currently teaching creative writing and literature in a university here
in my home country, and at the same time, I'm
in the process of publishing my 1st fantasy fiction book.
I'm definitely enjoying my careers as a teacher and a
writer, and Knox has a hand on both. I gave
up a flourishing career in external auditing, accountancy being my
1st degree which I earned in a local university. So
when I got the chance to study again instead of
pursuing a master's in business, I elected to get a
creative writing degree. Since I was a 1st-time international student
back then, I naturally wanted the best education I can
get for my money. So my long list of creative
writing programs offered in the US was reduced to 3:
Denison, Seton Hill, and Knox. By the fall of â€™97,
I was stepping into Knox.
Getting an American education
is an opportunity of a lifetime, and naturally my expectations
were high. Knox met them all, even exceeded most of
them, and the following are the most enduring impressions I
1. Creative Writing Program - It's definitely Knox's flagship
program. It takes CW seriously to the point of periodically
tweaking and improving the program for their students to be
published writers without the necessity of an MA or MFA.
The program was grounded on the study of literature using
curricular combinations of the survey, thematic, historic, and by-author approaches.
At the same time, it provided ample and meaningful workshops
to further hone the writing skills. The visiting writers' series
was both enriching and inspirational, something other schools of Knox's
size could hardly duplicate even in our days. Another worth
noting is the award-winning literary magazines, serving as perfect outlets
for the budding writers.
2. Professors - Perhaps the biggest
factor to a topnotch program, the profs of the English
department certainly know what they were talking about to say
the least. This is also applicable to the History Dept.
(History was my minor). Definitely they have the bragging rights
because of their PhDs and publishing histories, but what truly
impressed me are their down-to-earth attitudes. They are approachable, friendly
and genuinely willing to help you improve. If you have
questions, they'd welcome you to their faculty rooms for further
discussions of a question you raised and even invite you
in their homes over the weekend for a combination of
informal discussions and acquaintance development. These off-classroom activities were prevalent.
3. Academic Approach - I'm quite used to the trimester
calendar since my local alma mater is also using the
same. When we were required to enroll in 5-6 courses
every semester here, the 3-course limit in Knox was actually
a light load. Beyond the familiarity though, the 3-3 approach
gave me more focused learning, deeper understanding of each of
the subject matter, and gave me more time for advanced
and reinforced study. It was further enhanced by the small
classes, each comprising 15-20 students only. Another aspect of Knox's
approach which I truly benefited from was the 1-on-1 seminars.
This is vital in aligning your plans and in addressing
your academic weaknesses.
4. Campus - To put it simply,
the Knox campus is inspiration itself. It was a pleasant
mixture of classical- and contemporary-designed buildings magnified by their history.
I've been in and out of the Old Main since
the English Dept. is there, but it was the Alumni
Hall which I found the most stupefying. Its exquisite Romanesque
Revival architecture always seemed to stir something in me. I
never missed a week sitting in the lawn fronting the
Alumni Hall just to stare at it. The Seymour Library
has also a fine exterior and interior but most importantly,
it served its purpose well. All the materials I needed
were all there so the books I had to purchase
were limited to my major and minor courses.
my expectations were primarily based on academics so I only
had minimal expectations on the other facet of Knox. Some
of those which turned out fine are the:
Body - I was used to a big population since
the 1st university I attended has several thousands of enrollees
every semester so Knox's student body was a new experience
for me. It was not long before I realize that
a small student body is a double-edged sword. It is
possible to know at least a quarter of the population
by your freshman year if you are sociable enough. Everybody
seemed friendly and accommodating and somebody was always willing to
help. I was fortunate that some of my friends
were pursuing different fields of study. When Math was giving
me a very hard time, a friend lent me a
hand; when I missed a Philo class, a friend of
a friend explained the nitty-gritty of the subject matter. I
guess I truly benefited in that aspect. On the other
hand, a mistake or a mere stupidity in a small
student body school is like fire to a gunpowder-filled container,
ready to explode at the first instance. The catalyst could
be as simple as a flunked quiz to as complicated
as a weekend hook up. Gossip is prevalent in any
other school, whether big or small; a small body however
enhances the tendency since everyone knows everybody.
