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Sunday, August 5, 2007

I Went to College and All I Got Was This Lousy Ph.D.

I recently had an interaction with someone from the faculty side of life. I met this character during a random chat about professions and I had mentioned that I too, was an educator. He got excited to find another educator at the same university and quickly began to talk faculty lingo.

"I'm a mathematics professor, and I just got tenure and I'm 30!", he told me as if he were tryin' to strut his stuff like a fancy peacock.

"Oh that's cool. I'm an educator too. I work in Campus Life", I replied.

"So, what do you teach?", he asked.

"I don't teach in a classroom. I'm administrative staff. I teach and try to develop leadership skills to students", I answered.

He quickly replied, "Well that's not teaching. You can't teach leadership! You either are a born leader or not. You said you were an educator and that suggests teaching. You just work in Campus Life."

In the blink of an eye, my mood sharply changed. "I do teach. I'm working with these students everyday and if it's not learning how to be a better leader, it's teaching them civility. If I'm not teaching civility, I'm teaching on diversity. If I'm not teaching diversity, I'm teaching some skill that will help them in some form or fashion. A lot of times I'm teaching lots of thing in the span of a few hours", I said in a tone just 5 degrees shy of reaching a level of hot tempered.

"Well I still say it's not teaching" he said with a smirk on his face.

It was at that moment when I began to ignore him.

I went to bed thinking about what this random person just told me. He discounted all of the work I do. WE do... As if his work is more important. I quickly realized that I was being like this person by trying to discount his tenured track role. Being judgemental. I think it's cool that he has tenure. But I think it's uncool that he fails to see the value in the work of Student Affairs Professionals.

Thinking back on what this person's college experience was, he may have not had much of one. I surely would have asked him had he not been so arrogant. Did he fly through academic programs without stopping to smell the roses? And what awesome roses they are - all varieties, sizes and fragrances.

Can you imagine what it might be like if we didn't provide the activities, leadership programs, training, etc? Number one, it would be UBER boring. Number two, we would never learn as much about other cultures, races, religions, etc without the social interactions, trainings, workshops, etc that we provide. Number three, students would fail to see life globally. Number four, many students wouldn't have an opportunity to have a better sense of self. There are many positive results that come from the work that we do. We don't reach ALL students but we surely make a valiant effort.

So, if you fly through college like a speeding bullet do you miss out on something? Most Student Affairs practitioners would probably say yes. It's a time to try and learn new things. A time to figure out who YOU are and what you believe. A time to be that person who leads; one who contributes to community service; one who understands or attempts to understand differences among people; one who contributes to the world and not to forget - their contributions to our Gross Domestic Product :0)

I think it's important to get more from your college experience than earning degrees. There is value in knowing your coursework and there is value in knowing you've had an experience through some sort of involvement. It's important to enjoy your journey, take plenty of photos and have a ton of memories of the experience as opposed to going on a vacation, staying in and never leaving your room and coming back with a souvenir as the only proof of having had that experience. You would never spend $1000 on a vacation and do that - and I would expect a student to not do that with a $20,000 (or more) education.

College is a journey of many paths. Take time and see the different views. Take pictures. Develop connections and save room for memories. Don't let your degree be the only memory you have of the experience.

Well, now I've said all that to preach to the choir - but I feel so refreshed now that I've gotten that out of my brain.

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