Back in 2003, after asking me to stick around and do a masters degree at Syracuse University, the college lost a program and, with it, the funding for my assistantship. Which lead to a very weird series of phone calls where my advisor/mentor/friend told me to call the University of Florida and ask about their assistantship. I did, had a great phone conversation, then told my department chair it looked like I would be able to go to Florida.
Within 20 minutes, funding for me to stay had been found … I learned that day that leverage is just as important in academia as it is in physics.
Which is a long way of getting to this question: I wonder what would be different in my life if I had gone to Florida and, maybe, studied under Mindy McAdams, the Flash Goddess (her requested title), because, well … she thinks about things in almost the exact same terms as I do.
In a recent post titled “Getting a journalism degree, getting a journalism job” she explains why a journalism degree isn’t required to commit acts of journalism. She also laments students who, ahem, only care about their damned grades (you know who you are) and not about learning.
Last week, I was at CNN talking about failing. (Yeah, I don’t think they’re going to hire me there after that particular talk. Glad I still love my current gig.)
I tell my students that while I never asked a potential shooter about their grades, if they listed a stupidly-high GPA on their resume, that, to me, was an indication that they probably never challenged themselves – and I only want to work with people who push the envelope, who put themselves in uncomfortable situations and live to talk about it.
Here, to me, is the take away from her post:
The opportunity to study at a university is a great privilege, completely unavailable to so many people. The grades do not matter. The learning does.
Those who have sat in my classroom have heard a similar thing. I’ll tell you on Day One that I don’t care about grades. I care that you learn. I care that you grow. I care that you move yourself down your intellectual education path and come out a better citizen, a better person.
As to how I would have done as a Gator instead of the twice-squeezed Orange that I am, well … let’s just say I could spend months questioning every decision I’ve made, but if I changed even one, I wouldn’t be where I am now, asking those questions, would I? And I like asking questions.