Friday, December 14, 2007

Just a Joke?

I thought we were going to make it though the year without any scandalous Halloween party stories. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Last year the big story was terrorist costumes, but this year students chose to be victims. Two students at Penn State have pictures up of themselves dressed as Virgina Tech shooting victims for Halloween. Facebook groups for and against the right to be offensive are growing.

Both of these articles are about Pennsylvania institutions, but that should not be an indicator that these kinds of things are limited to any state or even region. Like the first commenter in the VT victims article, I am not really surprised by this. There have been terrorists at every Halloween party I've attended since 9/11. Before that, there were unabombers. There are always a few that are sacrilegious and I won't even get into the scantily clad. The other thing that has always been consistent is that nobody (myself included) has ever said anything to them at the party about being inappropriate. What has changed, is that the remnants of Halloween don't get thrown out like smashed pumpkins. They are not private like the left over candy stash. When those photos become public and permanent, they represent you in a whole new way than the dimly lit moments at a bonfire when everyone is hidden behind makeup and masks. I'm not saying that I approve, but Halloween use to be a free pass for mischief, and that is not the case now that there is evidence of everything that has been done.

What really bothers me about these articles is who is doing the apologizing. Why are universities asked to make public statements and apologies for student costumes? We are responsible for students in a lot of way, but how accountable are we for their poor taste? Staff are worrying about their online presence because they can't draw a definite line between when they do and they don't represent their institution, but how does that translate to students? When do students (both good and bad) start and stop representing their university?

If they are given the responsibility of representing the university, why are they not the ones apologizing? The terrorist costume from last year made a formal apology, but this year's students have reacted by creating a facebook group. (For those of you who are not members of facebook, my biased summary of his group is all of these people were offensive so I should get to be offensive to) Why not just say you are sorry? The school can't force him to, and I don't think they should, but is he against doing it himself? Is it really demanding the right to offend, or is it refusal to admit a mistake?

When I think back to all of the jokes I have told, and all of the things I have laughed at, I realize that humor really is an indicator of maturity. I know that I would regret not apologizing if I publicly offended anyone with a tasteless joke.

A Quick Congratulations

My life has been consumed with the end of the semester papers, finals, and Christmas knitting. I did want to share a quick update on the SURF proposals. Of the 14 UCA proposals, 6 were funded! The other 8 haven't been rejected yet, because some of the awards may not be accepted so their funds may be redistributed yet. There were a couple strong proposals that I expected to get funded that were not on our list, but I am really proud of our results. Congratulations everyone.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Curriki

While doing my Black Friday shopping online, I decided to buy myself a couple books about Sesame Street. One of them was out of print, but I managed to get myself a like new copy for only $12. Even though the other one is still in print, I didn't get it. To buy it new, I would have to $50, and used copies start above $30. I went interlibrary loan instead. Both the books were hard cover, neither were published with a dust jacket. Generally, I expect my out of print book purchases to be more expensive, so what happened here? The second book was published by a faculty member at Morgan State University and is recommended for "upper-level sociology, education, and mass media." It is a textbook.

Instead of releasing the rant on book costs that is inside me, I'm going to share something optimistic. I would like to introduce you to Curriki. Curriki is the "Wikipedia of Curriculum." It is a global non-profit thought up by Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems. In the article's interview, McNealy says, "why are we open-sourcing browsers and spreadsheets and operating systems, when we ought to be open-sourcing third-grade math textbooks?" So this wiki doesn't seem to be focusing on higher ed, but we have Google Reader and the entire Open Courseware movement working for us. Not only is this a fantastic idea, but it is also a global endeavor.

Curriki has a bit more oversight to contributions than Wikipedia, but don't let that intimidate you. Check it out, sign up, and collaborate with educators internationally to influence education.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Communicating in Academic Online Communities

I am a moderator for our Honors College online community known as HCOL (Honors College OnLine). Every year with the influx of freshman there is a visible learning curve on how to participate in this type of community. Some of these students have only ever talked with friends online in social places like MySpace and Facebook. Others are comfortable in the aggressive and abusive worlds like gamer forums. When these two conversational styles collide, everyone gets defensive, insults arise, feelings get hurt, and discussion dies. Sadly, some people choose to leave the community. This is a different type of interaction so it should have different rules. here are some from the mistakes I've made and my observations of the most common issues.

No Personal Attacks. It does not matter if they are off handed or direct; no one in your community deserves to be verbally stoned.

Don’t Post Upset. I know from experience that it is hard advise to take, especially when you have been directly contradicted or insulted, but I also know from mistakes that it will be worth it. This is not a battle, you do not have to defend your honor or stand your ground. When you are that emotional, your writing suffers so you are more likely to stick your foot in your mouth, say something that is completely misinterpreted, insult others, and fall into a tangent that is completely off topic. Take some time to cool off and the community will carry the discussion and the clarifications you originally wanted to may be done for you without any of the consequences.

Create Discussion. Fortunately, conversation does not exhaust physical resources. This means that you do not have to deconstruct an argument to construct your own. State your ideas without picking apart other peoples. If you message has short snippet quotes of the previous to yours and your rebuttal to their statements, then you are not asserting your beliefs, you are tearing apart others’. You do not have to point out how your opinion is in contrast. It is obvious.

Play the Believing Game. Set aside your own opinions to try on other people’s points of view. If you genuinely try to understand and value the other arguments, carrying on conversation in a productive manner should come easily.

Agree to Disagree. This is a community for sharing ideas not converting believers. One of the skills you should strive to learn is how to appreciate opinions that are different than your own.


Do Not Discuss Logical Fallacies. People are posting to share their ideas and opinions; calling them illogical is inappropriate. There is an argument there even if it is not posted in your ideal way. Discussions on how to form a logically sound argument or definitions of what is not a logically sound argument are off topic. It is disrespectful to break the semantics of a post down and ignore its meaning. If you would like to educate your peers on logic you can start a new thread, but I’ll warn you: Don’t use specific examples from other users of logical fallacies.

Be Respectful. No matter how good or thorough your post is, what you say will not be heard if it is not presented in a respectful way.

Know Your Audience. You may be part of a conversation where only 3 or 4 people are posting and it can seem like they are the people you are talking to, but remember there is always more than that. There are other students who are lurking in the thread reading everything, but not posting anything. There are faculty and staff poking about. They may not read everything, and they may not post very often, but they are there. There are on occasion visiting guests. Just because there aren’t any at the moment doesn’t mean future visitors will not look at old threads. Some of the guests that our community has already seen include experts for virtual hightables, honors administrators from different programs, and a fellowship committee. Some of these people will be forced to judge you based on your virtual presence because they will never meet you face to face. Honestly, this should be a rule for life, not just communicating online.


These aren't the stead fast laws of the internet, but it is not just limited to honors students and their discussions either. It is just my advice, but I do hope to refine and add to these recommendations as I observe and learn more.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Honors Worthy

A friend of mine, who is teaching at the Honors College I graduated from posted the following quiz in our online community just for fun. Would you enjoy an honors education?

It's a self-assessment device for prospective honors students. You score it this way:

* agree strongly - 5 pts
* agree - 4 pts
* indifferent or can't decide - 3 pts
* disagree - 2 pts
* disagree strongly - 1 pts

If you score 70 or higher you will enjoy your career in Honors. He also says "no one will score a 100 on this (at least not without multiple personalities)."


