Acting on a leap of faith, I moved to Lake Havasu in 2013 to start a new faculty position at ASU Colleges in Lake Havasu City. Fresh out of a PhD program, I was struck with pure ecstasy and paralyzing fear as I retired my student status and assumed professorial rankings. Now, three years into my career, I reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m headed.
I’ve since left my position at ASU-Lake Havasu and I currently hold a position as an Assistant Professor at the University of Nevada. In the short time that’s passed between my final days as a student and my first few days as a tenure-track professor, I’ve experienced a tidal wave of lessons, setbacks, milestones, and life changes.
Perhaps at the most basic level, I’ve learned that you must love what you do in life and that college students are pretty awesome human beings. Most are mature enough to engage in critical thinking, bold enough to challenge conventional wisdom, and humble enough to appreciate how much there is to learn. As a start-up, student-centered campus, ASU Colleges at Lake Havasu provided me with the unique opportunity to fully engage with the people who continually give my life a sense of meaning. Keeping in line with the ‘Reflections’ theme, I will share with you a few of the campus ‘take-aways’ I have come to appreciate.
1. Give time time.
Life changes can be exciting, intimidating, and challenging. Whether you are a first year college student, a senior transfer, or a new faculty member, you will encounter experiences and emotions that are universally shared but not frequently discussed. Know that ‘it’ is never easy and everything eventually gets better. Likely, your college experience will be fantastic. Be patient.
2. Never stop learning.
Learn from achievement, learn from mistakes, learn from role models, learn from outlaws, learn from assholes. Just keep learning. And please, please understand that it’s no longer cool to be ‘too cool for school.’ Get involved in the learning process and know that intelligence is sexy. Paris Hilton and The Simple Life are so 2005.
3. Focus on the event, not the grade.
When I reflect on all of the classes and students I have taught at ASU-Lake Havasu, I realize my most enjoyable interactions were with students who paid more attention to the learning experience than the grade percentages. Such students seemed to recognize the deeper purpose of education and were engaged in the actual learning process.
Laser focus on percentage points, test scores, and grade averages is a trending pandemic on college campuses. Yes, grades are important. Yes, you need be cognizant of your academic standing. But college is about so much more than a G.P.A. Students do themselves a disservice when they fall into the habit of concentrating on percentage points and “what do I need to do to get an A?,” rather than involving themselves in actual course content. Put a pause on calculating your grades long enough to appreciate the event itself.
As an educator, I live for the moments when I can actually see the light go off in students’ eyes- that’s when I know they are excited to learn and starting to value class discussions more than class averages. Take time to recognize the inherent value of questioning, reflecting, growing, and overcoming- the rest will fall into place. Trust me, your knowledge base will take you further in life than your grade point average.
4. Take advantage of personal attention.
Privacy is hard to come by at small schools and it takes sophisticated skill to go unnoticed at ASU-Lake Havasu. While this can sometimes frustrate students, faculty, and staff, it’s important to remember that such concentrated attention ultimately means someone is invested in you. Whatever form it comes in, whether it be praise, criticism, or the harsh truth, try to recognize that someone values you enough to dedicate the time and effort necessary to improve/praise/evaluate/critique your performance. A paper dripping in red ink is not an indicator that a professor is out to get you- it means he or she wants to help you learn and succeed. Rough drafts, resubmissions, and detailed feedback are about as rare as unicorns in the professional setting, so take advantage of these resources while they are available to you.
5. Healthy friendships are everything.
The relationships you develop in college are arguably just as important as the classes themselves. Be your own person. Avoid gossip. Be kind. Know your own worth. Invest in good friendships and take time to enjoy and nurture the special bonds you develop with peers.
6. Do whatever it takes to do whatever you love.
Life comes at you fast and hard, and sometimes it feels like it may never let up. That’s what keeps it interesting. Learn to appreciate the setbacks as much as the victories. Work hard for what you want and find validation in small successes. Self-satisfaction doesn’t often come from the actual achievement; it stems from recognizing the challenges you confronted and conquered to reach your goal. Don’t deprive yourself of the journey by taking shortcuts and detours around life’s obstacles - you’re likely to just find yourself lost in the end.
7. Most importantly- stay golden, Sun Devils.
This world is yours for the taking.