Monday, January 30, 2012
Studies have shown that on average, college graduates earn a least a million dollars more in their lifetime. And despite protest and even recent government intents to make education more affordable, the average tuition in 2010 was $17,464. After four years, students emerge with a bill of nearly $70,000. My dad has often wondered if investing tuition money into the stock market and relying on internships or apprenticeships for career training would end up paying higher dividends in the end. And if it does, then why college?
This raises an interesting question on education: Should education provide an implicit fiscal ROI or is the value found in personal and intellectual improvement? (And if the answer is fiscal, should students call on an alma mater for a reimbursement if a career falls flat?)
I'd like to think my own college experience was a hybrid. With support from my advisor, I was able to tackle three degrees in four years - Spanish, public relations and international studies. I've successfully applied my public relations degree, but my Spanish and international studies courses have yet to yield a direct professional application.
Perhaps one day I'll find a position that's my perfect "trifecta," but even without a current business application, I wouldn't discount the experiences I gained through through these majors. My semester abroad is still a treasured experience and helped to mold my independence, global awareness, political views and my appreciation of art and history. I don't think I need to defend the value for learning any language, but mastering grammar of a foreign language really tuned up my native one.
But then, yet again, there's the financial question: what if I'd passed up college all together, moved to another country, interned and worked my way through those four years. Would I have the same career opportunities today? Would I be further along?
Although it's impossible to truly measure the value of petty college experiences, I found my college years to be valuable in exploring and forming career ambitions as well as learning about who I was. Outside of the term papers and exams, I learned a lot from social experiences and involvement in a variety of teams and clubs. I'm not sure I'd have as strong an understanding on who I am today had I not endured those activities.
If one day they develop a method for predicting which direction yields better financial outcomes, even if it's contrary to the college path, I don't know if I would be willing to sacrifice that period of personal growth. Maybe I'll feel differently when I'm retiring at age 70 (and wish to cash in on those precious moments), but for now, I wouldn't trade it - no matter the ROI.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
On the opposite side of the country, I was helplessly glued to news stories, reports and interviews, and my jaw dropped as the allegations against Paterno mounted. I cried listening to "experts" rally against Paterno for his "latent" response to the situation and my heart broke when I watched the board of trustees shamelessly announce his dismissal. To everyone around me, I fiercely defended him, even igniting debates on my Facebook wall.
To anyone outside of the Penn State community, crying over Joe Paterno's dismissal could seem dramatic. However, this is a man who donated millions to the university, was a community leader, a living legend and one of the few remaining big-time football coaches that still emphasized values and education to his players.
As soon as the story broke, the media clenched their teeth into the juiciest angle possible: a celebrity coach, a legend, a man who has built his football empire on the motto "Success with Honor," played a sliver in the grapevine of reporting the allegations. But this mere sub-link was enough to crucify him and to boost those ratings. Sudden Paterno, a man always revered for his good, was suddenly portrayed as villainous - all to make the story richer. The media stripped him of his glory, his honor, his dignity. So heavy was the media focus on Paterno that I even had friends and co-workers ask me what I thought about "the Paterno sex scandal." Everyone could have done more, but such wisdom is truly the "benefit of hindsight."
After over 60 years of service, the board of trustees callously dismissed him based on the volume of negative media attention alone. And just months later, Paterno passed away. Though he battled cancer in those final months, I believe that the once spry 85-year-old died of a broken heart.
Only in the wake of his death did media change tune. Suddenly Paterno was immortalized as the great man he truly is - a far cry from the scathing commentary published just months earlier.
Rumors have always circulated that Beaver Stadium's field would one day be name Joe Paterno field. After all he endured at the end of his life, I hope the university will bestow him that honor.
I leave you with this: a fantastic Huffington Post article, "The Final Judgement of Joe Paterno," published earlier this week.
All family political duress aside, I have a couple points of contention with the political conversation in the United States:
- The Blame Game: If you review the policies enacted under past cabinets of both political affiliations, no single party eclipses the other in fault for leading to the dismal economic reality we endure today. Both sides like to point the finger and sensationalize the misconduct of the opposing party, but our current economy is the result of a crescendo of misguided foreign relations, irresponsible housing loans, war, growing national debt and a myriad of other variables. Rather than casting blame, I'd rather just hear solutions.
- Impatience: It feels like the economy crumbled overnight, but it was a long time in the making. As I noted above, a series of events over several years led us to where we are today. If it took arguably at least a decade to make this mess (and making a mess is always the easier half), how could we possibly fix it in just three years? This is complicated. It's going to take some time.
I don't think the main ignorance here is economics. It's understanding that layers of legislation, policies and foreign relations over time will yield economic repercussions - good or bad. Williams' provides a few shortcomings of the current administration, however these points fall short in both merit and analysis:
- A Weakening Dollar: While living in Spain in early 2008 (pre-recession), the dollar to Euro exchange rate was around 1.8, and the US dollar was weaker than the Canadian. As I write this, the current dollar to Euro exchange rate is 1.3 and the US dollar has edged out the Canadian.
- War: The war began in 2003, so why does Williams' regress to an issue that was initiated by his own party to decry the current administration? This just seems hypocritical.