Respond to the following statements:

1. I like to read for fun.

2. I can stall on schoolwork but still make an A with a last-minute push.

3. I am goal-oriented and hate to be distracted from achieving what I've set my sights on.

4. My strongest motivations are intrinsic. Some things are worth doing for their own sake.

5. Sometimes I enjoy being alone with my thoughts.

6. Discussing ideas with other people is exciting.

7. I find myself thinking differently from those around me.

8. I am already gathering information about postgraduate education (law schools, med schools, graduate school, etc.).

9. I solve problems more quickly than most people.

10. I enjoy being with friends who are as smart as I am.

11. I can tolerate living with "loose ends" -- unanswered questions, unsolved problems.

12. I would rather take all the classes I'm interested in than graduate early.

13. I want to take classes that challenge me, even if it doesn't mean more money when I graduate.

14. I expect to meet interesting people and be exposed to new ideas in college.

15. I would like to go abroad for study or travel.

16. I enjoy doing projects or research on my own.

17. A good course is one that is an adventure in thinking and that tackles big issues. I would take it even if I weren't guaranteed an A.

18. I'm pretty sure of who I am, even if I haven't chosen a career.

19. Even though I expect to make new friends and participate in extracurricular activities, my top priority in college is learning.

20. I pay attention to current events.


It is really interesting to see this list and think about our current students and myself as an undergrad. Until recently, our honors college admitted student based solely on ACT. Good test scores do not reflect any of these interests. In fact, some of these interests will probably work against a good GPA. I know that many of the honors colleges and programs around the country continue to use GPA/ACT/SAT for their only admittance criteria. I don't fault them for it, because I realize how difficult it is to be objective and fair when trying to admit students. I was part of our honors interview process last year as we started a program deemphasizing ACT scores and I've seen the issues that can arise when trying to determine if one student is 'better' than another. On the other side of the system is the students who are planning on being judged by their GPAs and ACTs. That is how they've been told they can earn all of the things mentioned in the above list, and this does not include parent's expectations. It is a really tough situation, and I'm proud of UCA's honors college for trying to change the system.

I scored high on this test, but I spent most of my time in honors questioning whether or not I belonged there. I've been strongly considering working with honors students, because there are so many ways in which I can relate to them. I understand the concept that any grade other than an A is failing. I've dealt with the desire to find or form the perfect argument. I've struggled with the transition from conversational honors classes to general education courses where current issues are avoided. At the same time, there are still a lot of ways that I don't relate. As an undergrad I was in love with the program, but not all the people it attracted. Then it made me like an outcast, as a professional I worry it will make me feel unappreciated. Fortunately, I think the opportunity to work with people who believe in those honorsesque ideals will outweigh the mistakes students make as they work on maturing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Piece of Me

This weekend I put together a viewing of The World According to Sesame Street on campus. It was mainly an Honors College event, but I wanted it to be for anyone who was interested and more importantly the people I care about. I called some of my friends and asked them to make it a priority to be there. It wasn't until after I saw it for the second time that I realized why I want to share it so much. It is going to sound cheesy, and this is going to be more personal than I normally get for this blog, but I found myself in Sesame Workshop, and in sharing this film, I'm sharing a piece of me

I entered Public Relations as an undergraduate because I wanted to work for Disney. At the time, they were making great movies with Pixar and getting a lot of flak for the children's books they were publishing about hot topic issues like having two moms. I was inspired by the reach they had to children and I was in love with how easily a picture of Mickey Mouse could make the whole world smile. After spending a semester working there, I realized that Disney had the ability to do what I wanted but not the mission. As much as I wanted to influence children's lives, the education aspect was more important to me than the entertainment. I continued on with PR thinking I would eventually work for a local non-profit like Boys and Girls Club or maybe a Haven House. At this point I had never heard of Sesame Workshop or realized that Sesame Street was anything more than a Jim Henson children's show.

When the opportunity for me to stay at UCA and get a masters came up, I was torn about what to do. I was drawn to my current program because the topics that I was researching and interested in at the time were appropriate for older students and I believe that higher education should be a right. I care about issues in higher ed like cost, curriculum, retention, and technology. I value student services and I believe the field needs more research and support so it can become better recognized and more credible. Since starting in this field I've seen a lot of jobs I would enjoy and even more that I know I would be good at, but I have only seen a couple that make me excited the same way my imaginary role and Disney did; the same way Sesame Workshop makes me feel now.

I saw the documentary for the first time less than a year ago. Within a week I had researched Sesame Workshop, found an entry level position that I was qualified for, talked with Mike about my need to move to New York if it came though, and applied. I keep trying to be realistic and telling myself how the job search will go next semester, but I really want to be at Sesame Workshop. That film expresses a piece of me. It was a piece of me before I even saw it; I just didn't know it was there. I was looking for a way to educate and empower children through entertainment at Disney because I thought that Disney did things like Sesame Street (since they now do the Muppet stuff). I was in the wrong place. Disney is wonderful, but Sesame workshop believes, "All children deserve a chance to learn and grow; to be prepared for school; to better understand the world and each other; to think, dream and discover; to reach their highest potential." I want to work towards helping children worldwide reach their highest potential.

Finding the altruistic organization that believes everything that I couldn't articulate has given me a new mission. I know right now that someday I will work for Sesame Workshop. I tried to convince myself that it was something that I could do at any point in my life. I was telling myself that I can just wait and volunteer my time after I retire if nothing else, but I can't wait that long. I have so much to offer, and there is so much good that I could do between now and then. I'll start as soon as they'll take me.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Quality Reading

I don't often ask my readers to contribute, but I've been inspired by Kaleb Tierce. As a general rule, I think banning books is ridiculous. I do think that not all books are appropriate for all ages, but I also think that the sooner you start treating students like adults, the sooner they will start acting like them. Aside from what I generally believe about book banning, taking legal action against a teacher for their class content is outrageous. Maybe I've spent too much time in an environment that values academic freedom, but I am very upset about this.

I know how much you daily bloggers like memes so I'm starting one. Take this list of challenged books, mark the ones that you've read and at (roughly) what age. Anecdotes about how they inspired, educated, and changed you are encouraged.

The American Library Association's most challenged books of all time

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" (Maya Angelou)

"The Chocolate War" (Robert Cormier)

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (Mark Twain) I read this in high school as part of class. I loved it because it was the end of sentence diagramming and the beginning of fun English classes. I forgave my grandmother her racism after this book. I didn't encounter race problems much at all growing up, so when my grandma would say off handed slurs like they didn't matter, I didn't understand. I questioned whether or not she was a good person. This book put racial slurs in a context, and while they still weren't ok, and I still give my grandma disapproving looks, I was finally able to understand that she grew up in a different time.

"It's Perfectly Normal" (Robie Harris)

"Scary Stories" (Alvin Schwartz)

"Daddy's Roommate" (Michael Willhoite)

"Of Mice and Men" (John Steinbeck)

"Harry Potter" series (J.K. Rowling) I've bought this series for my little brother as they've been released, and I started reading them my freshman year of college after he finished the first book for the third time. My brother never really liked to read before that. We really connected over these books, and we began a new relationship as friends instead of competing siblings.

"Heather Has Two Mommies" (Leslea Newman)

"Goosebumps" series (R.L. Stine) I read a couple of these in 6th grade, but I quickly graduated to Fear Street. After about a half a dozen of those, I moved on to Stephen King and finished Cujo, Misery, and Firestarter the summer before 7th grade. I generally feel like I've gotten the genre out of my system early, but I'm still working on The Stand.

