James Rucker ’16
Graduate student in mathematics, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota
James Rucker

Renaissance man

To understand James’ broad interest of study, one needs only to look at his transcript. The Phoenix native graduated from Northwestern with majors in chemistry, math and humanities and a minor in physics. He had numerous roles in the theatre department—including scene crew, construction, costume, props and lighting—and served as master electrician for four shows. With a love of theatre, music and philosophy, he found that Northwestern’s humanities major enabled him to learn anything and everything about anything and everything.

Why did you decide to attend Northwestern?

I found out about Northwestern College entirely by happenstance. I was attending a college fair with my mother, and she got tired. She needed a place to sit, so she found the only chair that was open: one by the booth for a small private college from Iowa. She started talking to the admissions counselor to be polite, and she was eventually won over. My brother and I were asked to visit the college, and during my visit, I had an amazing conversation with Dr. Kensak about Geoffrey Chaucer, a famous English poet. He found out I liked Chaucer, and he offered to mail me his research. I didn't expect anything, but a few days later, I received it. It showed me the faculty at Northwestern really care, which sold me on the school almost immediately.

Why did you choose to major in humanities?

Honestly, I majored in humanities because I didn’t know what I wanted to major in. I love books, theatre, music, philosophy and pretty much everything in the category of humanities. I knew I wanted to do something within it, but I wasn’t sure what. The flexibility of the major was what attracted me to it. I wanted to do a lot of stuff, and the humanities major gave me the ability to do it all.

What were the benefits of majoring in humanities?

The humanities major is what you make of it. Because I was able to study multiple disciplines, I was able to focus on literature, while also taking some time learning about theatre, acting and even the basics of design. While allowing a lot of freedom within my chosen discipline, it also encouraged me to examine other disciplines and how they interact with each other. The major is a very good way to get a liberal art education and to see what the disciplines within the humanities division have to say about what it means to be human. In my opinion, it’s the most applicable major NWC offers. 

What did you most appreciate about Northwestern?

I love Northwestern’s faculty. They’re ... human. I know that seems like a weird word, but they act like humans. They are approachable, they talk to students who need help, they invite us to hang out, and they care about us on both an academic and a personal level. Not only do they teach well, but many are willing to ask questions of students when they don’t understand something. I’ve recommended anime and video games to professors on more than a few occasions; a kinesiology professor provided me with strategies for the Age of Empires computer game; a political science professor recommended I listen to progressive rock music. Professors know what students need and are at NWC not just to pursue their own research, but to teach. And it shows.