Final Portfolio

A1: What I Expect from College

This essay was more of a mini journey of self-reflection for me. I’m very good at narrative and creative writing, so the structural aspects of the essay were easy, almost second nature by now. The actual content is what I sort of struggled with. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to lay all this out on the page – it made me feel vulnerable to admit that I didn’t have it all together, after soaring so easily through high school. However, once it was out on the page, I felt better. I remembered why I was in school in the first place. I remembered the excitement and the thirst for knowledge and experience that I craved during the first couple of weeks. In the final review, I experienced those feelings all over again, which was very helpful during exam week.

Final Draft What I Expect from College

A2: The Effect of Class on Higher Education (video)

This video project was a lot of work in terms of actually numbering everything out. We had to do a surprising amount of research that I don’t think any of us were expecting when we started. We also ran into trouble with our video editing software – it refused to allow us to email the file back and forth, even though we had all downloaded the software to our computers! But we managed to get time to meet up and work on it on the same laptop all together, and I think it came out very nicely.

A3: Being a Member of the Family

This essay was more difficult for me because of my subject content. I tried to describe too many things all at once, and I spent too much time on a point that wasn’t the main focal point of the entire essay. I also had no idea how to write or conduct an interview, something I should have asked for more help with before starting. When I reviewed for the final submission, I did my best to reword, rework, and restructure everything so that my point is clear.

Final Draft Being a Member of a Family

A4: The Small Room Isn’t Quite So Small

For the edits on this essay, I added more of myself into the review. After spending my high school years being told that my opinion is fact, I had to make a conscious effort to specify that my thoughts on the book were just that: my thoughts, not the law.

Final Draft Small Room Book Review

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Small Room Isn’t Quite So Small

May Sarton’s The Small Room is a campus novel depicting life at an all girls’ college in upstate New York. Rather than being a typical coming of age story, with drama, self-discovery, and plenty of teenage angst – a book from the point of view of the college girls – this book is about one of the professors, Lucy Winter. Lucy has only just graduated, so she is not so far off from being a college girl herself, but still her story is told far differently than one of a student, such as other campus novels like The Catcher in the Rye and the Harry Potter series. This is because the life of a student and the life of a professor are two very different worlds.

Only a small portion of the novel takes place in Lucy’s actual classroom. This is hardly surprising, as Harry Potter and his friends are not in class that often either. When Lucy is teaching, the reader is not simply listening in on her lecture. Instead, we are given an inside view as to what is going through Lucy’s mind while she’s teaching. Lucy is nervous, and unsure of exactly what this whole teaching business is about. She feels it is important for professors to remain professional, and keep the personal lives of both professor and student private. Yet it is only when she blends the two that she gets a real, lively response from her students. This issue becomes one of the main themes of the novel.

One of the ways the novel discusses the theme of a personal relationship between students and professors is through Jane Seaman. Jane is considered the star pupil of the school, and is mentored by Carryl Cope, a respected professor. Unfortunately, Jane is caught plagiarizing essays, and when confronted, admitted that it was the stress and pressure of the expectations placed on her shoulders that caused her to cheat. Jane tried to communicate this to Carryl, but Carryl believes that teachers should be professional in all dealings with their students. The debate lies in the thinking that had Carryl simply listened to Jane, and connected on a personal level, then Jane would not have felt pushed to stealing someone else’s work.

When the main character of a campus novel is a student, often the most dynamic character change occurs in that student, as something about school shapes their personality. In this case, Lucy Winter, a professor, is the main character, so it is interesting to see such a development occur in a character whose profession is often seen as an authority figure. Children especially see authority figures as unchangeable, immovable in their beliefs and morals. Lucy, however, goes from believing in professionalism to comforting young Pippa after the death of Pippa’s father. Lucy learns that things are not always clear-cut, as Carryl thought she was doing the right thing by not allowing a personal relationship to develop between her and Jane, where in reality, she was causing more damage.

