The Editors-in-Chief (EICs) of our very own undergraduate journal Tiresias have just recently sent out an e-mail containing a call for submissions as well as a call for those interested to get involved.

On occasion of this e-mail, I thought it appropriate to start a series of blog posts with the question of why I, one of the EICs in the founding year 2011-2012, got involved in the journal and why you should as well.

So first – why did I get involved?

When I received the e-mail asking for interest in the editor-in-chief position, I was on vacation in Germany. I was going to start into my last year of undergraduate studies and was anticipating a very busy year completing my undergraduate thesis while tying up my last course requirements with marks that would allow me to enter grad school, preferably with a scholarship. The half of my brain that was not entirely convinced of a career in academia, however, kept pushing me to attempt to position me in a way that I could break off into a completely different, non-academic direction following the completion of my MA.

I then remembered one of the many talks I had with my dad regarding my future after the BA, or more broadly after school, and recalled one piece of advice which I think is extremely valuable: at every step during university, we are surrounded by a wealth of opportunities to develop ourselves personally and professionally – whether this means using the resources provided through, e.g., career services, or to join one of the numerous clubs, either way is beneficial in its own way. You can get involved in clubs and projects by taking up different roles, such as treasurer, recruiter, marketing manager, president, and – in our specific case – editors, readers, or even editors-in-chief. Any one of these positions – and this should in no way be considered a comprehensive list – will allow you to gain experience working with people, to organize events that go beyond the university community, to deal with financial management and to gain leadership skills. And all of this with hardly any financial or
career risk to yourself. So make use of these opportunities, which will never again in your life be so easily accessible to you.

I will concede that for anyone who has not taken on a leading role in any organization previously, doing so will seem scary. I was in that position. If I am completely honest, I had no real idea what I was signing up for when I indicated my interest in the position. In retrospect, I can now say that I learned every step of the way. I acquired technical knowledge about publishing and about putting together submissions to form a coherent product; how to juggle the expectations of authors, the feedback of readers, and combining those two in a way that both sides were pleased; merging and balancing my own expectations with the pressure of deadlines and the review of those who funded us throughout the year. And, yes, at times it was extremely stressful. So why did I do it? I think it was the challenge, one that I set myself by consciously (and unconsciously to a degree) exposing myself to a completely new work environment. But the fact that I was able to succeed nonetheless is in itself a lesson to me, one that I think is important to remember and applies in all areas of life. We often can accomplish more than we think ourselves capable of. It does, however, take courage to “put ourselves out there”.

My last point is rather more of an idealist appeal. I think that at the University of Waterloo Classics Department, we have an exceptionally vibrant and active student community. This community exists on the one hand due to the efforts of our professors to make us feel welcome, but on the other hand to no small degree due to the willingness of students to spend some of their time to organize events and help their peers with academic (and, if need be, personal) challenges. Students, who strive to make this department both an environment that nurtures academic and professional excellence and one that balances the stress and pressure that school puts on all of us. This is where Tiresias comes in. It provides students with the opportunity to gain skills that go beyond academia, skills that may even bridge academia and the “real world”. Moreover, Tiresias is one way to get the name of our department and university “out there” as a worthwhile place to study Classics to gain more students. It essentially allows us to give back, not to the university through donations as alumni/ae, but rather as Classics
student directly to the department whose members were there for us every step of our way, sometimes with seemingly harsh advice, but always with the best intentions for our futures in mind.

Overall then, it is in your best self-interest to get involved in extracurricular activities. They will make you more interesting to employers – within and without academia – as well as help you develop as a person. You learn to work with individuals and gain experience with administrative tasks. Clearly, the latter two are important in the corporate world, but even if you are planning on entering academia, a good amount of your time will be spent dealing with university politics and administrative tasks. Most importantly, however, you learn about yourselves: your strengths, your weaknesses, what you do and don’t enjoy doing. Learning about ourselves is always the hardest kind of learning and is only possible if we put ourselves in positions that confront us with new materials, new challenges, and new environments. The university setting provides us with a unique plethora of opportunities to do exactly that at almost no cost to ourselves. And if, in doing so, we can give back to those people who have given so much of their time and energy to support us in any possible way, that’s all the better.

Lukas Lemcke has a degree in Classical Studies from the University of Waterloo, and was one of Tiresias’s first editors in chief. he is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Classics at UW. 

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