Find me online!

twittergoogle plusemail

September 8, 2009

Ready for School to Start?

Today's the first day of school up here in BC. This can be either a really busy or a calm day for me, as I am in charge of sending out the course welcome messages for our online Master's program as well as making sure everything goes smoothly. In times past, it could be real headache of technical issues, bounced emails and other things that would jump up. The last few terms, however, it's been relatively quiet. Of course, I've had to deal with some problems, but they haven't been as overwhelming as they used to be. I remember one term, it felt like I had emails from almost every student with some problem they were having with their course.

I also decided this gave me an opportunity to tell you a little more about me.

For most of my high school years, I wanted to go into Computer Engineering when I went to college. I talked about it a lot, even though I never really had an affinity for computers. I think it almost became a standard meme for me, a goal that was never going to change despite me never really having much interest in the subject (though I was always good at math). I knew that engineers made very good money, and then I had talked about it so much that it just created a kind of inertia.

So when I finally went to Iowa State, I majored in Computer Engineering. I did pretty well my first semester, with the basic engineering courses as well as Chemistry and Calculus. Then, things started going downhill. My math grades plummeted with each course, Physics was horrible for me. My fourth semester (second semester, second year), things were not going well at all. My Electrical Engineering courses and Computer Engineering courses were dismal, I was failing Differential Equations, and I realized I was really not happy with what I was doing.

So I went in to talk to a counselor, and we discussed my situation and unhappiness. I laughed that one of the reasons I had always thought about engineering was the good-paying jobs you could get afterward. She pointed out to me that the only ones who get those jobs are the good ones, and if I'm not doing well in the courses, then I'm not going to be one of those people. That really brought it home to me, both why I should change and how I had been deluding myself for a long time.

As you know, I've always had a love of History, but my view of liberal arts degrees was that you couldn't do anything with them. However, I decided that I would love to get into History and then, perhaps, move on to graduate work and eventually teaching. I decided to finish out the term, doing the best I could. I dropped Differential Equations because I was going to fail that course anyway, but the rest of them I muddled through. I had a couple of engineers living on my dorm floor, and they were lifesavers. I then took an Economics course in summer school so that I was still on schedule to graduate on time.

Switching to History made my last two years of college a lot more interesting. Thankfully, all of my courses already taken were allowed to transfer into my History degree (anybody looking at my transcript without knowing my academic history must really wonder why all of my free electives are engineering courses). Thus, I immersed myself in various history courses, Spanish, and a Political Science course. I did ok, bringing my overall GPA up from 2.67 to 3.01 by the end (4-point scale).

When I moved to Chicago, I was planning on eventually going to graduate school, but I know that you should be able to read the language of the country you're studying, and you should have at least one language anyway (if, for example, you are studying English History). So I took 3 semesters of German at the College of Dupage, but by the third one, I was losing interest and realizing that I wasn't going to be going to school any time soon.

Any thought of academics was put on hold until I came up here to Vancouver and started working at the university. I decided that maybe I would go on and do my Master's degree here at UBC. Unlike the program I am administrator for, however, they required academic references. Plus, I needed to get my GPA up a little bit, so I took three courses (three references are required) and did fairly well in them. Unfortunately, the main paper-writing course that I enrolled in for my third course was canceled, and I had to then find another one, taking one on Europe from 1815-1900. I did ok in that course, but I didn't get a good reference from the instructor, and she was actually the only faculty member I had taken a course with (the other two were sessional instructors). Thus, I was turned down.

This actually turned out to be a bonus for a couple of reasons:

1) I discovered afterward that our staff tuition waiver doesn't cover graduate studies, which is a rip-off, in my opinion. Maybe the union thinks that if members get Master's degrees, they'll either leave or go into management? I don't know.

2) I also decided that, having seen academics in their native environment, with all the politics and back-biting that's involved, I'm not really sure I want to join that. I like operating on the periphery like I am now. I love the university environment, but I'm not sure I would be good actually becoming part of the whole thing.

Anyway, I very happy doing what I do, helping students further their own education. And who knows? Maybe I will get that Master's degree at some point.

Edit: I should make one minor correction to this, regarding what the counselor at Iowa State told me. I say above that she said "She pointed out to me that the only ones who get those jobs are the good ones, and if I'm not doing well in the courses, then I'm not going to be one of those people."

Actually, I really should have rephrased that, as it wasn't fair to her. What she said didn't really apply strictly to my grades in the courses. Instead, it was more those who are interested in the work, which will then be reflected in your grades and future work. If you're not passionate, or even that interested in what you do, and if the only thing you're really interested in is the money, then you're not going to be the type of engineer that would get those high-paying jobs in the first place.

What she said wasn't just grades-related. Thankfully, she'll never read this, but I still apologize to address the Karmic balance. :)


  1. I remember the day you called & told us you were changing your major to history. Our first question was what kind of job are you going to get with that. I'm glad everything worked out for you. You are where you are meant to be. We are so proud of you & what you have accomplished. All we ever want is for you to be happy.

  2. Thank you. I always appreciated your support through all of that.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.