From Street Gang to Ph. D. – It is Easier to Work Harder than Get Smarter.

How does a poor student become a good one?

by Mark Halfon (Nassau Community)

I graduated from high school with a 69 average, which at least was better than all my friends in my Brooklyn street gang. My high school counselor told my mother that I was just not “college material.”

He might have been right; no college wanted me as a student, and who could blame them.

As it turns out Pace College in New York let me pay for classes as long as they didn’t have to give me credit for attending thereby dragging down their rankings. They call this being a “non-matriculated” student. Despite my poor high school record, I excelled in mathematics and thought I would become an accountant. Continue reading “From Street Gang to Ph. D. – It is Easier to Work Harder than Get Smarter.”

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Advice to Freshmen, Prospective Freshmen, and Other Lost Souls

How do you get the most out of college?

by John Perry (Stanford)

College takes up four years of your life, at least.  These days it can mean big bucks for you and your parents, even if you don’t go to a pricey private school.  And it’s a lot of work. If you get it wrong, it’s not so easy to go back and start over.  So it’s no wonder that many college freshmen and prospective college freshmen are confused and anxious about how to plan their college years.  And frankly, there are a lot of seniors who look back and wish they had done things differently.

You have about 120 semester units, or 180 quarter units, to work with. I’ve got some suggestions for how to use them, based on teaching and advising college students, for almost fifty years, at Cornell, UCLA, Michigan, Stanford and the University of California, Riverside.

Let’s start with what you want to avoid.  First of all, you definitely want to avoid spending four or so years going to college and not graduating with a degree.  Continue reading “Advice to Freshmen, Prospective Freshmen, and Other Lost Souls”

Tree of Memory

What have you learned about life?

by Michael LaBossiere (Florida A&M)

Some years ago my life was at a terrible low point. My marriage was failing, my career seemed stagnant, and I was stuck in what seemed to be a sea of bleak misery. Many of my problems seemed to stem from my reluctance to do bad things and the willingness of others to prosper through misdeeds.

One morning, when things seemed to be at their lowest point, I went for a run. As I ran, I thought about my life and how I ended up in the situation I faced. In the past, I believed that a person should do what is right—even when it often seems like doing wrong has the greater reward. But, I had seen the rewards of trying to be good and those reaped by those who thought just about themselves. At that moment, I doubted the value of trying to be a good person. Continue reading “Tree of Memory”

Creative Plagiarism

Is imitation a form of flattery – or stealing?

By Paula Marantz Cohen (Drexel)

In recent years, I have come across something that I call creative plagiarism. Almost every time I teach fiction-writing, one or two students seem compelled to write a story that closely resembles a published work we’ve read. These students are not trying to perpetrate a deception, since the material they incorporate has been previously discussed by the class, usually only a week or two earlier.

I was able to shed light on what might be going on through an exercise I did with my creative-writing class. I asked them to read two short stories for discussion at our next meeting. I provided the stories in photocopy, with the authors and the dates removed.

The stories were “Mrs. Adis,” by the British writer Sheila Kaye-Smith, published inThe Century Magazine in 1922, and “Sanctuary,” by the African-American writer Nella Larsen, published in the magazine Forum in 1930. Larsen’s story, as those familiar with her biography will know, was quickly viewed as a Continue reading “Creative Plagiarism”