Sarton does an excellent job of getting her point across in the novel. The debate as to whether a teacher can be their student’s therapist, and what can happen when that connection does not occur. The book can get slow at times; it certainly is not a book that is designed to entertain. Rather, it is a book written to educate, and it does that very well. It is very realistic in its approach, for Jane does not do anything overly dramatic when she is caught, nor is she treated very much differently than one would expect the star pupil to be treated. The professors, and their personal lives, speak very much to the time period they are written in, if they do drink and socialize on campus a little excessively. The ending follows suit to this idea of realism, for while there is no exciting plot twist and devastating tragedy, there is no great big happy ending, either. Life at Appleton College simply goes on, in the day in, day out way of schools everywhere. This sort of ending speaks to the common person. We may not be extraordinary, but we get by, and more often than not we find we are enjoying ourselves. We suffer tragedy and great love, and when that eventually comes to an end, we pick up the pieces and move on to the next day, just as Lucy Winter and the rest of Appleton do.

Small Room Book Review

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Being a Member of the Family

A majority of the American student body consider their university as a place to gain the knowledge, experience, and skills required of them in the workforce, and then, in this economy, move on as quickly as possible to get a well-paying job. Not many would think of it as a place to get that well-paying job, or even consider their professors and administrators to be a sort of family. However, it has happened, right here in our own neighborhood of Jersey City.

Paul Robertson was finishing his graduate degree in music when the head of the music department approached him with a job offer. The position of music clerk, a part-time office job, was opening up, and they wanted someone who understood their systems and way of doing things. Robertson was a little surprised at the offer; he had not been actively looking for a job at his own university, but the faculty “watched the [students] who make an impression.” Since his “great dream” was to perform music, not necessarily teach it, Robertson took the job as a means of income while he made connections in the performing world. A few months later, another job opening was available, and Robertson was recommended, and then another, and soon, he found himself a Production Services Specialist, and a member of the Music, Dance and Theatre administration.

How often does something like this happen? Robertson should consider himself lucky, as not many universities look to hire their own graduates. As of 2011, only 5.7% of Harvard’s graduating class was employed in a school-funded job (Zhang), and other Ivy League schools have statistics that are not much better. It makes logical sense for a school to hire its own alumni. Robertson was chosen for the number one reason people argue in favor of this hiring technique: he already knew the system, the environment, how the music department worked. There was no need for him to go through a training process; he did not have to make a name for himself among the faculty. They already knew him, for better or for worse.

However, a university hiring its own graduates can be seen as an issue. Robertson was offered his job also because the faculty knew he was a hard worker; he had made an impression, and it was a good one. When the personal aspect is taken out of the equation, it is easy to see the situation from the point of view of a critic, that the university hired its own people “to make the statistics of employment look good”, or they run the risk of “academic inbreeding” (Zhang). These things are true. It is very easy to simply pick names out of a hat of graduates to fill open positions, rather than conduct time-consuming interviews and read pages of résumés and applications. It is easy for older faculty members to convince younger, newer teachers that their way of thinking, teaching, and researching is correct if the young person was once a student of theirs, which could lead to blind eyes being turned towards abuses of the system.

“Being here [at NJCU], even as a student, I felt the music department was a kind of family,” Robertson said. “I was excited to be a member of that family, and even more so when they asked me to continue on after I graduated. They pursued me, and I am forever grateful for it.”

Despite the issues surrounding whether or not a university should hire its own graduates, it must be said from the graduate’s point of view, it is a great situation. Not only are they getting a job, most likely in their chosen field, but it is a job with people they already know and respect, and can continue to learn from. These are people that have already established themselves in the graduate’s life, and with a friendly, comforting atmosphere found at NJCU, it is no wonder that Robertson refers to the music department as family. They have always supported him in every venture that he made, whether at the university or beyond. A performer first, Robertson plays percussion for dozens of different venues: from community and regional theatres to high schools and opera houses, “basically every opportunity from Teaneck to Red Bank”, as well as several organizations in Manhattan. Because of this, it is often difficult for him to work the standard 9 am to 5 pm office hours, but “everyone here understands. They’re performers, too.” Robertson’s supervisor is very lenient when it comes to this crazy schedule, even “pushing [him] to take advantage of opportunities [he] was going to pass up.” It once again instills the idea of a family into this particular workplace: fellow faculty members pushing Robertson to be the best he can be, and willing to cover for him in the office so he can do so.