"The Catcher in the Rye" (J.D. Salinger)

"The Color Purple" (Alice Walker)

"A Wrinkle in Time" (Madeleine L'Engle)

"Earth's Children" series (Jean M. Auel) I didn't read these until college, but in my defense, I didn't discover them any earlier. They were fun, but I think they would have been a completely different experience if I had read them before The Naked Ape.

"In the Night Kitchen" (Maurice Sendak)

"The New Joy of Gay Sex" (Charles Silverstein)

"Blubber" (Judy Blume) In 4th grade I read everything Judy Blume I could get my hands on, and I honestly can't remember this book specifically or why it would be contested. If anything I read from that year in my life should be challenged it should be the book about gamma rays and marigolds that had graphic details for skinning a cat. I suppose I should go back and read Blubber to jog my memory.

"The Handmaid's Tale" (Margaret Atwood)

"The Bluest Eye" (Toni Morrison)

"The Outsiders" (S.E. Hinton) I love The Outsiders. It was also a class assignment, but I had that that teacher for several years, so I have no idea what grade it was. I don't have to tell you that this is a great coming of age book. Not only that, it is a coming of age book for the real outcasts. Who is and isn't cool is so important in Jr. High and High school yet we never talked about it. In most of the stuff I read, the uncool people had glasses or too many freckles. Even at thirteen I thought it was a joke. This book really addressed social inequity and what it meant for people my age (at the time) to be on the loosing side of that game.

"Captain Underpants" series (Dav Pilkey)

"A Light in the Attic" (Shel Silverstein) I love this book. I still read this book. I've bought this book for 4 year olds. Warn your children, I suppose I shouldn't be welcome to their birthday parties.

"Brave New World" (Aldous Huxley)

"Asking about Sex and Growing Up" (Joanna Cole)

"Cujo" (Stephen King) As I said before, I read this book in sixth grade. I'll admit, it is not the best reading for SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) because sometimes you need to just let out a good long ewww. Of all the Stephen King novels I've read, why this is the one on the list, is beyond me.

"James and the Giant Peach" (Roald Dahl) Is this another shield our children from magic challenge? Did one of the nasty aunts curse? I don't understand why it is on the list. I loved it as a kid and it sparked the couple months I spent desperately trying not to squish ant on the sidewalk. It may be the reason I still escort crickets and most spiders out of my apartment to safety instead of just squishing them. This is another banned book that I've shared with the children in my life. I bought it for a kid I use to babysit who was arachnophobia and I directed the play with my kids at Sonshine.

"The Anarchist Cookbook" (William Powell)

"Boys and Sex" (Wardell Pomeroy)

"Ordinary People" (Judith Guest)

"American Psycho" (Bret Easton Ellis)

"Athletic Shorts" (Chris Crutcher)

"The House of the Spirits" (Isabel Allende)

"Slaughterhouse Five" (Kurt Vonnegut) I haven't read this. I read Breakfast of Champions this summer and hated it. Maybe I won't swear off Vonnegut and give this one a chance.

"Lord of the Flies" (William Golding) I haven't read this one either, but I've always wanted to.

"Mommy Laid an Egg" (Babette Cole)

"Private Parts" (Howard Stern)

"Where's Waldo?" (Martin Hanford) What? Was there some Disney-esque hidden image scandal that I missed? There is no content in these books, and most inappropriate thing I ever remember finding was a fat woman in a bikini. Are parents just worried that there is something in there that they don't know about? I'm going to go look up why this book is challenged.

***Edit: I guess I didn't search hard enough. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Waldo Banning. "According to the American Library Association Where's Waldo has ranked 88 out of a 100 of the most banned and objected to books in the USA. The most common reason this book has been banned because in one picture, there are tiny cartoon breasts being wantonly flashed." As a kid I went to the lake every 4th of July so I've seen real breasts wantonly flashed. The tiny cartoon ones probably didn't phase me.

"Little Black Sambo" (Helen Bannerman)

"Girls and Sex" (Wardell Pomeroy)

"How to Eat Fried Worms" (Thomas Rockwell) This one makes me sad. I read this somewhere between 5th and 8th grade, and almost instantly read it again. I spent a year or two rereading this and Summer of the Monkeys. I loved this book because he was the new kid. Growing up I never lived in one place longer than 3 years so I really related to him trying to find his place and maintain his dignity in a new school. I know that I can do whatever I set my mind to even if what I want to do seems as silly as eating worms and catching monkeys.



Well, it looks like I've got some more books to add to my reading list. Fortunately Amelia Bedlia isn't on the list so I can stick to my current Christmas plan for my friends' kids and not worry about corrupting them.

Friday, November 02, 2007

SURF

I have been out of touch for the past month because I have been caught up in SURF. SURF, the Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship, is a state grant to fund undergraduates to do research in their area of study. I was awarded one as an undergrad for my thesis. This year I am in a grant writing class and my professor felt that my experience with this and my experience with my assistantship in the Sponsored Programs Office gave me a majority of the general information that the course was going to cover, so I was given a special term project. Instead of writing a small grant like the rest of my cohort, I've been given a coordinating role in the SURF process. Our goals this year were to increase our number of applications. We only turn in a handful each year, and we could be more competitive if we would just submit more. I started last month by organizing the interest meeting and trying to get the word out around campus.

I wanted to keep the students from getting neglected by an increase in numbers so I added two workshops to our normal process. The first was a writing workshop intended to help them with their narratives. The students weren't really ready for it. They treated it like another information meeting, but hopefully if it becomes an annual service the mentors will get wise and help their students show up ready. The second was a budgeting workshop and we invited the grants accountant to come and help the students work with their budgets. The students showed up ready for this one. I think they were finally starting to see the differences between a grant application and a scholarship application.

The first drafts were due on the 17th and I had 13 turned in. My goal was to break our record of 15, but at least it was up from last year's 8. I read through and edited all the proposals that weekend and returned them to the students on Monday. Over the next couple days a few stragglers arrived and shot my stress level up because I couldn't give them the good editing that I had wanted to. Final drafts were due to me on the 26th, and I managed the whole intake process pretty smoothly. At this point, I was holding completed applications in my hands, so my anxiety started to go down. I learned if you give students a deadline and you stick to it, they will make it happen. If you don't stick to it, they will use every spare moment you give them.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were spent trying to get the attention and time of our campuses administrators so the proposals could get signed and approved. The grants were due yesterday and we hand delivered our 14 (still didn't break that record) submissions. My life is starting to go back to normal now. The proposals are being entered in to our office's electronic system. I'll still have to cull and file them, and in a couple weeks I'll start working with our Post Award Coordinator to streamline the processing of the ones that get awarded. Thankfully, the super-stress, adrenalin-rush portion of this project is over.

I have learned a lot working in the Sponsored Programs office, but I don't think that Sponsored Programs is a department I am going to pursue after graduation. I'm not intimidated by grants. I've decided that they are not hard, they are just tedious. What I don't like about this role is that we are the unacknowledged collaborators. When you work with someone or a group on a project, you have to take into account that they have different work habits and life schedules. Unfortunately, grant writers don't seem to realize they are working with us. We can't take into account how they work because we don't know about their projects until they come to us, and they too often don't take us into account because they don't realize how large our role is. What this leads to is a lot of stress on both parties because so much is being done after the last minute. I like to be able to organize and plan my stress. I like to see it coming and either do what I can to curb it or at least accept responsibility for. I know this isn't always possible, but in my office it seems like we are presented with projects when they are at the peak of their stress levels.

