What is your preferred name and major(s) and minor(s)?
I’m Jen Shillingburg, and I am a Psychology/Theatre double major.
What are some of the jobs you held at McDaniel?
When I started out at McDaniel, I got a job operating a camera to film football practices from the top of Gill Stadium, and even though I did my best, I knew nothing about football or really the job (there wasn’t much explanation beyond “Film the drills”). When football season ended, I needed another job but didn’t know of any openings until Ira Domser overheard me talking and offered me a job building and painting the sets for the theatre. I’ve been working at that job 10 hours a week since spring semester of Freshman year, and I’ve learned a lot of carpentry skills and grown as a painter, too. I love it.
What organizations were you part of at McDaniel?
I am part of Psi Chi, the Psychology Honor Society, Phi Beta Kappa, I recently joined Pi Gamma Mu, the social science honor society, and I’m in Alpha Psi Omega, the Theatre Honors Fraternity (or Society depending on which document you’re reading). Psi Chi and Alpha Psi Omega are the most involved, and I’m currently Vice President of Psi Chi and Sergeant at Arms for Alpha Psi Omega. Outside of the regular theatre season are two shows I’ve loved doing since I came here; The Vagina Monologues and Choices are very different shows, but I loved directing them both my senior year. Being the best part of freshman orientation is super rad, and The Vagina Monologues is seriously one of the most important advocacy opportunities I’ve found here at McDaniel; I think everyone needs to see it.
How much did you enjoy your time at McDaniel?
As much as I could? I don’t know, that’s a hard question because school’s kind of a job to me. I’m here to complete assignments, get good grades, and eventually a bachelor’s degree (or two, as I discovered last year). So, college is hard, definitely, but it’s also been mind-expanding and educational outside of the realm of academia, which is growth that I wouldn’t trade for anything, but that wasn’t always fun, just immensely beneficial. But then, of course, there are the people, the friends I’ve made, the people from Alpha Psi specifically, who have made me laugh and kept me sane and gone on adventures with me and allowed me to have experiences I otherwise haven’t. My senior year, especially, has been a better balance of work and play, so I’m happy with my time here. I’ll definitely miss people.
Who do you think is/was your best mentor(s)?
Oh s***. Um. I mean, so many professors teach me in different ways. Elizabeth van den Berg has definitely made me a better actor in that she made me a better artist—able to portray a genuine narrative. Gené has always been the kind of advisor who says, “Go for it! We’ll make the other stuff work!” My boss, Ira, waxes poetic about life and death, painting and art, and the purpose of theatre and the effects of punching a tar baby (it sticks to your hand). My psych professors like Dr. Chalk and Dr. Arnal really give me insight about a clear career path in psychology and hope that I’ll be able to do the job well. My theatre professors make me a better artist, and my psych professors make me a better student.
What were some of the challenges you encountered and how did you overcome them?
Well, living at college in this decade is difficult because of the extreme financial burden it becomes. I’m a first generation student, so my mom and I were really flying blind, and we’re stilled strapped for cash because I’m here. So my biggest challenges have been balancing two majors and all the shows I’ve been in with my extracurriculars, and then buying food. I love my campus job, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to work as much as I need to.
What are your plans for after graduation?
Honestly, I haven’t planned beyond “sleep for a week.” And I’m completely serious; any job I get or any obligations that get thrown my way are waiting until May 27th at least. I need to make money to apply for grad school—probably in psychology to be a therapist—but I need to recover from my four-year burnout before I make any life changing decisions. And I’m going to go to as many concerts as I possibly can. I’m seeing Ok Go in June, so that’s on the check list.
What is your best memory at McDaniel? What is your worst memory at McDaniel?
There isn’t a single awesome memory that sticks out, but I really love those times when my friends and I decide to go on an adventure on a whim or when we plan trips together—ice skating or concerts or Granny’s Restaurant near Baltimore, the Smithsonian museums in DC. My favorite part of McDaniel is that it’s closer to civilization than I am at home, so going back to the mountains is gonna suck. A few specifics that stick out are Alpha Psi’s traditions, that time Miranda, Mollie, and I went to see Public Enemy and The Roots in DC, and the Laramie Project rehearsal where I instigated an emotional breakthrough for the cast—that night made us better artists so I’m glad it happened.
As for worst memory, I’m not sure. I’ve definitely had some meltdowns on this campus, and I’ve experienced stints of emotions I didn’t know I had, but those are all too real and private to share. Whiteford getting shot my freshman year did scare the shit out of me though.
What advice can you give to those not graduating?
Seniors not graduating? My advice would be to keep chugging. There are a lot of reasons to fall behind, and from what I’ve seen it’s got a lot to do with bureaucracy tangles and money rather than student motivation. If the problem is your motivation, take a leave of absence and come back ready to graduate. You’ll make it.
Anything else you want to share with the world?
I think students should talk to those in the Progressive Student Union more often. My insane schedule has prevented me from joining their ranks the last four years, but if you want to know more about McDaniel and its faults and strengths and how to become active in the world around you, they’re a good place to start.