Solving the Dilemma

As an economics major, I’ve learned that business is all one big game. It’s about who makes the first move, who cheats the market, and the risks each firm takes. We’re taught this game as a “Prisoner’s Dilemma,” in which looking out for one’s self-interest results in lower profits for all firms in the market. By trying to get ahead while the other firms suffer, the results are worse off for everyone involved. Ideally, cooperation is key. However, because we are human, complete cooperation is not realistic. Sometimes, it may even be involuntary.

Our INTD course has shown me the “dilemma” that exists between students and their college institution. It’s opportunistic to believe that each party will uphold their responsibility in partnership. For the student, they put trust into the college to provide a valuable education and support throughout their time in school. The college, in return, expects students to follow the rules on campus and uphold their standard for academic excellence. But what happens if one part falls short of their respective duties? What’s the risk in that? Continue reading “Solving the Dilemma”

A Different Deadline

While getting my weekly amusing fix of Twitter, I came across a Tweet from one of my favorite authors, Jonny Sun: “if life didn’t have a deadline we’d never get anything done.”

As a student I’ve learned that with deadlines comes stress, exhaustion, and frustration. Most importantly, they also come with finality. Consequently, upon receiving Dr. McCoy’s feedback on our final “Bloodchild” essays, I was confounded when she included a suggestion to revisit the essay over the summer. Deadlines give us an excuse to abandon the thinkING the assignment required; once they pass, there is nothing else to be done. After 11:59 PM on May 23rd I had no intention of looking over the essay again. I’d barely considered revisiting my original rough draft, except my grade seemed dependent on it. Continue reading “A Different Deadline”

Parental Partnerships

As our INTD class nears the end and I continue reflecting on the semester, I’ve noticed that college has changed my partnership with two very important people: my parents.

To be honest, I did not think the transition from life at home to college would be too challenging. I’ve always been a very independent person; I hate asking for help. So, I was surprised when I found myself calling my parents the very first week of school, asking how to do something as simple as laundry. Even reminding myself to go eat three meals a day was hard; at home food was just there. Instead of walking to the dining hall, I simply walked over to the fridge. I started talking to my parents weekly, but it was the same annoying questions I would receive after high school every day“how was school?” and “was practice hard?” being their favorites. It wasn’t until our second semester here that I noticed our relationship was different.

I knew that entering college brought me into an agreement with Geneseo, in which I must uphold certain expectations as a student, in exchange for an education. However, I didn’t know that the time away from home would cause me to see my parents from a new perspective. When they visit and we discuss my life at college, I realize they were once college students too. They had to figure out how to do laundry, love the questionable dining hall food, and learn a new meaning of the word “independence.” It’s strange to think of them as naive, young students like myself. Continue reading “Parental Partnerships”

Renewed Perspectives

Every year I’m reminded that spring is a time of “reflection and renewal.” Typically, I dismiss this prompt in the midst of my chaotic life. As the academic year comes to a close, however, I’ve decided to look back over the past several months. First, I thought back to our reflection discussions at the beginning of the semester, and revisited the GLOBE document.

GLOBE states “reflection” as one of its learning outcomes for Geneseo students. It lists its own definition of the outcome: “To reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time; to make personal, professional, and civic plans based on that self-reflection.” While reading this definition, it occured to me that I had already practiced this learning outcome many times within my first year here at Geneseo.

My brother Michael graduated from Geneseo last year, majoring in economics and minoring in math. His subject areas “gave answers,” as he would say. There is logic, clarity, and certainty to be found in algebraic equations, graphs, and market statistics. My eldest brother Matt, on the other hand, graduated in 2010 as a French and art history double major. I had always struggled to understand this decision. Life is full of questions and uncertainty; why, I wondered, would he pursue subjects that seemed to provide no solace to such burdens? There was no “answer” to an artists intention, nor cultural and linguistic conceptions. It is argumentative, opinionated, even political. And, consequently, it’s extremely difficult to excel in those fields.   

Through further self-reflection, I realized how INTD has certainly challenged my outlook on his choice. Continue reading “Renewed Perspectives”

(Good?) Expectations

“Put it into Laura’s voice,” Dr. McCoy reminded me after I asked her to read the introduction of my “Bloodchild” essay.

My voice? The suggestion sent me waves of confusion, doubt, and to be quite honest, a slight bit of annoyance. I am not an English major, I do not enjoy writing papers, and I certainly do not believe I have a “voice.” Not one worth hearing, anyway.

