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When You Realize Your College is a TV Sitcom

When I was a kid there were television shows that portrayed college. They were bright, shiny, and had laugh tracks. Where I came from college was just part of growing up, it was a natural next step. So it made sense that Denise from the Cosby show went off to college after high school, it was natural that the kids from Saved by the Bell would all do the same, and thanks to a lack of cable- I watched both those shows. Being a teenage heterosexual white male meant I felt myself expert in pretty much everything, and as I watched those shows with my finely tuned critical thinking mind, I knew that what I was watching, was ridiculous.Image result for A Different World

I saw students living in dorms where professors and influential alumni frequently engaged in teaching moments punctuated by one-liners and every now and then, there would be a song and dance number that was supposed to somehow appear normal. I always chalked it up to lack of casting budget when the school’s quarterback would also star in the school play with a confused pre-med major doing everything she could to impress the dean. I knew college wasn’t really like that.Image result for saved by the bell college years

I knew this because my parents had both graduated college, so had all the parents of my friends. So I was confident in knowing that above all else college was: harder than high school, expensive, and that athletes did not go to class let alone star in plays. Those shows with all that good natured life lesson fraternizing and goofy situations, were nothing more than B level showbiz lies.

Then came last week.

I work at a small liberal arts college in Southern California and we have a live bulldog as a mascot. His doghouse is a miniature version of the school’s main administration building, complete with Greek columns and terra cotta roof tiles. He was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness and so just last week, the president of the university, the provost, and hundreds of students and administrators all gathered in the amphitheater to watch the bulldog, dressed in cap and gown, receive his diploma and be sincerely praised over the podium while everyone cheered. We graduated the dog.Image result for thurber graduates

It was surreal. It was almost as if Freddy from a Different World, the bi-racial adopter of whatever social movement was in vogue, the meddler attempting to solve a roommate’s generational family drama, the silly one, had taken it upon herself to honor the ailing symbol of our school’s pride. Except Freddy is fictional and I was there in real life.Image result for freddie different world

This alone would have just been cute, but two weeks before that was homecoming. A few hours before the big homecoming football game I sat in the memorial chapel and watched as the music majors played polka music and a crowd of students and professors danced on stage in lederhosen singing a song about study abroad in Vienna. After that number was over the president of the university did an actual song and dance to introduce an alumni, whose name is on several of our buildings, who then came up on stage and announced a fund raising campaign. It was almost as if Zack Morris had gotten Mr. Belding to participate in a half-baked scheme to save the library. Except Zack isn’t real and the tubas in that chapel definitely were.Image result for redlands forever yours

It made me question my entire upbringing.

All this time I thought those shows were not only fake but ridiculously preposterous. I thought college kids, including myself when I was one, were mostly cynical and isolated. I recall being an undergrad not knowing the name of any adult on campus who wasn’t my professor, and absolutely none of those professors knew me. I remember college being just like my teachers and parents had told me; harder than high school, expensive, and mostly about football games. Fraternities were not inclusive bands of brothers but rather exclusionary bastions of alcoholism and sexual abuse. I found my place on the rugby team but no one ever came to watch our games. We had to pitch in to buy our own uniforms and the administration was always reluctant to let us use the field. I regularly had to skip important games because my part time job had inflexible hours.

There is a useful lesson here. Almost the kind of lesson a wise old cafeteria cook would teach a disappointed freshman after failing a test. The lesson is that college can be exactly like I thought it would be, or, to my surprise, it could be exactly like TV. Both exist. Both are right, or depending on where you end up, either could be wrong. But I didn’t learn this lesson till long into adulthood and I mostly learned it by mistake. Over the years I have traveled across America and visited hundreds of college campuses. I have studied college types, different educational models, and counseled hundreds of aspiring college students. And what I tell those kids, and as often as possible try to tell their parents, is that college isn’t one thing. It can be all sorts of different things. Sometimes it is like Hillman College with singing and dancing pre-med majors, and at other times it is State University with power forwards courting the NBA. It isn’t really about which one is or isn’t real, it is more about what sort of experience you want to have. What is even more relevant is that all of these different types of experiences lead to different results depending on what kind of kid you are. These experiences vary so much, that when thinking about college it makes sense to ignore the question, or even more, ignore the advice of others, regarding what college is like, but rather consider more the qualities and needs of the kid in question.

