I was unbelievably pumped today by the end of my office hours, when I had a new instance of the best problem there is to have.
One of my best students had come in to discuss tomorrow's homework assignment on Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises. I was pleased right off the bat just to realize that the issue that she was struggling with was already at a level beyond which I really intended for the written question: that is, that she had moved to a depth of engagement beyond what was strictly necessary for the assignment. It was a sign of her reading and struggling with the text at a level well beyond that of a beginner. So we talked about the problem for a while, which came down to making an argument for the extent to which we think God acts in our lives – to try to discern what is the means or the shape of grace.
After this, she brought up how much she had really been enjoying the class – enjoying the subject – far more than she had expected. After coming to Marquette for its pre-dentistry program, and for thinking she wanted to be a dentist since seventh grade, she was now wondering whether or not she might want to study Theology even more. A bit of a crisis? So we got to talking about the different options: double-majoring, the Theology minor, and then the possibility of the major. Since this is her freshman year, I just told her to keep following the (pretty rigid) pre-dentistry track, but to spend the next year getting a feel for the possibilities, talking with Dr. Dempsey as the Director of Undergraduate Theology and seeing how her experience of her required Theology and Philosophy credits goes. She can take all of the next year before she really comes to a point of having to choose to change directions, and so I could help her disarm some of this sudden stress she was feeling in the midst of a new insight or experience, and just steer her toward enjoying the experience of some of this study and of the subject itself. She's got a gift for it, and however it ends up expressing itself in her life or academic path, right now its more important that she just soak it up and get to know the discipline: she can decide what it means for her course of study later on.