A few thoughts for improvement

When I filled out the survey recently I thought I was being given a chance to air some thoughts. Of course, I’m not labouring in any mistaken belief that my thoughts in particular will be considered – I know that surveys are taken as data en mass rather than individualistically. There is no single person – most of the time – poring over the carefully entered and edited loving comments and ideas submitted by survey participants. 

Knowing this, I’ve always intended that toward the end of my time in university I would leave a few salient thoughts for the university here. It seems as good a place as any. I’ve never seen an idea box on campus, so I guess this will have to do. 

So here we go:

  1. Clean clean clean! The University of Calgary is not a cleaned place. Read that carefully. It’s not cleaned – at all – as near as I can tell. There are stains on the floor in the brand new Taylor Family Digital Library that were there when I arrived in 2011! Oh, I know they empty garbages, but floors are not mopped, tables are not wiped, stains are not removed, and it’s all really rather unpleasant. Sad that this should be my first thought on completion of my degree program – such a small point, really – but important to the overall enjoyment of time spent on campus. 
  2. Reduce waste. U of C tells everyone it wants to be environmentally friendly, but there are things that they could do to reduce waste. For example, I can’t count the number of times I’ve written four-line answers in quizzes using a booklet of twenty pages! There just isn’t anything efficient about that! The booklets can’t be re-used and re-cycling is up to the student. I wrote an Email two years ago to the President, suggesting the Profs be given an option for single sheets of paper rather than a whole booklet. I never did hear back. 
  3. Weekend hours are strange. The library doesn’t open until 10am on weekends, and yet most students who want and need to get work done get up much earlier than that. 
  4. Renovations. Do I need to bitch about marble floors in the administration areas when students are always being asked to pay more?
  5. Quiet spaces. The top three floors of the library are designated quiet areas, but there are so many students in there rubbing shoulders that it really doesn’t work out that way. I would ask that students be provided with additional areas where they can work without having to enjoy their neighbours’ coughing and conversation. That would be on my Christmas wish list. How about the old Mackimmie Library? It’s closed right now, and has been since I arrived, but as near as I can tell it would be quite easy to gut most of the walls from it, put down carpet tile, throw in some chairs and desks and let people get to work. There aren’t any structural issues so I’m not sure why this wouldn’t be an option.
  6. Actual shelters at the bus loop would be nice. The way it is, people have to stand in the cold and wind and rain and snow to wait for a bus there. Bus shelters wouldn’t have to be heated, but they would at least keep folks out of the wind. Just because we’re young, doesn’t mean we won’t freeze when the bus is behind its time. 😛
  7. More choice in the Food Court. I know there are massive renovations coming, and I imagine that’s in the works, but – you know – Jeez!
  8. Smoking areas. I used to smoke, so I don’t ignore the need that some people have to tank up on nicotine in their breaks, but there are supposedly rules about smoking at entrances to buildings. Even so, if I wanted to start a ciggy-butt collection that is where I would go. Create sheltered places where the smokers can mill around away from the entrances and building air intakes, and thus keep everyone happy. No, really.
  9. Web system. Between My U of C and Blackboard, the whole set up is not intuitive. I was told every year that I could choose and book my courses online, but I didn’t because it’s too damn hard to figure out what you’re looking at. I always went in and sat down with the awesome, patient, understanding Maria in Student Services to make sure I got my courses booked without error. It’s true there way be an old fart element at work here, but I maintain it’s why I’m graduating soon – I’m on track because Maria kept me on track, all the way along. I spoke to at least three students who thought they were finishing but found out that courses they took didn’t count. So how does that make sense?
  10. More power outlets for devices. Honestly, the old lecture halls and even the newly renovated Social Science building are woefully deficient in this area. You have to get to class early just so you can sit near an outlet!
Other than these simple gripes my experience at U of C has been awesome. Almost completely awesome. Just the right amount of mind-blowing, head-numbing, eye-rubbing stress, and silliness in all the right proportions. The fact that I’m an old fart has been an issue in some areas, but has bought me some credibility in others. The fact is, even though the university guarantees they will get every student through it, there is nothing particularly easy about getting a degree. Oh sure, you figure out a method after a while, but you still have to do the work. It always comes down to the work. 
 
