No Such Thing as “Backup” Education

I met with a nervous and scared student recently. This student thrives in artistic arenas. However, instead of following her gut and just majoring in theater she was double majoring in a subject in which she had no interest. You could tell that the student had zero interest in the subject through both her body language and her grades! While in my office she was crunched into a ball while talking about the second major, and her grades in the classes were quite different from her stellar marks in theater.

So why was the student torturing herself? She believed the hype. She believed that there are no jobs out there for people in the arts, and she added the second major to boost her chances of getting a job. However, what she didn’t know has tanked her grade point average. First, the second major she undertook requires a graduate degree to even begin to make more money than she could as an artist. Second, the job market for that sector isn’t strong either. Third, there are plenty of theater venues in Washington, D.C. and her time would have been better spent gaining experience than taking on coursework for which she had no zeal.

Fortunately, this student has one-year remaining of her formal undergraduate education, and she came to check-in with her advisor instead of waiting until the last minute to do a graduation review. The lessons I hope students learn from this young lady is that there really is no such thing as backup education. If you aren’t invested in what you’re learning then you simply won’t do well, and low GPAs can make life more challenging than being in the “wrong” major.

Follow your talents.

What Happens to a Dream Deferred?

An article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Ed pointed an every increasing problem in higher education.  Community colleges are asked to serve the needs of the many, but the funds are few.  Students are being steered away from four-year institutions, but are finding that at the community college level they cannot get into the courses they need to graduate on time.

I’ve never been a believer in the American Dream since it oft calls for pulling oneself up from non-existent bootstraps, and it seems that working class students are being sold a bill of goods once again. We as a nation cannot talk out of both sides of our mouths when it comes to education. Either we are going to fund our public colleges and universities so that students have a chance to improve themselves or we aren’t. It is egregious for a student to need four math courses to graduate and cannot even get into the first one because all of the sections are full .

I believe in community colleges. I’ve taught off and on at two over the past few years. The community college classroom is an interesting mix of people from a variety of backgrounds. Sometimes you may have a room full of military veterans, high school students trying to get a jump on their four-year degrees, recent high school graduates, moms, dads, and anything in between. Each person attends for his or her own reasons, but usually the reasons boil down to them trying to better themselves and their families.

I truly hope that my home state of California finds a way to make right what is happening to their once great higher education system. My father is a self-proclaimed country boy, and when he notes that something isn’t quite right he often says “that dog don’t hunt.” In the case of what our nation is telling our working-class and poor students about their educational opportunities, no dad that dog doesn’t seem to be useful at all.

3500 for 35! is Going Strong

Greetings friends,

My birthday is in just about a month, and I hope you’ll help me in supporting low income students! Since the 10th anniversary of my college graduation I have donated my birthday toward raising funds for low-income students at UNC at Chapel Hill, my alma mater. This year I’m reaching a milestone birthday, and my aim is to raise $3500 to celebrate! I’m super excited because the campaign only launched two days ago, and we’re nearly at $600.

You can read more about how I started this journey and how to contribute here. No contribution is too great or too small, so I hope you’ll consider giving!

Thanks in advance,

Shonda