill out a form and we’ll probably reject you for being new.”

“You don’t understand–”

“Yeah, go. Fill. Out. The. Form.”

This went on for several minutes before I decided to leave with a crumpled petition and a knot of frustration. The next morning things were different. I met with Mr. Welter, explained the situation, and it went much smoother. By the time I left his office, I had an approved petition, and peace of mind. Now all I had to do was meet with the registrar at Shimer.

While I expected talking to the Shimer registrar, Jim Ulrich, to be just as painful as negotiating with the IIT administration, the experience was very friendly. Jim was an easy person to talk to and he told us plenty of stories about Shimer, IIT, and everything else. It was nice to finally sit down and talk with an administrator without being hassled. After leaving his office, a professor, or should I say ‘facilitator’ as they like to be called, came over to me and struck up a conversation. Turns out his daughter went to another well-known tech school, much like IIT. At her school, the aerospace engineers were asked what the hardest classes were, to which they responded the humanities. The humanities kids said the hardest were the aerospace classes. Looks like I was in two of the hardest areas of study right now.

This is in contrast with IIT, I heard one horror story from a colleague who also tried applying for a class at Shimer but this class would require overloading his schedule. His advisor had verbally approved the overload and class, but when he went to Mr. Welter, his word was not good enough for approval, even though he is a Camras Scholar and an Eagle Scout. He had to go to his advisor, who would talk the dean of his college, who would then email Mr. Welter with a hopefully approved overload. In order to take this class, he had to jump through hoops that the bureaucracy of IIT made impossible. Luckily, after a very anxious weekend, he too was finally granted permission.

I’ve only been to a few classes so far and I assert that this course at Shimer will be one of the best decisions I’ve made at IIT. The staff is friendly; they make the atmosphere relaxed, yet professional. Shimer College has an odd, homey, discombobulated atmosphere. Shimer may not be as prestigious as IIT, but IIT has much to learn from the way Shimer handles its students.