Avolio: My hidden insight into SAGES

There is a wonderful position in the SAGES office known as Data Entry Assistant. For the past year I have held this very title. This job entails taking all the hand-written surveys that students fill out at the end of each semester evaluating the SAGES program and their professor and typing every single sentence, word for word, into an Excel document. So, needless to say, I have the low-down on which professor is a sure-fire A, and which you should avoid like the Wicked Witch of the West. But I’ll never tell…

Beyond learning which classes to take and which to avoid, my glimpse behind the SAGES curtain not only affords me the opportunity to see other students’ perspectives, but also to ask questions and really explore what the SAGES program is trying to accomplish.

During winter break, I was tasked with transcribing the First Seminar surveys specifically because I was a first-year. I’m not going to say the job was utterly horrible, but it wasn’t exactly fantastic either. I mean, I did get paid, but I had to type a seven-page survey word for word. Getting through the numerical ranking was a breeze, but I dreaded reaching the free response portion of the packet. While some students wrote easy responses such as “yup, cool, awesome, great professor” and the like, others wrote novels in some of the hardest-to-read handwriting I’ve ever seen.

Most times I dreaded those long responses not because of the handwriting, but because they were some of the most negative words I have ever read in my entire life. Believe me when I say that typing “I hate SAGES” hundreds of times a day gets to a person whether they like the program or not. Some of the surveys I came across were so negative I never even wanted to touch the paper again.

With students complaining as often as they did, I boldly asked my supervisor why the university trudges on with the SAGES program. He said it’s because SAGES is a way for students to get what would be basic English requirements out of the way while studying something they might find more interesting. At that time, being the SAGES-hating freshman that I was, I rolled my eyes and dragged my feet back to my computer.

Fast forward five months, and I’m back again for more torture at the hands of students and their surveys. “Why do I subject myself to this?” you may ask. Well, we all like to get paid, don’t we?

Seeing as it was now springmeaning no First Seminarsthis time I was granted the privilege of transcribing University Seminar surveys.

These surveys had a very different tone from those I transcribed during the winter. Many people loved their classes. Responses ranged from “great class, would take again” to page-long essays gushing over the course and the professor and everything else the student could possibly mention. There were countless responses I logged that said, “I’m switching my major because of this class.”

That’s when it hit me that the mission of SAGES is not just to satisfy an English requirement in an interesting way. SAGES also helps students explore other career opportunities and areas of study. Some students are dead-set on becoming a doctor when they get to CWRU, and because of something they studied in SAGES they now wish to write poetry. You may think that’s drastic, but believe me, it happens.

I went to my supervisor with this revelation. I said, “I understand why CWRU offers SAGES now. Students take them in three different areas of study in subjects that interest them, and this helps them truly decide what they want to do with their career. They get to explore their options and satisfy an English requirement they would have to take (whether SAGES were around or not) at the same time.” He said I was right.

While much of that purpose is geared toward those who are undecided on a career path when entering college, it still helps those who believe they are fully set in their ways. Students are granted the opportunity to study something they may find interesting but not initially career-worthy. Along the way, they might find that many more career paths than they expected are open to them. However, while sitting and writing this article, I now understand there are other reasons behind the program as well. I came into college as an accounting student, and I am still an accounting student. My first seminar was about poetry, and my second was about nonprofit organizations. Neither made me wish to change my major, but both taught me patience.

These courses taught me that you and your professor won’t always have the same writing style and sometimes you just have to grin and bear it to make it through the semester. They taught me how to disagree with my fellow students and still hold a polite discussion. They taught me that sometimes you have to do something you don’t want to do, like take another SAGES course, but you do it anyway because that’s just how life goes.

So next time you decide to complain about SAGES, be understanding of all the lessons it has to teach students who are set to take it in the years to come. Be understanding of the student who is undecided and needs some exploration, and also look further into the program to see what else you can get out of it. Whether it is networking with fellow students and another professor, or even the patience I described above, there is something in this program to teach everyone.

Students are here to be sponges and gain as much knowledge as possible during their time in college. Sometimes the lessons aren’t written down, and we all need to be open to that.

Madison Avolio is a second-year student majoring in accounting and business management. She is the News Designer for The Observer.