I Have a Creed Instead of a Mission

What is your mission?

by Clint Korver (Stanford)

There is this lovely period when you are working on a Ph.D. after you have gotten all your coursework and tests out of the way when nobody cares what you do; it is kind of an intellectual romp all over the place.

During this time I ran across The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. His second habit is to begin with the end in mind. He basically says that you should create a mission statement for yourself.

So I spent a month or two trying to create a mission statement and I failed utterly. I would think things like, “What if I created a company like Hewlett-Packard; that would be pretty cool.” But if I were on my deathbed looking at my life, would that do it for me? I could imagine ways of doing it that wouldn’t be very fulfilling. It was the same story for everything I came up with; it would depend on how it happened. Continue reading “I Have a Creed Instead of a Mission”

How I Came to Value Honesty

How did you come to value what you do?

by Beth Adubato  (Rutgers)

First of all I have wanted to go to William and Mary my whole life because Thomas Jefferson went there and we have the same birthday. That’s what I wrote about in my essay and I’m pretty sure I got in because of my essay; I’m the only one who got in from Essex County in my year. The most students apply from New York and New Jersey and more females apply than males, so it’s really hard to get into William and Mary.

When I got there I didn’t like it. But I wanted to go there my whole life so I decided to stick it out. And I wanted to major in political science and go to law school; that was the whole plan. Continue reading “How I Came to Value Honesty”

Passion – You Can’t Know You’ve Found it Until You Fail

What is your passion?

by Pamela Haag

It’s true that “passion” and “mission” get tossed around a lot these days. They sound like things that any college freshman can pick up at the salad bar.

How will you even recognize your passion when you encounter it? Perhaps unwisely, I’m going to propose a practical rather than a gauzy, ponderous answer to that question:  A passion is something that you love so much that you want to keep doing it even when you’re failing at it, you need to work hard to do it, and the doing of it occasionally is no fun at all.

That comes as close to a mission in life as I can imagine. I love writing in almost any genre or permutation, even when it’s a nightmare.

Too often, what we’re good at gets Continue reading “Passion – You Can’t Know You’ve Found it Until You Fail”

The Narrowing of the American Mind

Are we preparing students for the professional world?

By Carol Geary Schneider (AAC&U)

Envision this: You’re an employer, interviewing a candidate for an entry-level position in your unit. The applicant is very direct.

“I’m in it for the money,” she explains. “I make all my choices on the basis of how much I can expect to earn. I chose my major based on earnings reports. I applied for this particular position because you pay more than any other company in the region. Actually, I’m a bit sorry that I didn’t stop with a two-year degree, since I read in the newspaper last week that I could have made almost as much in my first job with half the time spent on college. I hate thinking about all the time I wasted.”

You have no difficulty deciding not to hire this new graduate. The job applicant who arrives talking money first, money only, lacks common sense, and career sense, too.

And yet our candid candidate did Continue reading “The Narrowing of the American Mind”

Keyword: Placement

Do we have a moral obligation to care about our students’ futures?

By Leonard Cassuto (Fordham)

We can all agree, I expect, that the practical goal of graduate education is placement of graduates. But what does “placement” mean? Academics use the word without thinking much about it.

We can learn a lot about a practice by looking closely at how we describe it. Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler, editors of the 2007 book Keywords for American Cultural Studies, say the study of such words shows “the way we think about the work we do.” Looking at the “genealogies” of keywords then, we can see not only where those words come from but also how they structure fields of inquiry, and where future thinking may go in those fields.

“Placement” is a great keyword for Continue reading “Keyword: Placement”

Why the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act Still Matters

How should higher education be funded?

by Christopher Loss (Vanderbilt)

July 2, 1862, was a busy day for President Abraham Lincoln. He dispatched several letters to far-flung military commanders. He held meetings on the war and on the status of fugitive slaves. He also signed three laws, including one banning polygamy in the territories and another creating a loyalty oath for all government officials. The final law Lincoln signed, the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, putting the federal government in charge of the development of public colleges and universities, not only turned out to be the most important of the three bills he signed but stands as an enduring legacy of his presidency.

The long-germinating land-for-education bill was the brainchild of a self-taught son of a blacksmith, Representative—and later Senator— Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont, a Republican. He believed that the Continue reading “Why the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act Still Matters”

Encourage, but Terrify

Is graduate school worth it?

by Amanda Seligman (U Wisconsin, Milwaukee)

“Professor Seligman, you scared the hell out of me!” confided “Andrew” as I gathered up my papers, course books, several sample dissertations, and my keys after the first session of my undergraduate course in history methods last January. “I still want to be a professor, but you scared the hell out of me!” he repeated, in case I missed the point the first time.

I had just completed my first-day-of-class warning exercise, which I disguise as a form of acculturation. In a room full of history majors, there are always some students who think that they want to go to graduate school and become professors. Like many of my colleagues in the humanities, I am mindful of the impossibly crowded academic job market, which leaves all too many excellent scholars underemployed as adjuncts, working in jobs unrelated to their training, and so disillusioned and embittered that they denounce higher education to all listeners.

To prevent my own students from Continue reading “Encourage, but Terrify”