Max Wiggins landed at UMBC after transferring from Brown in Fall 2012 and enrolled in their first GWST courses. Max was hooked, completing a major and graduating in 2015. GWST caught up with Max to find out what they’ve been up to and how the GWST major continues to shape their work and life.
Max began college with a planned major in neuroscience. That was interesting and challenging, but Max found the level of abstraction made it a bit hard to feel grounded. GWST, on the other hand, gave them an immediate sense of how the individual is grounded in a world that is both shapes and is shaped by our choices and behavior. “That’s unique to my experience of GWST,” Max says, “that moment where you see yourself in these ideas and structures that are bigger than you.” Unlike other fields of study, Max found that GWST meant a “deep, serious engagement with texts that intersected with lived experience. That was transformative. I studied lots of things, but these moments of excitement about an idea, that there’s a way to change the world with ideas, that was different.”
Max is currently putting their major to work as an Upper School English Teacher at the Park School in Baltimore. They teach courses directly inspired by the curriculum at UMBC. Max says that GWST has shaped their life in many ways, but “most literally, it shapes what and how I teach at Park. My teaching is rooted in specific texts I read in GWST, but it is also rooted in the ethics of GWST as I see it–an ethics of deep skepticism: toward one’s own taken for granted beliefs.” In terms of teaching style, Max says they use techniques learned from GWST faculty: “I try to teach kids to reflexively challenge ideas about what seems natural. I push kids to ask, ‘What would it mean for a social thing to be natural? For whom is it helpful to say it is natural? How did it get to be seen that way?'” Max challenges students to be critical of the way the world is, how it got that way, and how it might be made differently in a more just way. In their words, “This stuff is super high stakes!”
Max is getting ready to start up a new year in the classroom after spending much of their summer pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Leadership in Independent Schools at Johns Hopkins. Max plans to pursue a second Graduate Certificate as well, in Urban Education. Asked if there’s anything they miss about GWST at UMBC, Max said this: “I wish I had more time to read and write. I got to write a lot and read a lot and tap into extremely personal and meaningful stuff at UMBC. I feel like it doesn’t get any better than that.” True that.