Graduates, Stop Blaming Your School.

I skimmed over a link I found via my Facebook newsfeed earlier that was a letter an angry graduate wrote to his alma mater. Long story short  (from what I read anyways – like I said, I simply skimmed it), the individual is pissed off because the University sent him a fancy pamphlet asking him for donations. How dare they ask him for money, when they gave him a degree two years ago and he doesn’t have a job, even though he sends dozens of resumes out each month. At the end he calls his education “imaginary.”

Ok, so I have a lot of issues with letters and people like this. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard an argument like this, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, but I want to say my peace.

First, by no means do I believe that Universities always spend their money in the most logical or useful ways. The people who run Universities are humans, and humans make mistakes. If the letter was simply about the amount of money spent on pamphlets asking for money being too much (and there was evidence to prove that it didn’t generate more money), then ok. Understandable frustration. Rationally explain your issue (because, if your issue is that the University is irrationally spending money, then your argument better be rational), and offer a solution.

Second, Universities do not “give” degrees. Students earn them. There is a big difference in what’s being said in those sentences, and if you can’t see that then I would venture to say that perhaps you didn’t truly earn it after all.

And my largest point: If you do not have a job, it is not your University’s fault. This generation is so ridiculously set on placing blame on everyone else, and not taking ownership of their lives. An education doesn’t entitle you to a job. A degree doesn’t automatically make employers want to hire you. How many other people have the same degree as you? If there are 5 people up for a job (and let’s be real, there are going to be more than 5), and you all have the same degree, 80% of those people will not get the job. Does that mean that the degrees of those 4 people are worthless and the Universities they acquired them from are to blame? And what’s do be said about the person who got the job? Is it the University’s accomplishment? I’ve never heard of someone get a job and give all the credit to their education and the school who “gave” it to them. People are so quick to pass blame when bad things happen, and then take all of the credit when things are good.

If you don’t make the most of your college degree. If you spend your time ‘living the college dream’ and simply passing through the motions. If you submit the same resume over and over again. If you are unwilling to work hard, adapt, edit, and admit that you are not entitled, then it’s no wonder you aren’t getting hired. I wouldn’t offer you a job either.

Perhaps the issue isn’t the school, it’s you. Once you realize that, maybe you’ll earn a job.

 

**Side note: I don’t think everyone without a job is at fault for that. It’s a tough market out there, and it can take awhile to land a job. I understand it’s hard. After I earned my bachelor’s degree I got a job working part-time as a Housekeeper, and then at a retail store. Be angry at the job market. Be persistent. Be willing to compromise. But don’t blame your school. Your life is your choice, if you don’t like how things are going, you have the power to adapt.  

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Job Searching is Scary.

Duh, right? I knew it would be. I told everyone, including myself, that that I was prepared to handle it. Per usual, this was much easier said than done.

It’s hard not knowing where you’ll end up in a month. It’s especially hard for me, a self-proclaimed control freak, avid planner, and strong MBTI “J,” to deal with such a large unknown. I think about it every morning when I wake up, periodically throughout the day, and again before I go to sleep at night. I’m having dreams about applying to jobs. It’s probably not an over-exaggeration to say that the job search has taken control of my life.

That probably sounds crazy, and it probably is in some ways, but I think many grads out there are feeling the same way. This process is tough. Most applications I’ve submitted thus far have included an online application that requires you to fill out 5+ pages of information with boxes that do not allow for quick copy & paste, most tediously your entire work history (May we contact this employer? Crap – yes? It looks bad to say no, right? Does she even work there anymore?). In addition to your cover letter, resume, and references, of course.

I heard from a fellow grad today that the average person submits 27 applications. I have no idea where that number came from, or who the “average person” is – SA grads? Job searchers in general? – but regardless, that’s a lot of applications! Most don’t seem to even give you the “thanks for your interest, but no thanks” response. As much as it sucks to hear you didn’t get a job, or even an interview, I’d rather know where I stand than be in limbo.