What I loved about this project was getting the opportunity to read the student's proposals. They are submitting some fantastic projects. I'm disappointed that I'm going to miss out on some of their final results because I won't be at UCA any more. I would love to have the opportunity to see these students finish their projects and present nationally. Hopefully, my comments on their proposals helped them get a little more organized and little more prepared for doing research at a level a little bit beyond what is normally expected of undergraduates.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ocean's 11 or the Notorious Nine

Students at Hanover High School stole a teacher's key, and then used it to get into the school and steal copies of their upcoming finals. They are now facing criminal charges and the community is debating whether this punishment is appropriate. While they are not facing jail time, the trespassing charges could go on their permanent records because in New Hampshire 17 is considered adult.

I'm not sure how I feel about this situation. I remember feeling the pressure of grades and tests, and I didn't live down the road from Dartmouth. I can appreciate how the expectation to attend an ivy league school increases that pressure beyond anything I felt in high school. On the other hand, they pass out As in this country like Halloween candy. Sure you have to dress appropriately and learn the lingo, but overall, good grades aren't that difficult. Points are passed out for just being present. I think that most of the difficulties students have in class is because we tell them it is going to be difficult. If we would start believing in their ability to learn, so would they.

As far as prosecution goes, I think I support it. If 50 students were involved, it wasn't a spontaneous, bad idea that they had while trying to kill an afternoon. If there was damage done to the school, it needs to be fixed. Fixing requires money, and money requires documentation. Somewhere the school has to write down that there was a breaking and entering incident, and pressing charges is continuing the documentation and covering themselves. I don't want the students to go to jail, and I think a fine would be a slap on the wrist. What I don't want to see is the excuses people are making for them win out. They exist in the same society as we do so our 'notions of honesty' need to coincide.

The problem isn't that this generation doesn't think of downloading music as stealing because this generation hasn't come to an consensus about what to think of downloading music. The problem is the confession of the teacher who said he doesn't talk to his students about academic integrity. Why not? Plagiarism is a growing problem and everyone attributes it to the ease with which students can access papers online. Maybe it is because we don't treat our students like adults. Academic integrity is an adult problem facing graduate students and PhDs so we don't worry our students with it. We need to be appreciating who they are instead of building imaginary relationships with who they will be after graduating from Dartmouth.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sensational

As a freshman and sophomore, I spent very little time in my dorm room, but my tv was always on. With the exception of the semester that I had a roommate hooked on BET, CNN was always on. They said generally the same 15 minutes of news repeatedly all day long. There was also the scrolling update bar on the bottom that I could focus on if they were saying something that I had already heard. At the time it was the perfect way for me to get my news. I could pickup a story or two in between classes, or I could quickly get a full update after dinner.

After I moved off campus, it became easier to drive to campus during an NPR hourly update. When I moved back on to campus, I didn't go back to CNN. I spent a couple months trying to keep up with the news online, but I have to admit, I prefer to have someone else package it up and get it ready for me. When the hubby bought me an ipod everything became perfect again. I have several NPR shows set to automatically download and I enjoy listening to them at my leisure (often while I knit).

This past week without internet in my residence hall left me without NPR podcasts, so I sought out an old friend in CNN. It is different now. The format is generally the same, but the content is now (outrageously) sensational. I should have noticed this when I watched it in Kentucky. I remember feeling uncomfortable with it, but the major news story at the time was the trapped miners and I had convinced myself that they were just doing a poor job of trying to continue conveying the urgency of the situation (as days passed by with no news). I was making unwarranted excuses for them.

I've always been sensitive to biases in my news sources, and I've been taught that sensationalizing is a way of being biased. This was different though. People or topics weren't sensationalized. The whole presentation was just at a different level than I remember. It felt like a used car commercial not a news story. It had reached the point of insulting. Whether it was more insulting to the viewer or the subject of the story is debatable, but either way, I was disappointed.


A related anecdote that I don't have a proper transition for:
In Europe, I watched a lot of British news. While I was in Spain, Paris Hilton was going in and out of jail. One evening the newscaster began her story of Paris being released (the first time), and her co-anchor stopped her and asked, "Why are we reporting on this?" She didn't fully shrug her shoulders, but her body language became clearly unimpressed and slightly annoyed, and she answered, "Because this is all that they are talking about in the US." While we were making fun of Paris for going to jail, the rest of the world was making fun of us for caring.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Education at a Glance 2007

I didn't get much feedback or excitement from the Education Pays 2007 report, but that is not going to stop me from sharing Education at a Glance 2007(pdf). This report is released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and unlike Education Pays, this report studies education globally. There are 30 countries involved in OECD. Here are some of the facts that I found interesting:

  • "57% of 15-year-olds in OECD Countries expect to go to university, but this rate varies from as high as 95% in Korea to as low as 21% in Germany." pg5
  • Economically, "Ireland and Spain provide the most equitable access to higher education. pg6
  • "Differences in employment rates between males and females are wider among less-educated groups." pg6
  • "Indicators show that across OECD countries, learning outcomes can be increased by 22% while maintaining the current level of expenditures." pg6
  • "Expenditure on core educational services (excluding research and development activities and ancillary services) in tertiary institutions averages about $7,664 per student" pg6
  • "In 2005, over 2.7 million tertiary students were enrolled in education outside their country of citizenship, representing a 5% increase in total foreign-student intake over the previous year." pg8

Monday, September 17, 2007

Counseling Theories Guided Reflection

Assignment:
Corey identifies 14 personal characteristics of effective counselors (pp.16-17). These characteristics are important regardless of the particular counseling theory that the counselor my follow.
1. Which three (3) characteristics do you believe are especially important? Why? Explain.
2. What is one (1) characteristic, not listed, that you believe is important? Why? Explain.


From Corey’s list, the three qualities that I find especially important are Have a sincere interest in the welfare of others, Appreciate the influence of culture, and Authentic, sincere, and honest.Of these three, having a sincere interest in the welfare of others seems the most important to me. This characteristic is needed for the client, the counselor, and the relationship between the two. The client needs the counselor to have an interest in his welfare as a general reason to begin counseling. The client must trust that a (any) counselor is interested in helping before they bring their issues to a complete stranger. Like any profession where you are helping people, the practitioner benefits from this general interest. Like any other job, counseling can be taxing at times, and this genuine caring is one of the many things that can make it rewarding and fuel a counselor’s ambition in her field. Finally, the trust required to form a relationship between the counselor and client is grounded in the understanding that the counselor is interested in helping the client. A counselor without that basic desire cannot be trusted to be working in the client’s interest as opposed to her own.

Appreciating the influence of culture also struck me as a characteristic that cannot be overlooked. A simple example from the campus setting would be helping international students. When an international student comes to a counselor, it can’t be assumed that she is trying to work through the same issues as an American student. When she is dealing with some of the same issues such as stress or time management, she can’t be expected to address them or work through them in the same ways an American student would be expected to. This characteristic becomes even more intricate than understanding that an international student is a different type of homesick than an American student. Cultural differences exist within our country. Every day that this Yankee spends in the south makes it more apparent how my Catholic upbringing has influenced who I am and how I think about things. I didn’t anticipate it before I came, but moving south was moving into a different culture even though I never left the country. I think in general, I was raised with the same or similar values as my peers in the south, but I think that the emphasis on those values varied greatly.