My cynicism prevailed until I read Roisin’s recent blog post, “The Dreaded Essay Rewrite.” She seemed to comprise some of my own “dreadful” thoughts into a simple quote. She states, “I am intellectually curious, I want to grow and achieve as a student, I want to problem-solve, and I want to be passionate and spirited in my pursuit of education. So why is it so hard for me to revise my essay if rewriting is exactly the type of process that will help me reflect, grow, and achieve?”

It is frustrating, to say the least, that something that used to be a simple revision process is now an anxiety-causing, cumbersome one. In class, we often discuss how we as students have grown accustomed to our trusted high school essay template. There is an intro, with a thesis. Two or three body paragraphs, each beginning with an argument statement. Quote, unpack, quote, unpack. Over and over. Why, I wonder, would I need my own “voice” to make the same exact claims? After some thinkING, I found some clarity in our expectations as students. Continue reading “(Good?) Expectations”

New Numbers

Yesterday, SUNY Geneseo hosted its 13th annual Relay for Life fundraiser. I walked in expecting to stay the hour to fulfill my obligation to my lacrosse team. I did not know, however, that I would walk out in tears, reminded how short life is, and just how much of an impact a person can make.

When I was just a baby, my father was diagnosed with cancer. My mother, her hands full with two young boys and now a newborn, was forced to find strength within her I’m not sure she knew she had. For months he battled and underwent rigorous treatments that cause him to still endure the side effects to this day.

During the time I spent at Relay, Geneseo’s President, Dr. Battles, made a moving speech. She mentioned how a family member had battled cancer and wrote a blog series throughout her journey. One particular entry she quoted was entitled “Numbers.” It discussed how everything in life seems to be in terms of numbers. But now, with cancer, numbers took on a whole new meaning. They were no longer birthdays, or days until Christmas, but doses for her treatments, or how many days since she was diagnosed.

I started to think about strength in numbers. Continue reading “New Numbers”

“One Voice” of Many

Recently in class, Dr. McCoy asked us, “What are some personal reasons a student may find themselves on academic probation?” Our list included both physical and mental health problems, work, stress, and an infinite list of other possibilities. In short, there was no clear reason for a student struggling academically. My attention was brought back to her question this past week while scrolling through Instagram. I saw that SUNY Geneseo released a series of installments, titled “One Voice,” written by five student athletes that have overcame some form of adversity in their lives. The features range from stories of loss and heartbreak to buzzer-beating victories and unexpected recoveries.

The installments exemplify the type of setbacks students may face that can lead them to struggle academically. Since the stories are written by fellow students, athletes, and friends of mine, it was extremely eye-opening to the commonality of such circumstances. Some of these people I’ve known for almost a full academic year now, and only just realized how much they’ve gone through and sacrificed to be at this school.

Conlan Keenan, a star hockey player, lost his mom to a tragic pulmonary embolism when he was a freshman in high school. Davina Ward, a graduating senior who helps manage the women’s basketball team, was in and out of foster homes and suffered abusive parenting throughout her youth. Baily Gorman, a runner on our track team, battled cancer her senior year of high school. And these are just a few stories of many I’m sure can be found on Geneseo’s campus.

How could Geneseo, or any college for that matter, know of such obstacles that their students are facing? Furthermore, how can the college recognize this adversity and give every student the opportunity to receive help? In taking a closer look at Ian Chipmans article, “The Power of Expectations,” this is one key problem in Stanford’s letters sent out to students when they are placed on academic probation. Students feel more like a failure than a person dealing with hardship. Continue reading ““One Voice” of Many”

The Art of Scaring

In my previous blog post, I discussed the lack of information students receive  regarding the risks and rewards that come with a collegiate partnership. In Dr. McCoy’s response to my post, she asked a very intriguing question: “how might colleges and universities communicate the risks and rewards without scaring folks or making them tune out (like folks do often when asked to read the fine print in contracts and the like)?”

I never stopped to wonder if I truly wanted to know the risks of the job market and shortcomings of a college experience. However, after much consideration,  I confirmed that I do want to know exactly what I’m getting into. Furthermore, I think it’s only fair that all other students know too. To address the issue of uninformed consent however, I believe growth in the area lies in the manner that it’s stated.