But so many of the people I know don’t do this. Not only don’t they do this, but they ignore me, and others like me, when we give advice about what college can be (see what I did there?). Most people prefer their personal anecdotes and experiences and then pass those along to the next generation as universal truth. We all think we know best because we were there. And sure, you were in fact there, but you weren’t everywhere. You can surely say how it was for you, at that place, in that time, but that is all you can say. Because everywhere, and everyone, are not all the same. And because not every person is the same, if we want each person to grow and thrive, we should start by realizing that maybe not everyone should go to the same place we did or do the same things. Maybe, if we didn’t like our college experience, it shouldn’t cause us to condemn the whole concept of college, but rather it is possible we weren’t well matched to our institution. Or, then again if we loved college, we may need to consider the idea that our school might not be best for everyone else.

I think most of us get this, but only when it comes to rooting interests or US News & World Report rankings. When thinking of colleges outside our own experience we think good better best, as in who is ranked higher or who won which bowl. That isn’t what I mean.

What I mean is that at some places you are 1 of 100,000 other fans in the Rose Bowl, and at others you do song and dance numbers with the provost.

I still can’t believe we graduated the dog.

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It Is Worth the Trouble: depending on how you measure it.

The first time I graduated I didn’t “walk”. I took my last final on a Friday and on Saturday morning I moved 5 states away. I stayed away for seven years. I was jaded and disgruntled and just wanted to get out and to be done. I wasn’t sure my degree was “worth it”.fromthestage

The second time I graduated I sat through two ceremonies, walked in one,  and I milked everything I could out of all of it. I wanted more. I loved it.IMG_9247

Now I have the opportunity to sit up on stage at graduation ceremonies every year and it gives me a moment to pause and reflect at the differences between my first and second ceremonies. Or rather, compare my attitude relating to the two educational experiences.

What I have learned from this reflection is at the heart of why I do my job.IMG_4375

What I learned is that I did it all wrong the first time. The worst part is that I didn’t know I had done it wrong till I did it the second time.

I had done it all wrong and because of that I didn’t think it had been worth it. I worked hard, and scrimped and scratched to pay for it, and I needed a degree to get a job, and sure I learned some stuff in there and I definitely needed a job, but in the end I felt spent and it was almost as if any real lessons I had learned were in spite of, rather than because of, school.IMG_7487

Then, thinking I was only pursuing career advancement in a trade school sort of way, I went to school again and it was as if fireworks, a choir of angels, and all the possible light bulbs surrounded me in glittering explosions of song and light.

I was risking more, spending ten times more, and it was the most wonderfully indulgent experience imaginable.

And because of it, I am happier every day after, than I was any day before.procession

That happiness is how I measure worth.

Education is worth it… when you do it right.

School is worth it.

Worth, all of it.

That is why I love my job. There are things about my job that are hard, that are drudgery, that frustrate me to no end, but I love it because I can feign some wisdom from what I have learned along the way and I can help others know how to do it right the first time.

You can do it right the first time.

Happy graduation season everyone!

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Who Left This Guy in Charge?

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Occasionally I am the one who decides some of the things that happen on campus.palmsandarts

And on those occasions… I bring in a food truck.IMG_7623

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Pow Wow in Redlands

You don’t get events like this one back east. At least not very often.IMG_3642

 

We arrived at a point in the program when nothing was going on. Lunch slash break I suppose. Folks with long braids, bells on their legs, and t- shirts lounged around on lawn chairs. We wandered through booths selling beads, feathers, and kitsch.