2. Housing -
My former university is a commuter school so I had
no idea what type of dorm would suit me. My
freshman dorm was horrendous but this was because of my
roommates. I had to spend most of my studying time
in Seymour and so my room was practically reduced to
a bed space. The housing facilities were sufficient to have
a decent stay though. Every year my dorm got better,
culminating to a stay in the “nerdy” Williston Hall for
my last year. I truly appreciated its 24/7 study hours
and how I wished I stayed there for the whole
duration of my Knox tenure.
3. Party Scene - After
a week of brow-burning studies, it's just natural to seek
a way to unwind. Compared to my local alma mater,
the Knox party scene was pretty lame. What can you
expect from thousand-or-so students? Still, Knox people know how to
have fun. Supply of beer was enough to get you
drunk but not to wreck you. Since I came to
Knox to study and not to party, it met my
unwinding standards alright, low it may be.
4. Surrounding City
- Before I went to Knox, all I know about
IL is the Chicago Bulls because of Michael Jordan. And
since I'm an “urbanista” Galesburg was a totally new environment.
Even here in our country, Galesburg would be categorized as
a 1st-class municipality but not a city. It has some
nice restaurants and bars but not really of big-city quality.
There's not much to do in town. Peoria is the
nearest place for a shopping spree. However, Galesburg has a
charm of its own, particularly its historic buildings and the
Railroad Festival. Itâ€™s churches are fine as well.
even good schools have deficiencies and some of those I
experienced in Knox are the:
1. Food - It's funny
to think Knox hasn't changed the cooks yet or if
they did, they fared no better than the previous ones.
Apparently, the food is still bad. Itâ€™s the same a
decade or so ago. I remember I was forced to
call my parents more often to ask for recipes so
I can cook my food myself.
2. Facilities â€“ I
was glad I went to Knox for the arts and
not the science because the latterâ€™s facilities, particularly the building,
was quite pitiful. Its maintenance was sub-par compared to that
of the older, classical buildings as Old Main, Alumni Hall
and Old Jail. What I encountered 1st hand was the
poor gym facilities. Perhaps the admin was putting much of
the money in funding the programs, which is perfectly fine.
But striking a balance between maintenance of facilities and creating
noteworthy program is also important since these two are interdependent
for quality learning.
Based on my foregoing experiences, the advantages
far outweigh the disadvantages. This is the reason why I
never regretted a single day of going to Knox. I
appreciated Knox education the more after I graduated. I attended
a specialized workshop the following summer conducted by an independent
organization then proceeded to a reputable MA program in PA
the next winter. In these two advanced programs, I noticed
I was often ahead of my peers when it came
to course work. For instance, many of the required readings
and writing exercises we did, I already did in Knox
beforehand. Therefore, Knox and those advanced program institutions were practically
using the same materials. This goes on to say that
Knox education is of high quality, sort of an MA
in the undergraduate level. I eventually breezed through both advanced
programs, and I owe it to Knox.
Overall, I highly
recommend Knox if you want sturdy liberal arts education. If
you are into creative writing, literature and history, Knox is
an ace. The professors are knowledgeable, friendly, approachable, and always
ready to extend their hands. The 3-3 calendar and small
classes are conducive to focused and deeper learning while the
1-on-1 seminars are beneficial if you know how to use
it. The campus is inspiring because of its history and
beauty. A small student body has its advantages and disadvantages;
just find your niche and youâ€™ll get by. The dorms
are pleasantly habitable, the party scene is unwinding enough, and
the surrounding city is for the laid-back and not really
for the hard-core â€œurbanista.â€ Cook your own food as much
as possible and donâ€™t expect much from science or gym
For me, the true essence of Knox is its
capability to turn interest to a passion just what happened
to me. It can also happen to you.