How important is the feeling of family in the workforce? Aside from the obvious benefits reaped by musicians, or anyone in a field where a career outside of teaching or office work is ideal, the fact that Robertson is excited to come to work every morning, “no matter how late that show went the night before” speaks volumes in it of itself. In addition, a study about the top reasons people quit their jobs in 2013 are “ 1) They don’t like their boss (31%), 2) A lack of empowerment (31%), 3) Internal politics (35%) and 4) Lack of recognition (43%)” (Hall). Certainly, these same kinds of issues can be seen in the nuclear family, but family provides that something extra that can more often than not overcome these issues: love. It might seem odd to have the term associated with coworkers, so for the workplace family, but whatever terminology is used, that level of caring for one another, affection, and general pleasantry is common between family members, but scarce in the workplace. In truth, who would not want to go into work knowing they were surrounded by people who genuinely care about them, versus people who did not?

Perhaps this feeling of family is fostered by the fact that Robertson works at a university. One of the biggest pulls colleges have in recruitment is that they want prospective students to feel like they belong at the campus. They go to great lengths to make sure people feel welcome and accepted at their schools, in order to increase tuition rates. Robertson was a student before he became a faculty member, where he “first felt that sense of a familial bond” towards the members of the music department. It is easily understandable; even in my own first semester at NJCU, I felt the same of the teachers and staff, Robertson included.

However, Robertson is not just a teacher. In fact, when he started his undergraduate degree at the University of Delaware, teaching was one of the furthest things from his mind; he wanted to perform. Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Music and Percussion, though, he realized “just how difficult it is to make a living as a bum with a pair of drumsticks” and started a Master of Music degree at NJCU to both help him in the performing world and to allow him to be an adjunct professor to supplement his income. While he was employed as the music office clerk, Robertson was also teaching the percussion methods course, which he still teaches today. “I sort of see it as an overtime kind of thing,” he said, “I love being an adjunct because it’s so much more flexible than teaching in public schools. But it’s definitely not something you can live off of.”

For his teaching work, Robertson is paid per credit, and a check comes in the mail three times a semester every time his course is run. For his administration work, though, Robertson makes a salary between $60,000 and $80,000, in addition to paid vacation days, sick days, and full medical benefits. Most of his performing gigs pay cash or check. The interesting thing about it is that, in order to have the administrative position, Robertson only needed a bachelor’s degree. There are not many jobs out there that pay an upper middle class salary and only require a bachelor’s degree. A psychologist, a radiation therapist, and a civil engineer also make salaries in this bracket, and in order to make these salaries, a master’s degree is required (Zupeck). It is an interesting phenomenon that could take pages to describe, but Robertson just considers himself “incredibly lucky and blessed” to have gained this particular employment.

Any member of a family is automatically surrounded by people who care about them and want to see them become the best person they can possibly be. When these benefits are added to the workplace environment, it makes perfect sense that it creates happy, excited employees. In the education field, it creates teachers that are passionate about passing on this sense of family to their students.

Being a Member of a Family

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Effect of Class on Higher Education

Here is a Youtube link to our group project about the effect of class on higher education.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What I Expect from College

I groaned inwardly as the guidance counselor handed me yet another stack of papers. The problem with attending a small school was that everyone in the building knew your name; the counselor had seen me walking past his office and called me in. I had sat for the past twenty minutes listening to him talk and talk and talk. Unfortunately for me, my last name placed me in the care of the school’s oldest guidance counselor, who was best described by his greatest claim to fame: the fact that he dressed as Santa Clause for the annual Christmas concert every year. He was hard of hearing, so all I had to do was smile and nod.