The third quality that I find especially important is being authentic, sincere, and honest. This one is vital to building and maintaining the trust that the counseling relationship is based on. I think the reason this one stuck out to me is because of how much I would like to be characterized by it. That is not to say that I think I am inauthentic, but I don’t know that it is on the list of top characteristics that people would use to describe me. I have heard people call me cheerful, friendly, responsible, caring, trustworthy, and probably even honest, but I don’t think that anyone has ever used the words authentic or sincere. I could strive to be more authentic or more sincere, though I’m not sure how I would begin. Even if I managed to work on my sincerity, I’m not sure that I would be striking people as sincere. I am drawn to it, because it is a quality that I would like to be known for. Maybe it is just a matter of semantics. It is probable that people believe I am sincere and authentic, but they are not my most noticeable or displayed qualities, or maybe they are not words the people who describe me normally think of when describing people.

This brings me to the characteristic that is not listed that I believe should be. It has been mentioned that there are counseling theories that focus more on the actions and the body language of the client than on what it is they want to talk about. This may be an early indicator that those theories are not for me, but an Appreciation for language should be a part of this list. I don’t believe that life can be whittled down to just semantics, but I do believe that language carries more than just the meanings of the words. What I am talking about is the combination of denotation and connotation in the words that people are using to describe their issues. In counseling, I think the connotations become even more important and telling. The words people choose while talking are clues to their beliefs, values and opinions. Some of the values are long held, and some of the opinions are formed in that instant. Either way, there is so much information to be taken from what people are saying that extends beyond the simple definitions of the words they are using.

Friday, September 14, 2007

One Small Degree for Man, One Giant Perk for Mankind

My high school tried to talk me into going to college by telling me how much more money I could make with a degree. The report that proves them right has updated and released. Education Pays 2007 (pdf) emphasizes the benefits of higher education to both the individual and society. Pages 9 through 20 will show you that college graduates are still earning more money and have better benefits. Unfortunately minorities and women are still not getting paid what they deserve, but that is another topic.

What I think we should talk about more is pages 21 through 28. These are the benefits that are not associated with money. For example, people with higher education are more likely to vote, donate blood, and volunteer their time. The children of graduates are more likely to be able to count to 20 and write their name by the age of 5. They are also more likely to participate in after school activities. Not just the mathletes, sports and religious activities are more likely as well.

If the money is what you really want to focus on, things are still pretty good. College graduates have lower unemployment rates, and since their are getting paid more, they are paying more taxes. Having more successful college graduates is just smart economically. That's why we need to start investing more time, energy, and money to making degrees affordable and attainable. In 2004 graduates were taking an average of 11 years to pay off their debt, and the cost of college has done nothing but rise since then. I realize that it costs more for everyone that is contributing, but we can let the students pick up this much slack.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"It has nothing to do with homophobia."

The alumni news letter of American University printed the announcement that Ross Weil and Brett Royce have gotten married and that Ross has been named chief operating officer of the Gay Rights Brigade. Unfortunately, it is not true and was submitted to the magazine as a prank. Now the university is facing a $1.5 million lawsuit for defamation. I'll admit that the 'gay rights brigade' is pretty suspect and should have raised some warning flags, but to claim that the university was being malicious seems over the top. As an active member of my alumni association, I can sympathize with American Magazine. We are constantly seeking updates and contact information for alumni, and regularly trusting that the information we have been given is accurate. However, libel and poor fact checking are two different issues.

It seems to me that in order to call this defamation (even unintentional) you have to prove that being called homosexual can tarnish your reputation. How can you do that and at the same time claim that, "It has nothing to do with homophobia?" It may not be about the clients homophobia, but if it isn't then it is about their fear of homophobs. Somebody's homophobia has to be a factor. Reputation is a finicky thing that can't be destroyed by one person. That person needs an audience. So the question becomes, what kind of power do the alumni of American University have over Ross Weil and Brett Royce that the perception of the two of them as gay causes $1.5 million dollars in damage.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I have to start somewhere

My first assignment in Budgeting is to develop the budget for the financial aid office of the fictional Smith University. I thought it was not too daunting of an assignment. I've made budgets before and I think I generally understand the goals and purposes of budgets. Then I was told that I was not allowed to do any research. When I say I've made budgets, I am of course talking about personal budgets for myself. The only bills I had were my car payment and my cell phone. It wasn't so much a budget as it was determining how much I could spend at Barnes and Noble every month. I have no idea what expenditures a university office has, or how much those things cost. There were two results from my assignment. First, it showed my professor how much I knew. In the process, it showed me how much I didn't know.

Here it is, my first budget:
Smith University
Financial Aid Office
2008 Budget







Amount
Salaries 70% $507,500

Classified


NonClassified


Student Help





Staff Development 8% $58,000

Training


Travel





Equipment 8% $58,000

Maintenance



Software


Upgrades





Supplies 6% $43,500




Telephone 1% $7,250

Long Distance Charges


Cellular Phones





Promotion 7% $50,750

Printing


Mailing





Total

$725,000


I failed to budget for any fringe benefits for my employees. I suppose I'll have a high turnover rate when they all realize that they don't have any health insurance. I made some other mistakes too, but that is really the one I feel the worst about. Fortunately, I will turn in a revised budget after I do some research, and meet with my campus' financial aid director.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Clothes Don't Make the Man

I've already commented on my peers and how they act at work, and I can assure you that putting them in khakis and a polo shirt doesn't make them professional. Personally I find it very easy to act lady-like when I am wearing the rib crunching, spine straightening apparatus that is often required for lady-like attire. When I am in a skirt I feel more presentable, and I am more conscious of how I am carrying myself. My professional clothes act as a regular reminder of who I am representing and how I am acting. This is because I like jeans, t-shirts, sports bras, and tennis shoes. I'm not always or necessarily uncomfortable in my professional clothes, but they are different. That difference is what works as a reminder.

I don't think nice clothes work as a reminder for our people the same way they do for me. Students are now dressing like this. If I was regularly in a mini skirt, my work slacks would be extremely comfortable. I think that if I was teaching, I wouldn't mind students showing up to class in their pajamas. Of course I'd want them to be attentive, but that is something I care about no matter what they are wearing. Pajama pants with pink flying elephants on them are novel and would probably get attention when they enter the class room, but a mini skirt and a low cut top is sexual and can be distracting for the entire period. I would rather they be in pajamas and learning instead of dressed nice and hooking up. This isn't meant to be a defense of all pajama pant wearers on all campuses. If you are unshowered and half asleep, that is disrespectful. If you focus better when you are comfortable, that is fine by me.

Despite my personal willingness to let students dress casual for class, I really like Paul Quinn College's new dress code policy. Having a university wide (or even program wide in the case of my Masters program) dress code means much more than a personal pet peeve of of pajamaed students. The change in clothes isn't going to bring about a magical change in student behavior. If it is enforced, it will become a physical representation of college's values and mission. It will be an indicator of what their goals are for their students and campus visitors will be able to see what they prioritize. Eventually, it would ideally work to only attract students and staff who have similar goals and values, but it wouldn't work to 'weed out' people. I think the dress code will do a great job of showing outsiders what this campus promotes. Clothes don't make the man, but they do make first impressions.

Edit: If you are interested, here is a story about the Illinois State Marketing Department and their new Dress Code.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

For the Love of Freud...

I've noticed that every time Freud comes up in discussion some one rolls their eyes and comments on how everything with Freud is about sex and your mother. Then he is just negatively dismissed as if that is all there is to say about him. Why is it so cool to be so dismissive of Freud? I don't agree with everything he says, but I do think he deserves more credit than he seems to be getting. If I was going to fit Freud in a nutshell, I probably wouldn't mention his mother or sex. I would probably sum him up with the iceberg. I think Freud got some stuff wrong, but why the lack of respect for what he got right? Columbus didn't land in India, but nobody is holding that against him.

