Student Reflection: Margaret Rieckman
Senior Margaret Rieckman (English, anthropology) shared her experience at the college's Celebration of Excellence.
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- [00:00:03.703]Good evening, everyone.
- [00:00:05.338]I'm really happy to be here.
- [00:00:07.040]It's kind of wild to think that
the last time I was at the ceremony
- [00:00:10.677]was as a freshman, and I remember
the reading off of theses and sitting next
- [00:00:14.781]to my roommate at the time and thinking,
I am I going to do that someday?
- [00:00:19.085]And now we're here four years later.
- [00:00:22.188]So the last line in my dedication
of my honors College of Arts and Sciences
- [00:00:27.060]thesis reads Thank you to Willa
Cather for leaving Nebraska
- [00:00:30.997]but never abandoning it.
- [00:00:32.732]The 58 page paper is enveloped
by my multidisciplinary
- [00:00:36.236]humanities education
as an English and anthropology major.
- [00:00:40.607]My experience studying abroad
in Thessaloniki, Greece, for five months,
- [00:00:43.676]where I wrote an 82,000 word blog
that became my thesis.
- [00:00:47.380]My work at the UNL Writing Center,
which introduced me to the idea
- [00:00:50.784]that dialog and cultural exchange
are at the crux of learning.
- [00:00:54.854]And my academic affair
- [00:00:56.222]with the now dead American writer
and cultural critic Willa Cather.
- [00:01:00.193]I imagine that most people in this room
have heard of Cather,
- [00:01:02.796]or at least are vaguely familiar
with her 20th century literary works.
- [00:01:06.599]Like Oh Pioneers or My Antonia.
- [00:01:09.135]I'm surprised to not hear groans at that,
because, I mean, Nebraskans and
- [00:01:12.639]Midwesterners are often forced to read her
in high school and often don't enjoy it,
- [00:01:16.976]which is unfortunate.
- [00:01:18.278]But those novels
and some of her others revolve
- [00:01:21.147]around themes of kinship,
identity and home.
- [00:01:24.284]As I've gotten to know
Cather through the legacy
- [00:01:26.252]she left behind in my work
as an undergraduate researcher,
- [00:01:29.389]humanities intern and reader,
I found pieces of myself
- [00:01:33.259]and words she wrote in books,
short stories and letters.
- [00:01:36.396]Like Cather, I've been at odds for
most of my life regarding where I'm from.
- [00:01:40.166]In her case, she was born in Virginia,
but lived in Red Cloud, Nebraska
- [00:01:43.203]during her formative
years. Whatever that means,
- [00:01:46.873]she graduated from
this very university in 1895.
- [00:01:50.176]Why they named a capitalist
dining hall after her, I'll never know.
- [00:01:55.482]Because of Cather's contradictions
- [00:01:57.317]of loving Nebraska, but wanting to get
as far away from it as possible.
- [00:02:01.387]Loving to travel,
but also loving to stay home.
- [00:02:04.357]Loving small towns and loving cities, etc.
- [00:02:07.393]I began to reject categories
and embrace complexities.
- [00:02:11.064]I literally tattooed the word glykópikros,
which means bittersweet
- [00:02:14.567]in Greek, on my rib cage,
- [00:02:16.102]in a sketchy studio in Thessaloniki,
and still carry it around like a mantra.
- [00:02:20.340]A reminder every time I breathe
and my lungs expand behind bones and Dr.
- [00:02:24.644]Perdikaris can correct me
on my Greek later, as I'm sure I'm saying
- [00:02:28.081]Thessaloniki and glykópikros wrong.
- [00:02:31.050]An experience and identity,
a feeling of home and happiness cannot
- [00:02:34.988]and should not be restricted
to one word, one label or one place.
- [00:02:39.492]My humanities education
at UNL within the College of Arts
- [00:02:42.362]and Sciences is no exception.
- [00:02:44.264]It is a representation
of all of the connections I have made,
- [00:02:47.734]never constricting myself
- [00:02:49.068]within limits of who
and what to love and give my time to.
- [00:02:52.372]I have never been good at decisions.
- [00:02:54.140]People who know me know that the
overwhelming ness of making up my mind.
- [00:02:59.112]But staying in Nebraska, my undergraduate
career was one of the best to date.
- [00:03:03.816]UNL has allowed me to learn in Nebraska
- [00:03:06.519]and be unafraid and capable of leaving it
if I so do wish, which I kind of do.
- [00:03:12.959]I'm hoping to pursue more opportunities
abroad in the next three or four years
- [00:03:17.096]before obtaining a masters
in multicultural and global education.
- [00:03:20.633]God knows where,
and I'm sure I will be saying then,
- [00:03:23.436]as I do now, that beginnings and ends
alike are bittersweet growth.
- [00:03:28.441]And that's why Cather and I
have so much in common.
- [00:03:31.311]And that's why I think she would also
like honey lavender lattes,
- [00:03:34.314]which I was shaking
from while writing this.
- [00:03:37.717]But I want to say thank you to everyone
- [00:03:39.786]I know and I know I'm not going
to possibly be able to name everyone.
- [00:03:43.189]So thank you for listening.
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