Sunday, November 9, 2014

Higher Education: Your experience is your responsibility.

    I ran across a great quote the other day:

Education is what people do to you, and learning is what you do to yourself.

    What prompted this discussion is the fact that several students at my college have been talking about the possibility of transferring to another school. 

    Let me begin by saying that as a student at the 9th hardest college to get an A in a class in the country, I understand. Our semesters happen in 13 weeks and our professors cram a lot in that time frame. They expect a lot from us but they are fair. Honestly, I don't see that much of a difference between Roanoke College and Virginia Western Community College, except that our homework is graded. That's what smaller class sizes do for students, it gives them more opportunities to show what they have learned. 
   Second, every college has it's list of pros and cons. Some are easier to deal with than others. Pick your poison. One aspect I like to remind students is that you are paying the college to attend, even if you have grants and scholarships. If your college was gracious enough to give you free money, then the relationship with your college becomes more symbiotic. You employ them and they employ you. Your college offers services, it is up to you to find those resources and take advantage of them. 
   Quite a few students complain that they don't have a life. Yes, that is what college is for, learning. Yet, it is also for forming relationships with professors and students that last beyond the college years. If you are not actively engaged in what the college is offering and complaining about it, you are the problem. 
    It could be that the college is the wrong one for you. UMASS-Amherst was a bad fit when I was 18. But I also knew that Virginia Tech was not the right fit for me when I was looking to transfer from VWCC two years ago. Roanoke College fit my needs for a few reasons; 1) location, 2) close relationships with professors, and 3) research opportunities. I was concerned about being able to form friendships with students but that concern did not last too long. When it came to student-to-student relationships my first year on-campus, I realized I was the problem. My own preconceived notions were getting in the way. 
   A consistent problem that our campus is dealing with is the student-to-student interactions, more precisely, the lack of them. As a person who travels between several groups. I don't see that as an issue. I think it is very much a perceptual issue. But I do see what students think is a clique issue. Science majors hang out with other science majors. Art with art. Fraternities and sororities hang out with their own. 
   The issue is two-fold. Not only have we created a perceptual issue, we are creating a complacency issue. The attitude seems to predominate throughout the student body. Complacency is another form of apathy after it develops over time. It builds barriers rather than breaks them. So what is a student to do? 
  • Break down your own perceptions. Start talking to people that you normally would not. 
  • Encourage club/organizations to become more open.
  • Encourage your friends to be involved and active on campus. Drag them to a meeting or function. 
  I know, so what? Studies show that a college student's involvement on campus has a correlation with higher GPA rates. 


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