- Rising Gas Prices: Gas prices has been on the rise for years. Compared to the rest of the world, we have a bargain. (And let me remind Dr. Williams of the basic econ concept called supply and demand. When demand is high, prices go up.)
The United States is a world power, and I'd wager that we didn't arrive here by pointing a finger at our neighbors when things went wrong. So why do we allow campaigns to thrive on that practice, and then further perpetuate it by publishing independent commentary doing the same thing? Williams' article seems like an attempt to naively join in on the picketing, yet without a full understanding of the situation. I dismissed this articles just as another "Brick Tamland" shouting, "LOUD NOISES," in Anchorman. The sad thing is, this is far from an isolated example.
Also, as an aside and unrelated to politics, Williams' further exposes his own ignorance writing that college-education women will vote for Obama solely because "they swoon at his oratory. It's really not more complex than that." He does preface this statement by saying that this statement will offend. This assessment - that his comment would offend - was probably the only sound insight offered in the entire article.
* *Since publishing this, it's been brought to my attention that this article may be incorrectly attributed to Dr. Walter Williams.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
As I wrote in my post on the WSJ, “College is a romantic period, bursting with ambition and reveries of prosperous careers.” After emerging from the stimulating cocoon of academia, I was left grappling with the realization that real life isn't as malleable as mapping out my college courses. Additionally, I mourned the loss of a day-to-day that focused on my own self-development, self-improvement and growth.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
As the book downloaded – in only a matter of seconds – I glanced back to look at my bookshelf crammed with warped books, spines swelling from my habit of dog-earing and carelessly spilling coffee onto pages. “Just this once, I promise,” I silently apologized.
Aside from being able to instantly access any book of choice when on the go, I love the ability to look up a name or word from within the book. If you’ve ever read an Erik Larson book, then you know his diction is delicious. Larson makes words dance in ways I wasn’t aware they could, and I love that I can tap a word while reading to read its various definitions. And since In the Garden of the Beast features a lengthy roster of characters, I find it useful to refresh my memory and look up historical figures using Wikipedia integration without disrupting the story.
But I do have some complaints. Reading on an iPad feels a lot like reading on the computer. Though I sport glasses for working on a computer, my eyes are still resilient enough to escape the lenses while reading books. However, since the iPad’s screen glares and features a stark white background, I’m forced to retrieve my glasses each time I indulge in some more reading.
Like a preferred plush animal of a young child, I love my books hard. I’m at times reckless with them, dripping coffee and smudging chocolate on its pages, tossing the book into a cluttered bag that mercilessly bends the pages into awkward positions. I also habitually fall asleep while reading, often waking up the next morning to find my book fallen on the floor or smashed under my pillows. But with the iPad 2, I have to take care when toting it along or reading in bed. I must gingerly place it in a safe and secure place where I know no harm will come to it. It’s a bit of a burden compared to my normal routine. I also admit that I miss the slight din of cracking a book’s spine and the smell of the pages as I quickly strum my thumb along page edges.
With the iPad 2, I don’t feel the same escape I typically find when reading a good book. When I have a book I love, I feel myself melting away into its pages. But the iPad 2 also hosts email, Facebook, Twitter, games and an assortment of other convenient distractions that inhibit the sensation of truly being alone with a book. Additionally, I love passing along a good read to friends. With the book lodged on my iPad, I’m sad that I’m unable to be the purveyor of good books.
Overall, the iPad 2 offers convenience for the reader, but it doesn’t offer the same satisfaction. When on the go, or too impatient to shuffle over to the book store, I’ll consider the iPad. But in general, I’ll be spending my cash on the good old thing.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
I was in college when Twitter first started to gain traction, and after browsing through series of self-absorbed celebrity Tweets riddled with typos and offering nothing more than another forum for shameless self-promotion, I tuned out. I didn’t find purpose in what I deemed an “aggregator of Facebook status updates.” But a little over a year ago, I broke my Twitter boycott and created a Twitter handle.
As I began to better understand Twitter, my addiction grew. But, just as I’d incorrectly dismissed this tool, many others initially would scowl when I’d admit my use, assuming I’d fallen in with the likes of the Kardashians who mercilessly pollute Twitter with pointless commentary or trivial rants. But, in defense of my new-found preferred medium, I’ve carved out the key arguments for why I’m now an advocate.
Career Development I’m a PR pro, and a considerable part of my day is spent pitching ideas and information in the most concise, approachable and interesting way. Because of the character limits on Twitter, it serves as practice in finding better ways to say more – with less. (Thomas Jefferson would be so proud!) And despite a small number of followers (less than 175 as I write this), I can see when my Tweets are successful based on the number of responses and retweets.
Networking I found my job through a combination of Twitter and LinkedIn. Twitter is essentially an open forum for networking regardless of time zone or geographic location. When job hunting, I consulted the LinkedIn profiles of leaders at companies that interested me, located corresponding Twitter handles and started a conversation. Effectively using Twitter (and Social Media) is a great tactic for getting your foot in the door and resume on top of the stack – especially when job hunting from a distance.