Student Profile – Jason Meuse
In each issue of Keywords, we profile one of the many student assistants who help make the Middlebury Libraries run smoothly. This issue features Jason Meuse, ’18, who works at the Circulation Desk at Davis Family Library.
Jason Meuse is a senior Classics major who has worked at the borrowing services desk in Davis Family Library since his sophomore year. Like many of our student staff members, Jason is dedicated to his academic studies, and this dedication has increased throughout his college career. Jason was recognized for his academic achievements last October when he was one of 12 students selected to join Phi Beta Kappa, which was founded in 1776 and is the nation’s oldest academic honor society. The Middlebury College chapter, the Beta chapter of Vermont, was established in 1868 and is itself the 13th oldest chapter in existence. His selection came as a complete surprise, one that he shared with his beaming parents during the celebration held over last fall’s Family Weekend. Jason hails from our New England coastal state, Maine.
Jason, how did you decide upon the discipline of Classics as your major? Was it past thinkers who drew you in or was it more abstract, regarding the fundamentals of knowledge, values, truth, justice?
I think I was just drawn to the major. I came in wanting to do Latin American Studies, but eventually was just so taken by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The way they thought about religion, philosophy, and government all have resonances in our society, and there’s also a sort of separation from where we are now that lets us look at them with some distance.
How has your experience at Middlebury enriched your academic focus? I know that you enjoy your department advisors and faculty members, and I imagine they have greatly influenced your direction.
Before coming to Middlebury, I had no idea how lucky I would be to study so closely in small classes and with such a small department, not at all lost in a sea of students. It gave me the opportunity to have more intimate personal relationships with peers and faculty, and also allowed me to ask questions more freely. This let me flesh out my ideas and bred a passion for study even more.
Can you comment on your Midd friendships during your college undergraduate years? More specifically, did you expect to form life-lasting bonds?
I kind of thought I would form strong bonds with people, after getting over the cliché of “What if no one likes me?” Now, I have a small circle of people who I have rich connections with, and I was lucky to find people with whom I’m capable of having a relationship that is always growing.
Now that you have reached a more advanced level of analytical thinking and expression of ideas, how is this helping you decide upon your next step, post-Middlebury?
Coming from Maine, my experience was very homogenous in terms of class, gender, sexuality, and especially, race. When I came in, I didn’t have the tools or the ways to express myself about the common issues of our time. Much of that happened with my interactions outside of class. In class, I had a strong focus on close reading and analysis, mostly in Greek and Latin. The skills that I have been developing transition very well to a law degree, and eventually I plan on entering law school. But first I hope to take a year off, possibly working for a non-profit, while studying for my LSAT.
As a senior with your current perspective, is there any advice that you would offer your younger self as a first-year?
Don’t take everything so seriously. I came in as this really intense kid who hadn’t discovered his sense of humor, or who he was away from home. I spent so much time worrying about how I was perceived and didn’t really know how to take a joke. It took a lot of beating up on myself to start moving in the right direction.
As you think about leaving this campus, is there a physical or metaphorical space that makes you remember this time or identify with your undergraduate experience in Vermont?
I always found that the window on the top floor of Bi Hall helped me put everything in perspective. There was something about looking down on the campus that made everything so small, not just physically, but mentally. Things become less stressful, less scary, or more manageable. Middlebury, while very stressful, is a beautiful place and I think taking the time to look out over it all brings me back to all the positives that come from being here and having this experience.
Do you think that you have changed since entering college? If so, in which way?
I reflect on this a lot. I think if I didn’t change, I would really be selling myself short. As I said, I came in not really knowing who I was. I mean, I had the basics, but being here has helped me understand different facets of my identity. I know better now what makes me tick, and this gave myself the opportunity to see myself. I was extremely insecure when I came in and I had to figure myself out instead of projecting what I was upset or confused about onto other people. My mom always tells me to loosen up because the way I occupy space is so stiff, and I think that applies to my headspace as well. I have learned to loosen up and I think that’s when the real growth can happen, when I found my passions, and when I began to value my interpersonal relationships for their own sake.
Thank you, Jason, and good luck!