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I’m not sure if anyone at the pow wow was Navajo or not, but my little one had never experienced a Navajo taco. She has now. I’m pretty sure my middle school had no Navajos but we had Navajo tacos on the cafeteria menu at least once a week. I’m paying it forward.

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I like being in a place like this. Well, maybe not a place exactly- an event. An event where the sounds and sights aren’t the same as every other day or place.

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If you spend enough time going places and doing things you don’t normally go and do, then normal sort of shifts. If normality is displaced life gets interesting. I like interesting.

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When the dancing started, when the grand entrance began, it was other worldly. The sounds, the movements, and the colors surrounded everything. There was a pounding constant beat driving below with a high pitched chanting up above and in the middle was colorful swirling motion.

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This isn’t history but it is tradition. It was very much a now and not a then event. There is so much of native life that is dead, that is then, that it was nice to be in the middle of something that was now. It was alive. It is good to see things stay alive.

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Raising Funds Once Again: for a good cause of course

We got our tickets second hand, but when those hands are clean and the food is good, who cares how you get the tickets?overview

My employer supports good causes, including employing ne’er-do-wells such as myself, but in this case said support entailed attending a charity auction. I’m beginning to like these types of events. I say beginning not because I’m learning or adjusting, but rather because I’ve finally begun being invited.IMG_1363-XL

They called the event “Chocolate Fantasy”. I called it “Black Tie and Bacon”. My name was better. Not only was my title alliterative but it had bacon. Everything, including the chocolate, is better with bacon.how funny

I know, I know… I’m hilarious.

Despite my irreverence, my tongue in cheekiness, my tendency to joke before I appreciate, this event did deserve actual appreciation. All proceeds went to give scholarships to young people at the Boys & Girls Club. The local sampling of desserts and appetizers was top notch, and the band, the band was good.trumpet

She made me dance. She did not have to make me eat. And I did eat.cakes

Chocolate covered bacon, raspberry truffles, fondue, and free champagne. I of course do not drink champagne, but there at the bar, at this adults only event, were bottles and bottles of Martinelli’s. Those bottles were like a carbonated token that I was indeed welcome here.glasses

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Califriday… in November

Head down, knees bent.
Keep your head down and swing all the way through.
Ping!
Uhhh, yeah… you didn’t keep your head down.
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I do not own a set of clubs and my game reflects it.
I am OK with this, which means that most real golfers are not OK if forced to golf with me. This group was extra forgiving. It is hard not to be forgiving when it is 79 degrees in November.

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The tournament was a scramble. Everyone tees off, then you all play from where the best drive lands.
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Mine was rarely the drive we played, no matter what tool we used to hit the ball.
But golf is rarely about hitting that little ball.
It is more about spending time outside with people you like.
Or would like to like.
Or are getting to like.

Its called business.
That would make this work.

I like to work.
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So I wonder what the weather is like in Philly?

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University of Redlands: Och Tamale

Back in 1906 there was a big earthquake in San Francisco. It caused enough damage that those in charge of California College in SF decided to pack up shop and start another school down south, in Southern California.

They set their sights on the orange groves of Redlands.
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Today the school is still somewhat small, less than 5,000 students overall, and it is for the most part focused on a liberal arts education.

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They are the bulldogs. They also have a bulldog. A real one. He lives on campus and students can take him for walks. And they do.
They also have a school song unlike any other… and they sing it.

Och Tamale

Gazolly Gazump

Deyump Deyatty Yahoo

Ink Damink

Deyatty Gazink

Deyump Deray Yahoo

Wing Wang

Tricky Trackey

Poo Foo

Joozy Woozy

Skizzle Wazzle

Wang Tang

Orky Porky Dominorky

Redlands!

Rah rah Redlands!

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The song is the result of an imaginative undergrad back in the 20’s. The school does not lack imagination.
Part of that imagination included starting a business school for people who already have jobs, which all sorts of schools have now, but they started it way back before the internet existed. It isn’t just a business school for grown ups, it is also a business school that focuses on critical thinking… cuz they are a liberal arts school… thats what they do.

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Rah Rah Redlands!

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