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”

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Don’t Do Anything that Can Kill You

How do you even decide to go to college or not? and,

Is the admissions process a good one?

By Scott White (Montclair High School)

Does it really matter in life where one goes to college? Yes and no. Late adolescence is an important time in one’s life, a time to try out new personalities and ways of thinking.  Psychologist Erik Erikson called it a psycho-social moratorium, a time when you try out for who you want to be without the same consequence you might see later in life.  As long as students follow my axiom:  “Don’t do anything that can kill you,” there is little one can do that would have permanent consequences.  Continue reading “Don’t Do Anything that Can Kill You”

Designers vs. Conversers

What have you learned about people?

by Dennis Shasha (NYU)

When I entered college, I thought the intellectual world was divided into science people and humanities people. I loved math and physics, so put myself firmly in the former camp.

Funnily though, I found that I had much more in common with painters and sculptors than say with political scientists or economists.

I finally married an artist in fact.

It took me to my first job — designing circuits for computer processors — to realize why. Continue reading “Designers vs. Conversers”

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”

Bring Back Meals Together NOW.

How can students and faculty improve their interaction?

by Gwendolyn Toth (Montclair State)

When I attended college in the 1970s, it was clear that we were there to learn from our brilliant professors. However, as I look back with 35 years hindsight, I realize that learning occurred not only in the classroom, the laboratory, the rehearsal hall, the dorm rooms, the rec rooms, and late-night bars (we could drink in those days).

We also learned in the dining hall.

Over food we met new friends with new points of view. Discussions started in late-morning classes continued at lunch with both students and teachers.

We all ate together every day.

Fast forward to 2012. Continue reading “Bring Back Meals Together NOW.”

Talk Onto the Page

How can you write better?

by: Peter Elbow (UMass)

I got interested in writing because in my first try for a PhD at Harvard, I gradually couldn’t write.  I had to quit before I was kicked out and felt like a complete failure because I had so much invested in my image of myself as a good student.  When I went back to grad school five years later (at Brandeis) I gradually learned what became my philosophy of writing:  I can’t write right, but I can write wrong;  and then I can make it right.  It’s too hard to take a mess in the head and turn it into coherence on paper;  but it’s not so hard to take a mess on paper and turn it into coherence on paper.

My current interests (reflected in my new book) concern the wisdom of the tongue.  Starting around age four, we all internalize a native language.  No one’s native language is Continue reading “Talk Onto the Page”

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”