As a recent college graduate, a STEM major, and an introvert, I appreciate that the first step in this chapter to becoming a better communicator is becoming a better listener. In college, I had the chance to practice this listening through different classes, but this skill was never as explicitly explained as in this chapter. Now, I wonder what would have changed if it had been.
On my first day of college and my first class, the professor divided us into two groups--the people who felt comfortable talking in class and the people who generally didn’t. I was in the second group at the time. But, in that conversation between the “quiet” people, we perhaps unexpectedly had a good discussion. I think we weren’t just “quiet,” but rather, we were listeners.
I appreciated that exercise a lot. In the context of STEM classes like computer science, listening as a step of communicating is so important. I’ve only ever taken mathematics courses, not computer science. But, I don’t think you can grow as a scholar in these disciplines without collaboration based on a foundation of listening.
In my first math class in college, we had random seating in each class. So, we worked with a new partner each lesson. At the beginning of each class too, we would answer a warm-up question by working with our partner. If called upon after this time, we would either give an answer or share what we talked about.
Looking back, I appreciate this exercise more now as a practice in gaining emotional intelligence, conflict resolving skills, and multicultural competence, not just about reviewing content and making sure we read the chapter. I had the chance to learn from everyone in the class about mathematics, their lives, and their communication styles.
I wonder what I would have gained if the topics of Chapter 11 were discussed more explicitly in these classroom settings. How would my understanding of listening, communicating, and social belonging changed if it had been? How would my STEM experience specifically have changed as a result?
I can’t answer these questions for sure, but I think I would have maybe declared my STEM major earlier. I could have asserted myself in that major as one who belongs, not just someone who takes all the classes and eventually graduates with the major.
I can’t go back now, but I still appreciate that this kind of chapter exists in a STEM book.
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I graduated from college in spring of 2021, but the last time I discussed finances in a school setting was in the seventh grade. It was Family and Consumer Science class, and I learned how to write a check and sew a pillow. Though, the check memory is fuzzy, and the pillow is long gone.
Now, I wonder how my financial skills might be different had topics like those in “Planning Your Future” been discussed in my college classes. Topics like budgeting, credit cards, and other financial skills were certainly never covered in any of my classes, let alone ones like Computer Science (though the closest I came to this discipline was mathematics).
I never talked with a trusted adult like a professor or classmates outside of my close friends about these kinds of topics. I now realize the limited scope of these kinds of conversations with those already in my circle of friends and family. I wonder what it would have been like to have those conversations with people I wouldn’t have otherwise--what would have happened if I talked about budgeting with my Linear Algebra class, discussed credit cards at the beginning of an Abstract Algebra lecture, or learned about financial health during partner work in Differential Equations?
My recently graduated friends often joke that college never taught them how to be an “adult.” This is a hard concept to pin down, but maybe including a chapter like “Planning Your Future” in all kinds of classes could have helped.
For now, I can only wonder, and take these tips and lessons for myself.
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*Note: This blog was originally posted on 9/16/2020 in the Student community
A recent college grad talks to author John Gardner about the effects of COVID-19 on academia and beyond.
I was granted the unique opportunity to chat with an educator, acclaimed author, and change maker, John N. Gardner. John is a university professor and administrator, student retention specialist, and first-year students' advocate at the University of South Carolina. Our conversation was based on the changes the world has faced in the wake of COVID-19. John was able to strategize with me, as a graduating senior, on how to combat the changes in higher education and the job market. He listened to my story: I had come from a small school in south-central Kansas. I had studied exercise science, psychology, and global studies in my time at KU. I had cast a wide net as far as applying for jobs from international education, higher education, strength and conditioning, and, of course, publishing and online learning platforms like Macmillan Learning. He suggested three core things: take care of yourself, advocate for yourself, and prepare yourself as best as you possibly can.
“We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.” - Michelle Obama
Putting yourself best foot forward starts by putting yourself first. Taking a walk, calling a friend, making a nutritious meal, limiting social media consumption, playing fetch with the dog, are just a few ways to take time for yourself. Implementing self-care techniques allow you to put the best version of yourself forward to your friends, family, and possible employers. John encouraged creating a routine with sleep, exercise, and health as priorities will allow this change of lifestyle to become second nature.
“Fortune favors the bold” - Latin proverb
Being bold means reaching out to those you have built a network with, cold calling a company you would love to join, and show people not only your certifications and degrees but your soft skills. John suggested taking inventory of those you have networked with and reaching out to them in order to move forward with your career. For me, I have a network at KU which can help me find openings in higher education and international education and I have a network of contacts at Macmillan Learning from sales to marketing to publishing to online learning. Those individuals are familiar with my ability to work in a team, to be flexible, to resolve conflict, and to problem solve in a way a resume would not accurately reflect. I can utilize this network to find openings in the fields that interest me.
“Chance favors the prepared mind” - Louis Pasteur
John references this quote multiple times in our chat. Preparing for whatever the next few months will bring is daunting and uncertain. However, it is comforting to know many others are also in a similar position. Preparing yourself with being as educated, as read, as researched as possible can allow for the best possible outcome. ‘Doing your homework’ is vital to making the most out of an interview, an email correspondence, or a call with someone in your network. You can talk about their work and how you may fit into it. Above all else, you can expand your knowledge of a subject by doing this research. So, when the hiring manager reviews two similar resumes, your exceptional knowledge of a relevant subject or the way you were able to carry the conversation in an educated way, will allow what would have been a 50/50 chance, to turn in your favor.
Chatting with John gave me a much more positive outlook on graduating as a college senior amidst COVID-19. His years of experience working with students and honing their potential allowed him to workshop three simple, attainable goals for me to work toward in the coming months. Your present circumstances don't determine your potential, they just determine your starting point. The Class of 2020 may be entering an era of uncertainty, insecurity, and anxiety. However, overcoming this chapter in history will forever change the way we navigate our lives from here forward.
WRITTEN BY Katherine McGaughey University of Kansas
Katie is a senior who is double-majoring in exercise science and psychology at the University of Kansas. Originally from Wichita, she loves exploring new cities and has traveled to eight of the top twenty most influential cities in the world so far. She loves cooking and finding the best vegan eats. You can usually find her in planning her next adventure, enjoying a concert with friends, or late-night studying at the library.
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