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At Olivet College, independent studies allow curious students to pursue a topic of interest more deeply one-on-one with a faculty member

Helen Macqueen, an Olivet College senior majoring in sociology/anthropology with a history minor, pursued two independent studies this spring with Cynthia Noyes, associate professor of sociology/anthropology. Her classes were titled, Museums: Issues and Exhibits, and Museums: Problems and Possibilities. She and Noyes met once a week to cover material for both of the courses.

It all started when Macqueen wrote a paper about museums for a research class she had with Noyes. Her interest in museums was prevalent throughout the paper.

“While the majority of students who declare a social science major want to work in the helping professions, some are interested in different aspects of society and culture,” Noyes said. “These students are usually very motivated, good students, who want to pursue some particular line of research, like Helen.”

“My independent study with Cynthia was more focused,” Macqueen said, “and she had more time to listen to the problems I was having with the work. We would sit one-on-one and work through my questions together.”

“There is nothing more intriguing and attractive to an educator than a student with intellectual curiosity, intelligence and the drive to pursue a subject in which she is interested,” Noyes replied.

This August, Macqueen will begin her master’s program in museum studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She credits her interaction with Noyes for helping her get into graduate school. “Throughout our classes together we discussed different aspects of museums and the problems they face. Being aware of these issues helped me to be better prepared when it came to writing my applications and going through interviews.”

When she completes her master’s program, Macqueen plans to pursue a career in one of the many Smithsonian museums.