Two of My Favorite Things–Girl Scouts and College Students

I found this draft from a year ago, and it’s still relevant–maybe more so.

A new book claims that today’s college freshman lack basic life skills. This is a gap that Girl Scouts should address.


In How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshman at Stanford University, claims that incoming students had impressive resumes, but were increasingly incapable of taking care of themselves. To remedy this problem, she says that, especially with teenagers, we should “seek out opportunities to put independence in their way,” such as making them responsible for their own food or learning to take public transportation.

She’s not alone in this belief. Many colleges have “College 101” courses to teach some of the basics. US News & World Report suggests that college freshmen need Seven Essential Life Skills.

Source: Skills Needed: Girl Scout Badges Could Help | Girl Scout History Project

The author of the post listed those seven skills, together with a Girl Scout badge that will help a girl gain those skills. She then lists several other skills (like laundry and cooking) she thinks college students need.

When I look at the badges included in the first Girl Scout Handbooks (and all iterations of the Boy Scout Handbooks–the Girl Scout badge program has been severely gutted in the last 8 years, but that’s another story), I see that Scouting was strongly based in teaching hard skills to allow a young person to succeed in adulthood. Looking at the young people in my life who are not Scouts, they do not have opportunities to learn and practice money management, cooking, outdoor appreciation, or first aid unless their caregivers teach those skills in the home (granted, some organizations and schools provide some of these, but I don’t personally know a child who gets any of this outside of home of Scouting).

Schools already have residence hall programs which teach residents how to do laundry and basic cooking. Is there a point where higher ed professionals can’t or won’t step in anymore? Is it ever feasible for courses like Home Ec to be included in the middle/secondary ed curriculum again? Or am I just longing for a dream of yesterday?


Advising to Graduation | ACPA

Three times a year, the Graduation Team in the Registrar’s Office sends several hundred emails informing students that they did not meet the requirements for graduation. The week we send the denials is inevitably filled with emails and panicked phone calls telling us “they didn’t know about Requirement X” or “Advisor Y told me I was ‘all set.’” Telling a student they didn’t graduate because of missing one or more classes is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do in my career. I can see the betrayal my students feel at the hands of their advisors and the school, as they  are often at a complete loss about what to do. I’ve had students cry, yell, punch my desk, lose a work VISA or job opportunity, beg, and even try to make deals with me and my team.

Continue reading at: Advising to Graduation | ACPA

#SAReflects–“Embracing the Wind”

One last re-blog from The Student Affairs Collaborative. This was my first contribution, reflecting on 2014.

To many people looking at the story of my life, 2014 wasn’t a phenomenally significant year—I didn’t move to a new institution; no changes occurred within the Registrar’s Office, or even at UMass Boston for that matter; my involvement in professional organizations maintains the status quo. Even my personal life has been fairly consistent.

Continue Reading at The Student Affairs Collective » #SAReflects Embracing the Wind.

A New Perspective on Education Costs

Nastassia Davis [] / / CC BY-NC

I recently read a Chronicle article discussing how student loan debt, specifically private debt, is going to seriously affect the economy. Once upon a time, someone with a college degree was almost guaranteed to own their own home. Now, the exorbitant total-cost of higher education, coupled with the fact that wages haven’t risen, means college-educated folks are too scared to buy a home, or car, or ANYTHING, because we can’t afford it.

I’ve been lucky that I was able to pay for my degrees with Federal loans–the total dollar amount is staggering, but I am lucky enough to qualify for Income-Based Repayment and my payments are manageable. Ellie however, had to float almost her entire MSW on private loans (her B.A. & M.A.T. are essentially paid for). There is no flexibility in the payment, and neither the total dollar amount nor the monthly payment are considered when trying to do something like apply for income-based repayment so you can qualify for the public service loan forgiveness (long story, ask and I’ll regale you with the tale of 6 drama-filled months of emails, phone calls, and tears that happened during the same time-frame as we were trying to finalize the wedding. trust me, you don’t want to miss that!).

As we’ve gathered documents to apply for a mortgage, it struck me that we’re ALREADY PAYING A MORTGAGE, at significantly higher interest rates. I’m surprised that little tidbit didn’t hit me sooner. As difficult as it is to believe we will soon be homeowners, it’s harder to believe that this:

Our new house!!

Our new house!!

Costs only a little more than these (pretend there is another diploma here to represent Ellie’s MSW):

My B.A. & M.S. diplomas.

My B.A. & M.S. diplomas

An education is important; I would be a poor educator if I believed these pieces of paper were worthless, please don’t get me wrong. Is it worth all the struggle and hardship people my age and the current generation (I’m barely GenX) are/will experience though? Between federal and private loans, Ellie pays almost half of our mortgage each month–that means we are technically paying for a mortgage and a half. I still vividly remember the political cartoon of a student moving back home to his miss-understanding parents. Did you realize that was drawn 7 years ago?? That’s pretty messed up.

Honestly, I think everyone’s to blame for this–Americans have placed higher education on such a high, golden pedestal that it now trumps all other things, including the so-called American Dream. This heightened worth has allowed schools to jack up the cost and private loan providers to take advantage because federal loan limits are too low, or student’s don’t know enough about taking out loans. Conversations, like in the article above, are happening, but I wonder how/when change will happen–and in what form that change will occur.

I really wonder about the magic Ellie and I could do if her private loans offered an IBR payment option.

Do you or anyone you know have private loan debt that’s holding you/them back? What would you do/where would you be if your student debt (private or federal) wasn’t so large?