Psychology was not around before Freud. Psychoanalysis did not exist. He was a medical doctor who thought that our dreams could give us insight to our emotional and social problems. His concepts of unconscious and repression are now ingrained in our culture. I think that is pretty impressive. He is not the last person to say that we stop development at an early age. In my opinion if he had spent some time working with and observing children, he would have gotten even more right. Is it because of the penis envy? Is it because we just don't like people focusing on the taboo? Why do we roll our eyes at Freud?

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Fall Lineup

I am excited about this semester. This semester isn't really any more or less exciting than the other semesters of my graduate program, but I have two specific reasons why this semester merits blogging. First, quite simply, I've been trying to blog more. Second, I am expecting several assignments to be blogged from this semester, so I thought you should have a heads up.

Counseling Theories
-- I am actually a little giddy about this class. I like theory classes, and I like this professor. This is the first class I've had with him, but he did come with us to Europe so we already have a relationship. He has already read to us from Alice in Wonderland, and if you are ever interested I'll explain to you the Dodo Verdict. This is also the class I expect to be blogging assignments from. We have several guided reflections assigned throughout the semester to help us understand our opinions on psychotherapy. The final reason that I am excited is because when I was looking at graduate programs, psychology and counseling was an area that I was heavily looking into. In the end I felt I wasn't prepared for it. Public Relations has given me information that I have used repeatedly in my program, but I think it would have left me lacking in psychology. Hopefully from this class I can either set aside those regrets, or discover my calling.

Budgeting
-- I'll admit it does not actually sound like the most interesting class. There is so much that I am going to learn from it though. Top on my list is understanding the university budget. I think that I already have the basics of budgeting down, and a comfort working with numbers. What I am looking forward to is the from practice advice of my professor and our guest speakers. I can break a budget down to income and expenses, but I don't have a true understanding of how that money flows within education. I will be learning a lot in this class.

Grant Writing
-- This class is going to be a little different for me. I work in our university's Sponsored Programs Office, so I will hopefully already know most of what will be presented in the class. I am excited though, because this semester I will be switching roles. At work I search for funding opportunities and try to help proposal writers think about their idea so they can be matched up with what the funders actually want to spend money on. For class, I'll get to pretend that I am passing out the money and critically review proposals. My class project is also exciting. I am working on helping undergraduates get funding to do their research. It is a grant program that I was a part of as an undergrad so hopefully, I can encourage more than normal to apply. I also like the idea of promoting undergraduate research. Far too much of my undergraduate experience was still passive. I went to class and waited for information to be given to me. I hope that promoting undergraduate research on our campus will inspire some more active learning.

Another place that you will be seeing homework from, is my trip to Europe. We had an assignment while we were there to keep a journal. I plan on typing that up and sharing it (with pictures) here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Personality Pigeonholed

Once a year, everyone in my office takes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. We then have a counselor come in and talk to us about our results and how our personality types are played out in our work styles and how we work together. I've only taken the Myers-Briggs twice with my office, but I've probably done it more than a dozen times since I've started at UCA. I like the Myers-Briggs. I like people using it as a tool to explore themselves. I like people learning about different personality types, and I like people working to teach themselves how other people think and react differently than they do. I think it is very useful. However, I also think people can take it too much to heart.

I am simply annoyed with people looking at me and saying, "Oh, so you're an ENTJ," as if it explains everything there is to know about me. I just want to tell them, "No, I just happened to be in an ENTJ mood when I took that test." My type indicator has never come back the same. I've always been an E and the other three letters are up in the air. I'm always very balanced on the other sections. My results usually come back saying that I am 50%-50% or 52%-48%. This year my J was 55% on the online test and my P was 55% on the written test, which means within two days I changed from Judging to Perceiving. The counselor always starts by telling us that balance is the goal and that they are scaled. So you can strive to be more Sensing if you are Intuitive and just because your results say you are Intuitive doesn't mean you are strong in that. You may still have traits in the other. Once she explains that, everybody seems to forget it.

I like to make lists because I like to check things off, but I don't loose sleep about the things on my lists not being accomplished. I love to plan out my vacations in advance, but once I get there I am happy to throw those plans out the window. I like to make decisions by weighing all the factors. I consider peoples' feelings to be a factor that needs to be weighed along with all the logical ones. I like to do projects that have detailed instructions and clear goals, but it is also exciting and revitalizing to where I get to be creative and make my own goals. Even when it comes to my Extroversion versus Introversion. I'm becoming more of an introvert every time I take it. Please just understand that ENFP does not define me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I've been tagged

Priscilla from Rathbone Images tagged me and now I have to tell you 8 things that you don't know about me. Coming up with 8 things has taken me a couple days. I'm not sure if I am that open or if I just don't have anything about me that is exciting enough to be a secret, but here is what I came up with. (If you already knew this about me, then pretend it is a surprise.)

1. I don't think everyone should go to college. Of course, I have to clarify that. I've noticed that college is earning the reputation of grade 13, and I don't think that graduating high school and going directly to a 4 year institution is best for everyone. Some people will benefit more from technical training, military service (preferably not in wartime), associates degrees, or even work experience more than they will from grade 13. I do think that there are parts of a liberal arts education that will benefit everyone no matter what choices they pursue in life, but I think it is unfair that we make them wait for college to share these skills and experiences. I also think that their rising costs are becoming ridiculous.

2. I am a first generation college graduate. I know you don't know this, because I didn't know it until after I graduated. Just think of all the support I could have needed and all the campus resources I could have turned to if I had only known. I don't think that I actually faced the lack of family support that many first generation undergraduates deal with, but I now understand what it might have been like. My grandmother was so proud when I graduated. That's when she told me that I was the first in our family to finish. It wasn't until after I told her that I was starting my masters that she said, "More school?! Don't you think you need to acting like an adult and getting a job?"

3. I will dedicate part of my life to Sesame Workshop. I am passionate about Higher Education, and I have a lifetime to add what I can to it, but I also have to spend some time on this cause. I got my BA in Public Relations to work for an organization like this. Their mission is incredible and the work they are doing around the world is amazing. I want to be a part of that.

4. I think that honors students and at risk students have a lot of the same needs when starting college. I think that they have these needs for different reasons, but both groups need special attention. They need help learning how to manage their time, learning study skills, and learning how and when to ask for help. Many 4.0 students are 4.0 because they weren't challenged in high school so they don't immediately know how to handle the challenges that college offers.

5. I want to teach a class in Second Life. I've never taught a class, and I would like to do that too, but I am very excited about the opportunities that online communication and virtual communities are opening up. I think they have the potential to completely change the purpose of higher education and continue to push the sage on the stage cliche out of universities to make room for an interactive and interdisciplinary place. That and having cat people in my class seems pretty cool too.

6. I'm thinking about getting another Master's degree. I know that two masters' don't equal a PhD, but I think I want to learn some Sociology. One of my field's worst weaknesses is the lack of research. I want to prioritize that in my life, and I am thinking that studying some Sociology might be a way to pursue that. Then again, Psychology sounds awfully fun too...

7. I use to be really good at math. I'm not saying you don't know this, but being a communications undergrad I ran into a lot of situations where it was assumed that I was no good at it. Sadly, I'm not good any more because I haven't used it so I've forgotten a lot. Now when I look at an algebra or calculus problem I don't know where to begin, but I recognize that I use to. I loved proofs in high school!

8. Completely not education related: I have a favorite stained glass window. I didn't know I could have a favorite stained glass window until I actually discovered it. I grew up Catholic so I've visited many churches and awed at many windows, but this one took my breath away. It is hidden away in a corner room of a magnificent church in Aachon, Germany. If you ever find yourself wandering around Aachon, I recommend you see it.

