How Personal Essay Became My Favorite Class | Highlander Blog

June 5, 2019

At Houghton, it’s inevitable that you’re going to take a lot of classes, in a variety of disciplines. While I’ve been here, I’ve taken classes in math, philosophy—even a backpacking class. Each of these classes has a different feel, and a different approach to the material they’re presenting. Even something like the personality of a professor can influence the way a particular class goes.

But while each class I’ve taken here at Houghton has taught me a lot (yes, even my general education math course that I really didn’t want to take), there’s always one or two classes which stand out above the rest. One such class was Narrative and Personal Essay with Dr. Laurie Dashnau. Being an English major, I needed some writing credits, and the concept of this class sounded like a lot of fun. I like to write about myself, so of course I enrolled.

What I found in the class, though, was so much more than I had originally thought I’d get.

Narrative and Personal Essay: More Than a Writing Credit

It’s true, the class did have chances for me to write about myself. After all, the genre of personal essay writing requires that you put yourself into your work. But I think the coolest thing was being able to share myself, and my personal experiences, with my classmates. I wrote about people and places that have meant a lot to me in my life, and the experience was rewarding. It gave me a sounding board for my ideas, and allowed me to express myself and my experiences to others in my class.

Not only that, but the class also gives plenty of opportunity to listen to the experiences of others as well.  In the class, there were a few people who I knew already, but a majority of the class was filled with people who I’d never met before. It was a bit scary taking a leap of faith and sharing some more personal anecdotes with people I didn’t know very well. Yet after a while, it became like second nature. I learned about people’s relationships with their siblings, about their hobbies and interests. There were even a few people who shared a few really vulnerable things which I never would have known had I not been in this class with them.

A Great Professor Makes All the Difference

personal essay laurie dashnau
Professor Dashnau is committed to being there for her students, and her wealth of knowledge makes her a great resource!

Add to this the fact that, with Professor Dashnau leading class, everyone’s writing improved substantially throughout the semester. She gave us plenty of opportunities for revision and editing, and allowed us to read one another’s papers as often as possible. She’s so well-versed in the genre that she could pick up on things I didn’t even think of. I feel as though I came into the class thinking I was good at writing, especially in this genre, but left the class knowing that I’m good at writing. I have so much more respect for personal narrative writing now, and that’s definitely thanks to Professor Dashnau and her commitment to making the class both enjoyable and informative.

So if you do end up coming to Houghton, and you find yourself in need of a writing credit, I’d definitely suggest taking Narrative and Personal Essay with Professor Dashnau. It’s perfect for beginners who aren’t super familiar with the writing process, and just want to take a more fun class. At the same time, it’s also great for people like myself, who consider themselves to be writers, and are looking for a challenge. It’s a great class for anyone, and it’s just one example of the great academics that Houghton has to offer!

Tyger is an English and inclusive adolescence education major, and a member of the Class of 2019.