The late bell rang, and I escaped. I tossed the stack of papers in the first recycling bin I passed. College. Everyone wanted to prepare me for college, and apparently, college requires filling out an entire forest’s worth of paperwork. I already knew I would go to a university, and I did not need the Santa Clause Counselor to convince me. The only issue I had was that I had no idea what I would study.

“Make sure it’s something you like,” was the answer I always received when I said I was unsure. “Remember, if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Easier said than done. I was not amazingly gifted in any one subject like a mathematician or a scientist. I was not a well-known prodigy in any field, destined to a single career path from childhood. I had too many things that I liked to do. I liked to read and write, and was good at English. I was concertmaster of my school’s orchestra. I volunteered at the local library, and had advertised there as a babysitter. I worked weekends with mentally disabled kids and young adults. There were too many things on my plate for me to condense into a few neat, concise words that I could imagine printed on a college diploma.

But then I took my first college campus tour, and I knew. I stood in the hall of Montclair University’s John J. Cali School of Music building, and I could practically feel the music enter my bones. The practice rooms may have been soundproofed, but faint echoes of Bach concertos and Mozart sonatas bounced off the arching ceiling, and drifted down to rattle my breastbone, the way the low notes of my violin did. I was fixated. I could hardly move from my spot when the rest of the group wandered away, more interested in seeing the dormitories. In that moment, I knew I could not walk into any sort of higher learning institution without music ringing in my ears.

It was with this adrenaline-pumping eagerness that I entered my first college class. It was not at Montclair State University, but rather New Jersey City University, a campus quite different from the soaring ceilings in the Cali School of Music. If anything, I loved it at NJCU even more because of its lack of modernized architecture; with no soundproofing in the practice rooms, I could hear the snippets of music more clearly. I could not wait to start on what I believed would be an epic journey, one where I would be surrounded by like-minded music lovers and wholly immersed in my art. The research I had done on the Internet, and all the conversations with my orchestra director about higher-level music had prepared me for long hours listening to and playing music, and had only increased my thirst for this knowledge.

But the “epic journey” I desired was not the happy trails stroll I had romanticized in my head. Expectations were high, and professors were kind, but merciless. I worked harder in my first semester than I had ever worked in any academic venture before. The exciting, enjoyable parts of being a music major were there, but I only saw them in fleeting snapshots, and usually in hindsight. I went home for Thanksgiving break, wondering what on Earth I had gotten myself into.

I did not regret going to college, not at all. My mother had always been my academic example, having graduated high school at the top of her class, and attending college on a full scholarship while working. Of course, if I had felt that college was not for me, my parents would have supported me fully, but unless I had a really good reason, I had always known college was in my future. And as a person who loved learning, I never resented that.

The intensity of the music curriculum, however, was an unexpected shock. New Jersey City University was a far cry from Julliard, after all. I knew I was in for a challenge when I decided to become a music major, and I readily accepted that. I was no child virtuoso. I was required to take weekly private violin lessons, perform with a piano accompanist, as well as in the orchestra. Before college, I had only taken a handful of private lessons, and had never, ever performed solo. It was terrifying and exhilarating. It was certainly not something I had expected to do in my first semester.

So I sat at the Thanksgiving dinner table, moping, and dreading the inevitable question, “So how’s college?”, the question I had no idea how to answer. I wanted to say I was loving every day of it, that I could not be happier, but it was not true. Some days I wondered if I belonged in this world of student who had been playing their instruments since they were children.

My mother reached around me to turn up the stereo. I stared at her as the music reached my ears. It was Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The piece of music that had caused me to beg my mother to teach me to play piano when I was in kindergarten. The piece of music that had started my obsession with playing in an orchestra.

“It gets better,” my mother said quietly. “And you love it, even if you don’t know it.”

My mother was right, of course.

What I Expect from College

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment