Discussion Section: here’s my opinion, until next week!

A small group of students in a college classroom.
A group of college students in a classroom (I usually sit in the front row).

I remember leaving my first lecture in Fall 2017 and saying aloud – “if the next four years work like the past 50 minutes, why do people hate class?”

That was before I sat down in the real academic arena – discussion section.

Before coming to UW-Madison, my sister told me as I prepared my schedule that discussion section was largely “participation-focused”. Students could drop in for easy points, talk about highlights from lecture and head right back out the front door. I could envision my first Introduction to Mass Communication (J201) discussion playing out like John Mulaney described in his Netflix special “Kid Gorgeous” – give your opinion, here’s 10 points.

So, when I strolled into Vilas Hall and plopped down in the first desk I found, I was shocked when I was handed yet another syllabus with more dates, details and deadlines than I could count. We had to complete weekly writing assignments, supplementary readings and provide prepared and response speeches on those (tediously thorough) readings in just 15 weeks, all the while still memorizing everything Professor Rojas presented during his own Monday, Wednesday and (occasionally if I made it) Friday lectures.

I completed the work and contributed well enough, but I learned my lesson. Discussion is where the true “higher education” takes place across campus, and any incoming students should be ready and willing to share detailed, articulate and genuine thoughts from the moment sections begin. The experience ends up being far more detailed than a $100,000-version of ESPN’s debate show “First Take” – so I’d make sure to prepare accordingly.

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