Now for the 8 blogs I must tag. This is a selfish list of people I want to post. Some because I don't want them to be abandoned, some because they make me smile, and others just because they have me curious.
Ashgeb
Adamanthenes
BookSpaz
Knee of the Curve
Singularity
The twenty-fourth year
My little blog
Polished Rose

Added Bonus: A warm fuzzy moment

A while ago I posted about a study that placed students struggling in math in two different extra classes. One class was taught study skills and the other was taught how the brain works. This week someone googled child struggling with math and came to my blog. It makes me feel wonderful that there is a possibility that my blog might have provided interesting or useful information for a complete stranger. I'm feeling warm and fuzzy inside about it, so I wanted to share.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's Alive!

At the end of last semester I was exhausted, sleep deprived, and dealing with finals stress. I was so happy when the students left and the campus cleared out. I felt like there was a possibility of finding a moment to breathe. Today is the first day of class, and I didn't realize how much I missed having everyone here. It is so nice to have the campus alive again, and it has a special type of excitement right now. Everything is optimistic and welcoming. The freshman are excited; the upperclassmen are greeting and hugging friends they haven't seen in months. Nobody is worried about bad grades, and the dreading of tests and large assignments hasn't begun. I realize that I am able to find this so wonderful because of all the work people have put into welcome week. I wouldn't blame them if they are feeling they way I feel by the end of the semester, but I'm glad that I can enjoy today refreshed and excited. I had forgotten the little things about it being full, like how quick a walk across campus seems when there are a half a dozen acquaintances to to smile and wave at along the way. It is going to be a great day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Campus Visit: WKU

This weekend my little brother graduated from boot camp at Ft. Knox in Kentucky. My friend Cindy and drove up to watch the ceremony. Since we were driving right past Western Kentucky University we decided to stop by on the way home and visit the Honors College. I had the opportunity to meet a couple of the honors people and learn a bit about their program during a conference at UCA this summer. Unfortunately, I didn't know how long I was going to be at Ft. Knox so I couldn't really make plans with them. Despite us just dropping by, we were warmly welcomed, and given tours of both the office and the campus. It was a beautiful campus!
Here is the Honors Center. They are currently working on a lot of big changes to that little house. I will be really neat to see in a few months time.



Here are several of the honors residential halls. It was a slightly honors heavy tour, but when you have honors alums talking to an honors director, that is bound to happen.
This is the Mass Media and Technology building. I took a picture of it because it is clearly a beautiful building, but I was also excited to see mass media and technology written side by side in stone. Too often I find them to be two separate groups of people that don't talk to each other enough.


This is the Gunthrie memorial and tower. They are a beautiful focal point on campus and I believe that it is the tower that is being used in the WKU logo.

This is the huge and breathtaking student center called Downing University Center. It is just as gorgeous inside.


This colonnade is another beautiful spot on campus. If I remember correctly the colonnade was left from their old stadium. In place of where the field was, there is now the fine arts building. They are now fully prepared to have gatherings both inside and out. This colonnade is also part of the logo for the honors program there.


Here are just a couple more this campus is beautiful pictures:

It was really nice to visit another campus. UCA has spoiled me, and I owe this campus a lot, but it is the only institution that I've been at. I've been here for six years and it can easily become a whole little world of its own. It is fun to get out every so often and see what is going on elsewhere.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Growing Up is Hard to Do

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got the sense in Europe that they seem to think many of the services we offer students at the Higher Ed level are babying them. I agree with a lot of their education ideals and policies, and the students I met were incredibly mature. So, I've been wondering if I agree with that. I've come to the conclusion that I don't think offering them these services is babying them, but we don't always treat them like adults either. Sometimes this is our own fault, and other times it is out of our control. For example, something that is completely my fault is that I call them kids. I'm barely older then them, and I'm a student myself, but using the term kids keeps me from thinking of them as adults. I could be argued that because I am so close to them in age it is important that make that distinction between us. Good or bad, because I use that term I treat them differently.

Something that we have less control over would be working along with parents who refuse to treat them like adults. One of the students I advised came in with his father. His father sat down across from me at the desk which forced his son into a corner chair. He then explained to me that he was there because "my son is not yet 18." He continued to talk to me like his son wasn't in the room and we were discussing legal issues. When ever I tried to talk to the student, he wouldn't look at me and always looked to dad to answer for him. It was very hard to treat him like an adult.

Of course the difference between us and Europe is cultural. During our pre-trip, how not to be insulting in Europe meetings, we were told that if we end up talking to any children, we should treat them the same way we treat adults. Many cultures believe that the transition from child to adult can be made over night. The child just has to reach a certain age, participate in a ceremony, or have some important event happen. In America we don't go from child to adult. We go from infant to terrible twos, to toddler, to child, to adolescent, to young adult, to adulthood. Then we still get to look forward to middle aged, over the hill, and retiree. I've watched as society has embraced the term tween. I was never a tween. I may have been a preteen, but if so I didn't know it. Why do we have so many stages?

When I was in psychology* the leading theorist in cognitive development was Piaget. He presented 4 stages of development. According to his theory we begin the final stage as a preteen and we may never finish that development. The theories that I know of that have been adapted from or are related to Piaget usually have somewhere between three and five stages. Six stages wouldn't surprise me, but I don't think I have ever seen it. Since studying that I have learned about the psychological process that students may go through when faced with certain situations, but not any continual psychological development of students. I am not claiming that there is not any more brain development. What I'd like to point out is that I haven't heard of any more so I am assuming that most people haven't heard of any more. Why then, is society accepting these different stages? Are they being presented to us by psychologists, or are they being presented to us by advertisers. Did the people who develop and market Bratz realize how desperately eleven and twelve year old girls want to be thirteen and create the classification tween to market directly to them.

I'm generally in support of direct marketing and audience targeting, but we have added a slew of transitions to the growing up process. Are we making it easier or harder to grow up. I understand that if you transition from child to adult over night you could could be given a load of responsibility that you are not prepared for and the expectations can be daunting, but are baby steps making it better? Or are they just making it easier to put off accepting those responsibilities? Is it making it harder for adults to give those responsibilities? That may feed right back into my generation's work ethic. We still have stages of growing to transition through so we haven't been given responsibility. Since we haven't had responsibility, we don't care about it or know how to handle it.


*Disclaimer: I have not studied much psychology. As an undergrad I only took a general education psychology course, and as a graduate I've taken a student development course that had some psychology theories in it, but it was not a psychology based course. I think it is fair to believe that my psychology education is at or above the American average so I think it is enough to be applicable to my topic. I do welcome any additional information because I find this topic fascinating.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award


I'm far over due for posting my awardees for the Thinking Blogger Award. Why do I get to pass out this award? Well, because Jenn found me interesting enough to award my blog with it. The reason that I have not yet fufilled my duty is simple. The majority of blogs I read have been awarded (so I won't be contributing anything by awarding them) or their written by professional writers/bloggers. I don't want to award them, because it just doesn't seem right. They make a living out of making us think so it would actually be a disappointment if their blogs didn't follow through. I've spent the past 2+ months searching for blogs that I consider worthy of an award. I definitely ended up with more blogs that I read regularly, but they all already had the before mentioned issues.

Here is what I've decided to do. There is one blog that I knew I wanted to award the moment that I was privileged enough to receive my award. I will award that award, share some of the interesting blogs that I've been reading, and save my other four awards for future blogs that I discover.