The Case for (Higher) Education

PhDTweetTwitter conversation about earning a PhD

The title of my blog is “The Eternal Student.” I work in a field that offers PhD’s. Heck, we even have a hashtag: #sadoc.

When I tweeted about a student insisting on using Dr. Robinson in email communication, I tweeted about how I felt inadequate. Not because I feel any guilt about not having a PhD, but because I feel I am deceiving the student (despite stating that I’m only a Ms. not a Dr.)

A friend gave me encouragement that it was only a matter of time and that I should get used to my eventual name. As you can see from the conversation over ~~~> there, I don’t want to become Dr Robinson. It took me 6 years to return for my Master’s degree; I’m 33 years old, newly married, and am far more interested in going home at the end of my day (usually), keeping active with Girl Scouts, and having a caseload of students. I’m not cut out for the meetings,  hiring/firing, and bureaucracy that so many Directors/VP’s/etc deal with.

I’m not counting out any kind of title or promotion because I don’t know the future, but like my former boss, I know what I’m good at and I know where I’m happiest. My formal education will never come to an end because I’ll always take classes, but I don’t see another degree, advanced or otherwise, in my future–I want the freedom to take Greek Philosophers one semester followed by Organizational Culture the next, and Stained glass after that. The thing I love best about college is the breadth of information that is available to our students, and to US, who are fortunate enough to have tuition remission benefits.

Maybe I shouldn’t put it out there that I don’t want to become a Director, VP or Dean–it may appear as though I’m not ambitious, or am not interested in advancing my career. But I’m not ashamed of knowing who and what I am. We aren’t all meant to be Senior Student Affairs Officers; if we were, there would be more of those positions 🙂 We’ve all heard the jokes about so many in Middle Management “being promoted to the level of incompetence” (never within Student Affair of course though…). If I remain engaged, challenged and happy with my position, I don’t need “more” if I already have enough.

Do you think everyone needs the highest degree possible? Do you think people can and should be happy at their ideal employment level, or should everyone strive to become an SSAO?

Changing My Life

Reverb Broads Prompts Part 2 are up. Maybe I’ll actually stay well enough this week to do more than one?

 If you had a magic wand and could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be and why?

Image from Azure Green

Image from Azure Green

Oh, there are so many things that I would love to change about my life!! From silly things like my hair and skin to the outrageous things like my brother and mom still being alive (not zombies, actually alive!). But they are unrealistic, and either petty or selfish. The things that happen to us form who we are. If my brother had not passed away 5 years ago (wow, has it really been that long??), the things I did leading up to meeting my wife 3 months later might not have occurred, and I may not be with her now–and  I’m pretty sure some of those things needed to happen.

There IS one thing I would change however. My student loan debt. My wife and I both have Master’s degrees and we are paying WAY too much money for our educations. She’s lucky in that she is only paying for her MSW; I’m paying for both a BA and an MA. If even one of us no longer owed that money, our lives would be significantly different; we’d be able to pay off our credit cards or our cars, or buy a house, or even all three–imagine THAT possibility!!

And tuition is only going up–back in 1998, I specifically only looked at state colleges (now universities here in MA) because I knew that I was footing the bill alone and I could not afford the cost of private institutions. It’s telling when I graduated a year behind my friends, incurring another year of tuition, fees, room, and board and owed half of what some of my friends did (including the one who had room & board paid for a year as an RA!). I just looked up what it would cost me now, and I am actually surprised–it hasn’t even doubled. That school my RA friend went to? Tuition alone is 1.75 times as much as the whole package at my Alma mater.

Maybe I can use that magic wand to fix the cost of education…

Unexpected Learning from 9/11

Bates Complex at SSU, where I lived for 2 years
Image from SSU Website

Sometimes we don’t realize we’ve learned something until after the fact. Sometimes LONG after the fact. There are going to be plenty of 9/11 posts today, but as I took a walk on campus during lunch, I reflected back to this day 11 years ago when I was in my 4th year of undergrad at Salem State.

I hadn’t yet left for class when I found out, and my roommate came back early from her class to confirm that yes, this was happening and school was cancelled. I, like many others on campus, holed up in my room, alternating between the news and more light-hearted television when the news became too much to deal with. I was living in Bates Complex,  the upper-classmen apartments, and remember going up to the kitchen at one point & looking out the window into the courtyard. It was eerily empty, even for noon on a Tuesday. Then, a door across from me opened and a student walked out–he was dressed in fatigues and carried a bag on his back; the bag looked full.

As I wandered campus today, I wondered how many of the students I passed would have been doing the same exact thing if they had been students then. It’s a rare day around here when I don’t see at least one student wearing a military uniform, and those are probably not the (hundreds? thousands?) here who are, like the lone student at SSC back in the day, in the Guard and not as visible.  Then I began to wonder about how many students my colleagues and I are seeing today who have been directly affected by what happened. Did that student from 11 years ago ever return? If not, was it because he dropped out, or did he not return from wherever he was sent? Or was he so deeply damaged physically or mentally that he couldn’t return to his studies? If he did return: was he just lucky enough to not be shipped out? did he lose any buddies who weren’t as lucky? The questions are endless.

If I really want to pursue Academic Advising, I need to learn more about this population of students, to understand why that image continues to feature so prominently in my memory of the day. I have begun to understand why the need for specific Military & Veteran Affairs departments or personnel on campuses is so great. if my questions are innumerable, how many questions do Veteran students have?