Words of Wisdom (for my first year grad school self)

After two years in Iowa, Student Affairs, and trying to be an adult, I think I’ve learned a few things. While I am not now nor ever perfect, I think it both responsible and important to pass on a few life lessons I’ve learned. To anyone reading that may be starting their Grad journey, these are not an ends to a means. To someone struggling to be themselves, you are your own author. To the person rolling their eyes, bye.

It is ok to not be happy. Not everything will go according to plan. You may not like a professor, a class, a work assignment. It is ok to feel like the odd one out, stressed, and hopeless. Make your journey full of dissonance. Rejoice in the small things and don’t stress the big things.

You won’t be friends with everyone. The cohort (and program) is small in comparison to the rest of the University. You won’t get along with everyone. In fact, you can go your whole 2 years being able to count the social time you’ve spent with your classmates on two hands. THAT IS OK. Your cohort is not everything and don’t buy those happy-go-lucky fantasy stories that may be sold to you.

You have to speak up and advocate for what you want. Looking back, there is so much I should have asked to do. I was both worried about speaking up and was lazy thinking opportunities would fall in my lap. You have to watch out for yourself, advocate for unique experiences, and build that resume.

Do a practicum/internship outside of the University. Your University is great, but you will learn SO much more if you do a practicum/internship. I made my practicum visits a day-long event and did not worry about time. I was able to multi task by getting off my campus, building outside networks of support, and doing some real meaning making.

Find your social and support networks outside of your program and assistantship. Per the fact you won’t be friends with everyone, you need to find a friend and support group outside of well, your graduate experience. Connect with people in the law school. Find a student org. DO SOMETHING. If you spend all your time in HESA you will quickly limit your experiences.

Dedicate time for you to get away from Iowa City. There is so many cool things in and around your state. Check out websites like onlyinyourstate.com or just google search things. That randomly “wold’s only/largest xyz”, yea go check that out. That town with a cool name, go explore.

Actually read for class. You may either roll your eyes or think duh, but you will understand that reading is essential. However, you will have a temptation to not read, skim, or pretend you read. Don’t. Take the time to invest in yourself. Read, take notes, and make real meaning with your experiences.

Try to get a week or two ahead in your assignments. I discovered that when I got ahead in my assignments, getting away for a weekend was easier. Also life happens and you never know when something will come up that will prevent you from working on your classwork for a few days. If nothing else, for sure do this in the Spring semester of year two, you will thank me when the job search happens.

Don’t stress about comps. Period.

Start saving now for the job search. I know that is so long for now, but invest in yourself and save. Plane tickets, U-hauls, baggage checks, and airport food quickly adds up.

Don’t compare your journey to others. You do you and make sure you don’t get competitive. The program will say grades don’t matter, but if they matter to you then work hard for them, just don’t get caught up that XYZ got an A and you got a B+. Also when you do fail that first writing assignment, chill, it will work out and you will get better.

Reflect. Journal. Love yourself. Repeat.

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What they don’t tell you about speaking out (and having different views)

If you are privileged enough to go to college, then hopefully you are challenged, faced with hard decisions, and exposed to new ideas. College is meant to be a place of self-realization, exploration, and enlightenment. I spent five years as an undergrad and didn’t fully realize how much college changes you until my last year. I realized pretty quickly that I had abandoned my ultra-conservative roots and picked up a more liberal, left-winged way of thinking. From the Black Lives Matter movement to DAPL, I consistently had different opinions than my loved ones (specifically on Facebook).

I am a loud and proud individual. I am privileged as hell. I suffer from white guilt but choose not to be immobilized by it. I am a God fearing Christian. I am all of these things and more, yet I find myself constantly questioning my role, what society is suppose to be, and how to make a true difference. All of these things I have learned about on the job, in the classroom, on a Saturday night three drinks deep at a bar. There is so much knowledge I have gained, questioned, and created – however they don’t tell you everything.

They don’t tell you how to respond to harsh criticism to your ideals and beliefs by your friends. They don’t tell you how awkward it will be at family events whenever you’re the “flaming liberal” who has betrayed their conservative upbringing. They don’t tell you about the tears, rage, and fear you feel (all at once) when a family member you have loved, looked up to, and have worshiped all your life tells you they don’t know who you are anymore, that you have betrayed your heritage – essentially cutting ties. They don’t tell you the pain you will go through as you change into the person your trying to become.