Thank goodness for my fantastic friends and family who have been nothing but supportive and uplifting. Someone close to me reminded me that I’m lucky: I have a back-up plan. My mom and step-dad have offered to move me to their house after graduation (actually, more like insisted), where they will feed me, support me, and supply internet for me to continue my search if need be. While this isn’t ideal, and I would much prefer to support myself, I have options. I have a support network. I have a place to live. It may not be ideal, but it’s so much more than so many others have. For now, I have to be okay with that. I have to remain positive and thankful for the things I do have. That, and I have to remain persistent and actively search and apply for jobs. Something good will come from this.

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Lifelong learners + personal development. When does our ‘job’ end?

I’ve often heard people in student affairs refer to themselves as “lifelong learners.”

Is this just another buzz-word (buzz-phase?) though? Have you really stopped to think about what this means?

To me this implies that we should be constantly seeking to better ourselves and the people around us. Student affairs folk love to talk about student development, and our role in assisting our students with their journey towards building their identities. So what happens when those students complete their undergraduate degree? Are they done developing?

Most people will probably agree that development doesn’t end there. It’s a lifelong process, an ever evolving goal that you can make strides towards but should never complete. So when do we stop caring about others’ development? Do we only care about “student development?”

Students = Persons,  thus Student Development = Personal Development

Recently I realized I was being a bit of a hypocrite in how I treated the people around me. I often talk about being passionate about assisting students in their developmental process, but then I would roll my eyes at fellow graduate students for various comments or actions. If I’m really passionate about helping people develop themselves, shouldn’t that cross over to my peers and other people around me?

I have been making an effort to have more prodding conversations with the people around me about why they think, say, or do certain things. It’s definitely more time consuming, but I’ve already had some really great conversations that I’ve found myself learning a lot from as well. I am committed to lifelong learning, after-all. 😉

I don’t think I’m alone in this. Do you think this is a common problem? Is it even problematic to not transfer what would normally be viewed as “part of the job” with students to our interactions with our co-workers and friends?

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This I Believe.

There’s a really cool international organization that is based on a program done by a radio station back in the 1950s. It asks people about the belief that guides their daily lives. Check out more here: http://thisibelieve.org/

Here’s mine.

I believe in words.

I believe in the power of words and the affect they can have on people. So many kids, after being hurt by what someone said to them, are taught the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” Those words, though they come from a good place, well they lie. Words can be hurtful. Words are powerful.

But words can also be empowering. Like the saying those kids are taught.  Though perhaps inaccurate, those words stick with you. They are a reminder not to let others get you down. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” It’s a reminder of the power you have over your emotional well-being. If you run over me with a car, I’m going to be physically hurt. Once run over, I can’t stop the physical wounds. If you say something insulting, derogatory, and mean to me I will probably be hurt. But I can control how much it hurts me. I can control those wounds. Its proof that words can be used to make someone feel better, that your words matter too. For if someone else can use words to bring you down, you can use words to bring yourself and others up. We all do it. When a friend calls and needs someone to tell them it will be okay. When we walk into an interview repeating to ourselves, “you can do this.”

Words are an expression of feelings; a way to demonstrate to others what’s in your mind. They can be enlightening.  They can start movements. They can start wars. They can begin relationships, and they also end them.

They can’t do anything if you don’t let them out. I believe in speaking your words, in telling others what’s on your mind and being open to hearing what words are in others’ minds.  For if your words matter and your words can influence others, shouldn’t other people’s words matter too? Shouldn’t you be open to hearing others’ words?

I believe in the power of words. I believe in using their power wisely.

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Accreditation and accountability.

For my Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education course we read an article, or maybe it’s a chapter from a book, on accreditation (The Assessment Context: Accreditation, Accountability, and Performance. By J. Fredericks Volkwein). This sparked a discussion on trends shaping accreditation, specifically placing “student outcomes assessment at the center of the accreditation review” (p. 8).

Here are my thoughts, as I posted on our online discussion board.

