April 7th, 2011
A generational shift is taking place in which longer forms of writing are being replaced with shorter ones, and sustained thought with shallower forms of multitasking. Those skills have value, but a growing percentage of students are arriving at college without ever having written a research paper, read a novel, or taken an essay examination. And those students do not perceive that they have missed something in their education; after all, they have top grades. In that context, the demands of professors for different kinds of work can seem bewildering and unreasonable, and students naturally gravitate to courses with more-familiar expectations. Without a carefully structured curriculum with required courses and regulation of standards across comparable courses, it’s possible to graduate without acquiring foundational skills.

A Perfect Storm in Undergraduate Education, Part 2 - Advice - The Chronicle of Higher Education (via infoneer-pulse)

  • My two cents: although I don’t feel this way, I’ve definitely seen this in a lot of my peers. I took two years off after high school before going to college, and I think the two-year gap between myself and some of the other students at school makes a huge difference. I never really attributed it to missing something in education though, since … how much of a difference can two years really make? But I suppose it can. And each high school is completely different, even if they are in the same area. For example, at my high school, 49% of the student body is involved in some kind of school-based musical group. At other local high schools, the involvement rate is between 10-15%. This just shows how different education can be, I guess…

(via thingsforteachers)

April 2nd, 2011

ATTENTION UNDERGRADUATES: FIND A MENTOR!

A little self-disclosure: it’s been a rough semester.

As much as I’m enjoying my classes (particularly the Water: Science & Society and comparative religion courses), it’s been tough managing my time and my priorities, with various jobs, classes, school work, and thesis prep… and as a result, my emotions about being so busy/overwhelmed/CRAZY-STRESSED!

I know this happens to everyone at some point, whether it’s in college or not: what am I doing with my life? I need to soak everything up and do everything I can! I need to do my absolute best or else I’m going to disappoint not only myself, but others, too!

It’s tough going through these existential crises, especially if you think you’re alone. Communicating with my adviser has been paramount in getting through these tough times. Even though periods of discontent and frustration come in waves (and unfortunately affect my progress in school), it’s my determination that taps me on the shoulder every once in a while and says gently, “Hey Sar, you need a little extra help! You can do better than this!”

It’s these times when I’ve turned to my adviser and mentor for a little extra push. Not only that, but understanding too. A little aside: One of the students in our honors’ program is what we call an “adult learner.” She has a family of her own: two sons (who I believe have finished college?), and a daughter currently studying abroad in New Zealand. This is the first semester I’ve had classes with her. One morning, before diving into the deep meaning of cosmology and cosmetics (a story for another day!), she turned to me and said, “Sara, I don’t know how you all do this! I’m taking 15 credits and I can’t ever do this much again! It’s so much work… and you all manage jobs and social life, too? I can’t imagine!”

It’s true: college students are the ULTIMATE multi-taskers (albeit the ultimate procrastinators, too). Not only are we all juggling school, work, family and social life, but we’re going through an intense shift in power: we are now in control of our lives. As liberating as it is, it’s scary, too! And this is why college can be so hard if you don’t have someone to talk to, someone who understands what you, specifically, are going through. They can help tailor your college experience to fit your needs, your strengths, and your dreams!

So… this is a long-winded way of saying: GO FIND A FRIEND IN A FACULTY MEMBER. Find someone you trust, someone who is easy to talk to, someone you respect. Ideally, the trust and respect will be mutual, and can only help foster an amazing undergraduate learning experience.

Keep questioning,
Sara

June 28th, 2010

The infamous post-college job hunt.

While I was catching up with a friend at Barnes & Noble today over a delicious iced soy Chai latte, I ran into a girl I went to high school with. We chatted about the usual: How’ve you been? What are you doing? Where are you at school again?, etc. and she clued me in to her plans for after graduation. “I have one more year left, but I’m a bio and English major and I don’t want to go to med school… or be a journalist, I don’t think. No one reads anymore, anyway. I thought about teaching, but it pays peanuts, and I just don’t know what to do!” 

I immediately jumped at the chance to share with her my plans for “real life,” and asked, “What about curriculum development?!” She was intrigued, so I shared a bit about the Earth & Space QUEST and how it sparked an interest in creating lesson plans and educational activities through technology. “I’m sure there are tons of companies that do educational outreach,” I explained, “I know Google does, and there are museums that do research and work with local educators, too.”

She then made a very interesting point: growing up, a lot of the jobs that are out there were invisible to us. As teenagers, we knew we could grow up to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, or actors, but what about the hidden jobs that satisfy our deepest desires and interests? Curriculum development is that “invisible” job for me. I never dreamed of finding a niche I fit into so well. Perhaps there’s no specific major for what I want to do, and maybe I’ll have to dig around, searching for jobs at different companies that do educational outreach, but it’s in finding that treasured, perfect-fitting job… I think that’s where lifelong joy resides!

Keep questioning & searching for the invisible,
Sara 

May 4th, 2010

House Science and Technology Committee Approves COMPETES Reauthorization

"At 6:50 PM yesterday the House Science & Technology Committee approved by a vote of 29 ‘yes’ to 8 ‘no’ votes the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. ‘It’s been a long day. You have been part of history,’ Committee Chairman Bart Gordon told his colleagues after they had spent the entire day working on this bill that now goes to the House floor." - American Institute of Physics, 2010

GO TEAM, GO!!

After spending time in D.C., the America COMPETES Act has become very near & dear to my heart. Last week, I finished a research paper on the topic for my Writing in the Social Sciences class. As students today, I think we go through our educational journeys with the mindset that homework is a bore, projects are a pain, and papers are a chore. Only just recently I’ve come to the realization that this doesn’t have to be true!

While deciding on a topic for my English paper, I thought, “What do I really want to write about?” I found my answer in my trip to D.C. and in doing a bit of research on the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act. I was eager to learn more. How could I help? How could I make this little project called the Earth QUEST really mean something? Be a part of something big? I dug up some articles on the act, and found a lot of intriguing literature on the topic. I was actually enjoying the process of discovery:

  • What is this act all about?
  • How did it start?
  • What are its biggest goals?
  • How will the government begin to help?
  • How can I help?

These were all questions I wanted to know the answer to, and I had the ability to find out… and so I did. The paper wasn’t even CLOSE to being a chore. It was fun! The research was enjoyable, finding answers to my questions was captivating, and feeling the warm, freshly-printed paper in my hands was so satisfying.

And that’s, in a nutshell, what the America COMPETES Act is all about. It’s about hands-on, student-guided, inquiry-based, FUN learning in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and science.

I’ll post some snippets from my paper when I have the time, but right now I’m off to an appointment & then work!

Keep questioning,
Sara