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Winning Essay

Maressa Alrich
University of Alaska SE
Juneau, AK
(Instructor: Professor Timi Christina Tullis)

What is a Master Student?

A master student is one who approaches the world with the eyes of a baby, the curiosity and courage of a child, the passion and rebellion of a teenager and the honesty of a parent. These qualities are all important tools of the master student, the lifetime learner.

The eyes of a baby absorb everything within their field of view without judgment. Their opinions are based on personal experience, without bias or prejudice. This is a habit that many of us forget as we grow and learn to understand what others tell us. However, I believe it is essential to the master student because it allows them to form their own ideas, free of the assumptions that muddle our thoughts every day.

Curiosity is motivation to learn, which makes it indispensable to the master student. It is curiosity that prompts a child to ask, "What's that" and "why". These questions are valuable tools. When we ask "what's that" we have an opportunity to learn about objects. When we learn about things we might find out what they are, for instance a frying pan. We could learn about some of the ways they are used, to cook pancakes or sauté mushrooms for a steak. Asking "why" gives us an opportunity to learn about everything else. For example, when we ask why Mom dislikes that frying pan, we may learn about people, memories, feelings and ideas. That frying pan belonged to a grandmother, who used it every day of her married life as she slaved away in the kitchen, confined to a role that Mom views as old fashioned and unfulfilling.

As we learn we may reach a point at which we wonder if ignorance really is bliss, when this happens those who truly want to become master students will call on courage. Courage is what allows us to keep learning after we discover that sometimes knowledge hurts. Mark Twain defined courage like this, "Courage is mastery of fear, not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward, it is not a compliment to call it brave". The master student knows that false bravado is exactly that, false, and recognizes that fear is not a disgrace by an opportunity to learn. So when they are afraid, they learn and learn.

The passion of a teenager allows the master student to embrace new opportunities or subjects. It inspires them in the quest for knowledge. Whether in the Congo, or in a "concrete jungle" it does not matter to the master student, because they view the whole wide world as a classroom.

Along with passion goes rebellion, which when used in moderation is another useful tool for the master student. It causes them to wonder if what they have been taught is true, and provides the impetuous to "think outside the box". As the master student rebels against old ideas and throws out assumptions that no longer fit, they reach for new ideas to fill the spaces that are created. In many ways it is rebellion that inspires us to become master students, thinking and acting for ourselves.

Honesty, in some ways the most difficult thing to measure, it is perhaps the single most important trait of the master student. A master student is committed to continual progression and knows that progression requires us to be honest, both with ourselves and with those around us. The master student knows that they are responsible for what they do, so the excuse that comes readily to so many mouths, "but everyone does it" is not acceptable to the master student. Honesty gives us freedom and can help reduce stress. When we are honest with ourselves we have the freedom to change behaviors that we don't like. When we are honest about a problem or challenge that we face it is much easier to find solutions. Reality is rarely as bad as the worst that we can imagine, so in many cases being truthful in identifying a challenge will immediately decrease it's size and it's ability to create anxiety.

The master student is not a single individual of superhuman powers, it is something that each of us has the potential to become. When we commit to clearing our vision, utilizing our curiosity, gathering our courage, harnessing our passions, and facing the world with honesty, then we will give life to the master student that waits within us.