Ian Chipman’s article, “The Power of Realistic Expectations”, describes a movement on Stanford’s college campus to alter the tone of their letters alerting students know they are on academic probation. In making the letter more focused on the resources available to struggling students rather than a harsh assertion of the problem, students were more willing to put the work in and get their grades up. Those who received the first, almost shameful letter were more likely to drop out of college, and in doing so end their academic partnership. Although the tone of the original letter fulfilled the college’s duty by alerting the student of their academic status, they now do so in a way that’s much less “scary.” In short, the institution says, “hey, things aren’t going great in your classes right now, but we’re here for you and here’s how we’ll help you fix it.” They even provide encouraging narratives from students who were in their position and made it out of probation into good standing. Continue reading “The Art of Scaring”

We Told You So

My classmate Jess recently posted a blog post (What College Will Be Like) starting with: “Ever since the beginning of high school, teachers harped on my classmates and I about college expectations. Writing classes had papers on reading assignments due every week. I was told, “this is preparing you for college” and “professors won’t baby you.” And I can relate, as I’m sure many of my peers do too, to this exhausting and repetitive high school process. This quote pertains directly to our class discussion on consent and a question I asked myself after reading Bloodchild: “how much do we really know before we accept the ‘risk’?”

When those teachers gave us all of the “tools” they said were necessary to succeed in college, we as students assumed we were leaving high school prepared for that next step. Now, as a second semester freshman, I can say that nothing truly prepares you for the reality of college and the amount of work it requires until you’re actually there. I talk more about this unpreparedness in my previous blog post (Reflections, Relations, and Reality). A very similar situation is apparent in Bloodchild, when Gan thinks he’s prepared to become a host for T’Gatoi’s eggs and go through the birthing process. On page 13 of the text, Gan mentally prepares himself to bring in the animal sacrifice T’Gatoi demanded and witness his first live birth on a dying man. He states, “I turned to take the ache to her, then hesitated. For several seconds, I stood in front of the closed door wondering why I was suddenly afraid. I knew what was going to happen. I hadn’t seen it before but T’Gatoi had shown me diagrams and drawings. She made sure I knew the truth as soon as I was old enough to understand it.” However, after seeing the horrors of the birth that went anything but perfect, Gan questions his whole relationship with T’Gatoi and duty to be a host.

Both students and Gan were not fully aware of the risks of the partnerships they agreed to. Personally, I am told that by attending Geneseo and accepting this academic partnership, I’ll obtain a degree and get a job. No one tells you that even after graduation, I might not be able to find a job. I might not be able to pay off loans. I might look back on these years thinking of them as a waste, wishing someone had told me that the preparation in high school, hard work in college, and determination for a job does not actually guarantee a successful future. Only after experiencing this partnership in college do I see graduating seniors on my team struggling to find a spot in the real world after May. Gan is prepared for his role in similar teachings. He’s told what’s supposed  to happen in the birthing process, how he will be helping the Tlic and his family, and how “painless” it is. He doesn’t even question his relationship with T’Gatoi until witnesses the birth that makes all of the diagrams and knowledge into a terrifying reality.

Would most students agree to the expenses and time spent at college if they knew personally how uncertain the end result is? Would Gan have accepted his duty to T’Gatoi from such an early age if he had been shown a live birth years ago? It seems that this innocence and in-exposure to all the risks of our partnerships lead us to leap into them without much question until reality hits. With all the discussion in today’s world regarding consent, and especially informed consent on college campuses, it seems like schools ironically break the very practice they preach. They fail to show us the outcomes of an imperfect college experience, just like T’Gatoi fails to show Gan the possibilities of an imperfect birth.

I challenge all students to ask themselves, “is this partnership I have agreed to a fair one?”.



Reflections, Relations, and Reality

After today’s class discussion, I thought back to my first month here at Geneseo. Over and over I’d been told to prepare for “the best four years of your life”, “meeting your lifelong best friends”, and the always unfortunate “hours of studying and stress”. And I can say, at least for the last statement, they weren’t joking around. In my first class of Calculus 2, after 20 minutes of introductions, there it appeared on the screen. Bold face. Font 48. “Chapter 1 Notes”. Within a period of 50 minutes, I managed to get more confused and overwhelmed than I’d ever been in my 18 years of life, wondering if there was a magical derivative algorithm to college life in general.

Flashing forward to the present, I can say that no one truly knows how to figure it out. Despite all the advice and warnings, there’s trial and error, phone calls to mom, and a few bad test grades along the way. But it has taught me one very important thing: college is much more than learning textbook knowledge, it’s about personal growth and acquisition of a purpose in life. I think this is what the statements in the GLOBE try to indirectly express. The learning outcomes, although explained vaguely, truly do mask the struggles AND joys in the journey I’ve endured so far. After rereading them, one particular outcome stuck with me: “Reflection: to reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time; to make personal, professional, and civic plans based on that self-reflection.” It is impossible to put a more specific statement here, not only because every student’s time here will be different, but because it’s written to invite us to create an experience that we will actually enjoy reflecting upon. I hope others can find some beauty in this as well, rather than seeing yet another boring mission statement.