And now, I award the Thinking Blogger Award to Random Pointless Ramblings. I doubt he would realize the value that I find in his blog, I find it deeper and more insightful than he would ever give it credit. This blog is a commentary on our generation. He makes his observations both as an insider and an outcast, and I find it fascinating.

Here are some other blogs that I would recommend if you haven't checked them out already:
I can't sew at all but I love A Dress a Day
Collin Vs. Blog
Rathbone Images is the blog of our wedding photographers. I love their photography so much that I keep up with their blog. They just got back from a trip to Mexico and took some fantastic photos.
Neil Gaiman's Journal
Barbara's Blog is written by Barbara Ehrenreich
The Yarn Harlot makes me laugh on a daily basis and has some of the most beautiful creations I've ever seen.

Here is more information about the Thinking Blogger Award and the rules that I am doing a horrible job of following.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Generation X Work Ethic

This article has become a flaming debate on an issue that I've been thinking about for a long time. This is the first time that I have ever looked at it in the light of a generational difference, and not just a difference between me and others. Let me start with the article, I think that Jennifer Epstein got one major thing wrong. She shouldn't have equated the use of technology with the differences in work habits. We can discuss work ethic as a generational difference, and we can discuss technology use as a generational difference, but we can't link the two of them.

Now for the things that I've been mulling over for a while now. I don't brag on myself often, but I have found it to be continually true that I have a uniquely strong and dedicated work ethic. I find it very difficult to claim because it is my work ethic. It is part of me, and it seems normal. I don't try to have a good work ethic, it is my mindset and it is difficult for me to understand people thinking about these things in a way other than I do. Before I build myself up too much, let me say that I am not all work and no play. But I do separate work and play. They each have their own time and necessity, but work does fund and fuel play.

The reason I've decide that this is a unique view, is because of how easy it is for me to be successful. I have always immensely impressed my supervisors by showing up on time, dressing appropriately, and doing my job efficiently. I couldn't figure out why they they were so impressed with me. Then one day, I listened as a co-worker explained to me how to balance out the tasks she was given with MySpace, Facebook, and text messaging so that they are not too tedious or boring. The task she was referring to took her three days to accomplish, and I could have done it with the better part of the afternoon. In my opinion, it would be much more tedious to do a mundane task sporadically for three days than nonstop for an afternoon. I also know the definition of time theft, and it would bother me to spend that much time not working when there was work to be done.

This is the situation that lead me to think about my work ethic as unusual. I started trying to pay more attention to my peers and how they are doing their work. I remembered the student in my thesis class that were up in arms about the need to turn in progress reports on their projects, the co-workers who avoided projects and tasks, and my fellow graduate students who demanded an extra day off of class. I decided that I was different.

Now, with my example, I've gone and brought technology into the conversation by mentioning MySpace, Facebook, and cellphones. I have and check my Facebook, MySpace, and Freindster accounts, I (poorly) manage two blogs, and I'm an active lurker on three online forums. I listen to podcasts, audiobooks, and music on my iPod. I have a cell phone that I carry around with me constantly, and a PDA that I use to carry around all the time until I started using Google Calendar. I don't think that technologically savvy necessitates nor leads to the difference that I'm seeing. Studies have been done on the positive effects of music in the workplace. It is not bad to have music at work, the iPod is an issue because it blocks people out. It closes the user off from the people they may have to interact with. I'll admit that it is bad customer service, and probably bad coworker relations, but it is not bad work ethic.

So If I don't think technology has anything to do with it, who do I plan on blaming? I agree with the comment posted by Dan Close that it is a maturity issue and not a generational difference. However, I am starting to think that my generation is not held to the same standard and isn't forced to maturity as soon. For that there are probably an uncountable number of causes. As far as education is concerned, I think that grade inflation plays a huge role, and the fact that being a student is no longer a full time job promotes this. I just got back from three weeks in Europe. I spent some of that time touring universities to learn about student services overseas. One of the most remarkable differences I saw happened when we would ask our hosts what kind of student services they offered and how the supported different student needs. Their response was almost always a more appropriate form of We don't do that at the university; if you baby them forever, they will never grow up.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Love it or Hate it

Since I've started my internship at the advising center, several people have asked me if I love it or hate it. I've been assured that it is a very polarized option. Now that I am in my final week, I can make the assessment, and I am definitely in the realm of love it. That said, I think that I am with in the spectrum and not on the polar end.

I know that it is not over, and I shouldn't get all nostalgic yet, but this has been a great experience. Every day I get to meet a half a dozen new students and talk with them about what they want to be when they grow up. I get to give advice both as a past student and a current professional. The best part about it, is that in each one of them I can see the excitement about getting to go to college. Some of them are overflowing, and others it is just a twinkle in the eye situation, but all of them are radiating that anxiousness and energy.

I would like to spend some time in the advising center when it is not a peak period before I make any commitments, but I think I could happily do this for the rest of my life. It is a big deal for me to say that considering all the second guessing I've been doing lately. I love meeting the students. I love hearing about their aspirations. I love talking with them about their potential when they haven't decided on their aspirations. All of that appeals to my human interaction side, and then I get to work out their schedules which appeals to my problem solving side. Each student brings along an new little puzzle for me to solve. I have to fit all of the pieces that are their classes, their work schedules, and their study patterns (or sleep patterns) together to make a first semester course load that will promote their academic success.

You must be asking why I'm reluctant to put myself all the way to the end of the love it spectrum. Part of it is probably because of the questioning that I've been doing lately. Part of it is not knowing what the rest of the semester is like. The final part is that I'm not sure it will challenge me in the way that I read about in Maslow's Self Actualization. A friend was trying to explain to me that it is a drought or flood situation. Part of the year there is seemingly nothing to do, and then pre-registration comes and you are seeing students non-stop. I think whether or not I love this job hinges on that drought period and my supervisor. If I had the freedom to fill that drought time with research and projects that inspire and motivate me, it would be incredible. If I felt like that time was spent improving education, it would be everything I could ask for. However, I see the possibility that my personal higher ed interests can not be pursued during that time. Just because there are not students here, doesn't mean that there isn't anything to do. It is that time that will determine how much I love this job.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It is all about Attitude

I've been wondering for a bit now if student services really is the place for me. There are several reasons why I've been questioning this decision. For example, discovering Sesame Workshop has reminded me why I got in to PR in the first place, and I'm pretty intent on dedicating part of my life working for that cause. Another reason is simply that I have yet to meet someone in student services and thought, "I want the job that they have."

The most worrisome thing is that so many of the people I've encountered are extremely negative. They are chipper happy people who have great experiences with students and truly believe in the value of student services. However, in the short periods of time that I've spent with the majority of people on campus and at the conference they complain about faculty, parents, other departments, and even students. I've started to worry that everybody hates their jobs, and it's been helping me create a list of things I don't want to do for the rest of my life.

Yesterday, things were different, and it left me feeling hopeful. I'm doing an internship with the Academic Advising Center here at UCA. Yesterday was my second day so I haven't learned much yet, but the atmosphere was just better than everything I've experienced. Currently we are working on summer registration for the incoming freshmen. The office is working with between 60 and 90 students a day. I expected things to be hectic, but what I have seen is really organized and I haven't been overwhelmed yet.

Even more exciting is the attitude of the advisors. At some point throughout the day each of them came out of their office and commented on how much they love their jobs to no one in particular. That is what I want. I want my everyday experiences at work to be uplifting and energizing. It has been a while since I've been excited maybe even optimistic about student services.