I found this trend hopeful and myself wishing were more prominent. As one of the other students in my class said was required of her degree, I think it’s beneficial to require students to take a comprehensive exam in order to graduate. Unfortunately, many programs do not require this.  The article mentions that accrediting bodies are pushing institutions to “strengthen the evidence of student learning…” (p. 8) which was cited from back in 2005. Seven years have passed since then, and I think we’re still falling short of holding institutions accountable for this. Too often, and I don’t have any research to cite this on, I feel students are awarded bachelor’s degrees without having fully earned this, without the skills and knowledge necessary to obtain or successfully complete a job. Personally I think this falls significantly back on another portion of the article: emphasis on “academic achievements and graduation rates” (p. 7). The article seems to focus on the positive and optimistic side of this approach, suggesting that this will drive institutions to select higher quality faculty and students. I think this has a negative effect as well, though. The idea that grades and graduation rates are an accurate measure of success can, and often does, drive faculty and institutions to issue grades and degrees to unworthy students. Consequently, the reputations of those institutions and programs diminishes because of the students they produce.

My question is, if student outcomes assessment is at the center of accreditation reviews, why are so many students ‘earning’ a bachelors’ degrees then complaining they weren’t properly prepared for the ‘real world,’ or bragging that they were able to graduate and pass without ever studying, purchasing a text book, or that college was a breeze? Do they not have the knowledge or skills necessary, or are they simply upset they are unable to find their dream jobs?

*Note: Many of my opinions above are just that, my opinions. Thus, they are primarily based upon personal observations and not formal research studies.

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Impulsive. #OneWord2012

After reading others’ #OneWord2012 posts from Twitter, I have decided to jump on the bandwagon myself.

While it took me awhile to settle on a specific word, I knew right away what goal I had in mind. Since I harbor on word choice/meaning so much, I decided I needed something very straightforward. I’ll be more likely to hold myself to it.

Impulsive. Oh, how I am so far from this.

I’ve realized recently that I, simply put, have a control problem. I think, and rethink, over and over again until I’ve pulverized my thoughts with a blunt object. By the time I let it go – for that night – I’ve imagined every scenario and “what-if” I can think of, created plan B, C, sometimes D. I’m left overwhelmed and frustrated, with no ‘real’ solution.

I can’t plan everything. I don’t have control of a lot of things (which sucks). As much as I want to know what is going to happen, I just can’t. I need to worry less, go with the flow, be more impulsive.

Baby steps. Maybe I’ll take a trip somewhere without planning (much). Or perhaps I’ll let someone else plan it. I’ll probably need to distract myself in order for this to work, but since I’ve got so much on my plate this semester, that shouldn’t be a problem. 🙂

Point being, I can’t live my life in the future. Today is what matters. By spending all my time planning for what’s to come, I’m missing out on the here and now.

Time to add a little impulsiveness to my daily routine. 😉

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Assuming Too Much

It’s crazy how teaching others can result in teaching yourself.

Throughout the semester I’ve reiterated how important it is for my students to self-reflect. Today we talked about diversity. I lead a fallout shelter activity in which groups of students had to come to a consensus on which 12 of 20 people to save from a hypothetical World War III. I showed a picture and gave a short sentence of information about each individual. After they chose, I added another sentence of information, and asked them to complete the activity again. (Big thanks to Shirley Brozzo from NMU for sending me her version of this.)

Some of the comments overheard throughout the room were simply frightening.

“Well there’s no point in keeping the guy in the wheelchair, he can’t contribute anything. Plus he won’t be able to reproduce, and who wants to be with a guy in a wheelchair anyways?”

While discussing a girl described to be six months pregnant and a lesbian I heard, “Let’s keep her until she has the baby, then shoot her.” The student then made a comment about how being homosexual is not “right,” and another student suggested that perhaps they could “turn her straight” by that point.

At first my reaction was of almost of disgust in the students’ narrow-mindedness. I couldn’t believe their thought process. I was careful not to portray any of this, mind you, but I instantly made some assumptions about those students. We had what I think was a constructive group discussion about making assumptions about others based on such a small bit of information about them, and how as you learn more about someone your opinion almost always changes.

I checked myself and had a bit of a revelation in the middle of class, followed by some of my own self-reflection.

I myself was making assumptions about these students. I was assuming they have had the opportunity to understand views/situations other than their own. Can we blame students for not agreeing with something they have never encountered? Perhaps we can. But instead of judging them, I think we should try to educate. These students aren’t bad people, and I can’t pretend to know why they think or feel how they do. I can, however, attempt to educate and influence them to be more open-minded.

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