They don’t tell you that sometimes you will wonder why you even bother to speak out about injustices, the hypocrisy, and the hatred. They don’t tell you that your family will slowly walk away whenever you don’t sit on the same side of the political spectrum. They don’t tell you have you sit, for hours, wondering if all you have done is even worth it. There is so much they don’t tell you – so here I sit, wondering if my activism, yearning for a socially just society, and hundreds of hours of self-education is even worth it. What am I really accomplishing? Is it even worth it?

I don’t know. I am terrified. My greatest fear is being lonely. They don’t tell you about all the shit that comes with picking the high road, the road less traveled, the road not in-line with your family. I am so young, yet I feel so old. I am so privileged, yet I feel like I have lost so much. No one told me that I would be where I am at right now. The only thing I have left to do is pray, read, meditate, and reflect. I don’t know what I am meant to do in this life – what I know now is that it gets real ugly, real painful, real. This is not the guilt confession of another white ally. This is not the bickering of a privileged male. This is true hurt, true confusion, true desperation. This is so much and more – the things that did tell me when I started this journey.

Public or Private: Who pays for college?

Recently in The Daily Iowan, it was announced that the University of Iowa Student Government was able to petition the board of regents to approve a new fee for students. This fee, approx. $12.50 in value, will be charged to students to help fund the UI Counseling center. Hopefully, the new fund will allow up to 8 new counselors to be allocated. Iowa is currently one of the most understaffed in terms of counselling services. UIC is led by Barry Schreier, who is the Counseling service Director, is an amazing professional that is needed at the University and has been a catalyst for change at Iowa. While this is great and also helps to draw attention to mental health on college campuses, I argue it is also hurting an important cause: the public benefits of college.

Currently, most politicians (specifically the right but known on both sides of the isle) would argue that college is more of a private than public good. Not only is this fallacy incorrect but problematic. While UISG is doing great things, this new initiative is creating an even larger burden on students to pay for college. Currently, the student debt crises is a hot topic and will continue to be as states slash education budgets (because education is “discretionary”) and pass the burden to the students. I could spend all day telling you about students who are predispositioned to not being able to afford college and the social oppression in our society, however I will save that for another time. What I will tell you is that cost to attend college have increased and what is the easiest thing to do in order to raise funds: charge the students. State governments – and even institutions of higher education – are to blame.

College not only benefits those who obtain the degree, but also society. Through positive externalities, college attainment improvements society in numerous ways. Having a better educated work force decreases unemployment, increases spending, and strengthens the economy. However, due to the lack of funding (federal, state, and even institutions such as Iowa) I argue that education is not properly valued, is neglected, and is a missed opportunity for bettering our society. I praise UISG and their efforts to better support their constituents. I praise those who work to improve the living conditions of all those who are oppressed due to our fucked up system. However putting a band aide on a gash the size of Texas will not heal the problems we face. What needs to be done is reevaluation of education: increased paid for K-12 teachers, increased pay for student affairs professionals who are overworked, increased resources for special and developmental education, increased money for all of education. We will never make true change until we attack our problems head on and actions needs to start with education.

We serve students, not Wall Street: Why the dress code?

So here I am, post undergrad life, going to grad school and trying to survive. I am expected to not only act professional (completely understandable) AND dress professional. Why? Do students dress that way? Is this a private school with a special dress code? Do you really wanna wear that collared shirt and coat in 90 degree weather or that dress when its negative 20 degrees? If you answered No to any/all of those, then you understand what I mean.

Dean of Students. LITERALLY they are here to work for the students. If so, then why do they have to look like they are ready to make a James Bond remix? I work in a residence hall. A hall in which students live. Not a hall where we have the town ball. Now the President, I can understand. The name president literally implies “I’m going to dress the way I want people to view our school, professionally successful”.

Maybe I am just too young and not yet adjusted to this life in Higher Education yet, but seriously, why do I have to dress up? It seems we have gotten to a point in society when we are so worried about a certain image rather than meeting students where they are, making them comfortable, and just having fun. But wait: its summer, students are here (or there isn’t that many) and we get to dress down. WHAT. How does that even make since. “Ok y’all, the ones we work for aren’t here, now we can let loose, unwind, and not dress like we are on the board of trustees.” This is what I imagine is said when the summer polices take place and they send the email that I can wear jeans…IN SUMMER.

All of this and more blows my mind, hence this blog post.