That’s what I’m dealing with now, working on my last ever paper. My feet are already in the exit doorway, but my mind keeps saying “hold on, I’m not done yet!” I still have work to put in to this final paper, and frankly, it’s being bloody difficult. As always, I’ll get it done, but a simple paper is being perhaps as big of a challenge as I have faced in my entire time at the University of Calgary. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Studies

Now that there are only two and a half weeks left I would say that it’s time to start reflecting on the nature of this experience – to assess what it was all about, what it was worth, and what it might be worth in the future. 

I’m in the library now. I just finished rehearsing for a presentation with some very focused young students. They’re so indulgent of the old man – they put up with my foibles without kicking up too much of a fuss.

Anyway, it occurs to me that I’m now coming to the end of an experience which began in May 2011 as an effort to re-rail and  re-establish purpose after being laid off from my job of 23 years. 

September of that year saw a large number of firsts – the first class, the first test, the first essay and so on – and now I’m experiencing some Newtonian, equal-and-opposite lasts. 

This morning, for example, I came here on the train for the last time. I waited in Mac Hall for the library to open – for the last time – and right now I’m sitting in a library workroom which I booked in my name for the last time. Frankly, I’m probably in this library for the last time right now, because the rest of my studies can be done at home and other than a final, romantic walkabout there would be no reason for me to come back here.

It makes you think: about the passage of time, the meaning of events. It makes you wonder what the point is of using all our personal forces to develop when we’d probably be a lot more comfortable if we just stagnated. I hope against hope that I have the energy to keep learning right up until my last day – there is no emotional profit in being satisfied. There’s no joy in quiesence. Learn and grow, that’s my motto. Learn something new every day, or waste your life on the passive entertainments.

Anyway, here’s my last view of the library. It’s Saturday, so it’s not too busy – but that’s not how I’ll remember it. 

There’s a thing about lasts. The optimism of beginning is gone, but it’s replaced now by the nervous anticipation of satisfaction and success. 

And I have to say, I like the sound of that.

DP: Movement

And so it continues. My assignments for this semester are now 42% done, and I’m about 55% through the class schedule. 

I have to admit I never did make a point of going in to school to work extra days because I remembered (oh yah!) that I have a perfectly usable and quiet office space here at home, plus I didn’t want to spend extra money on bus tickets  – me being an unemployed bum and all. Staying home for my studies has also saved me the bother of budgeting for campus munchies which, though unquestionably hearty and healthy and not made with any MSGs or sugar whatsoever, are nevertheless money out of my pocket when I indulge.

Right now I’m working on my part of two group projects, and preparing for an exam, all due Monday. It has started to occur to me, now, that I’m actually working on the final projects of my educational career. Because of this, last week when I was readying a short report for submission I decided to go all out, presentationwise. It suddenly occurred to me that once I’m back in the working world (whatever that ends up looking like) I may not get the same opportunities to fiddle with the Word software, so I added a cover page, prepped a contents list, and inserted a subtle watermark – all because I could and because I wanted to, and because it made at least a part of the assignment feel like fun.

I’ve received confirmation that my graduation plans are on track, provided of course that I successfully complete these last two courses. I’m assuming they’ll be fine because I have a habit of just getting things done. 

I’ve also received and completed a survey from the university about my experience there – I barred no holds, believe you me. They know all the niggling little complaints that it is my duty and obligation as an over-confident senior student to divulge.

This afternoon I’m going to send out a resume – what the hey – I’ve got nothing to lose by submitting it. I’m certainly qualified. Anyway, stay tuned for whatever happens next.

 

Giggles

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasures of Academia

Here are the true treasures of academia (no, not the nut) – the kernels of knowledge and wisdom and understanding. 

Books. 

 

Simple Treasure

 

Update

The journey continues. This week I finished two assignments, leaving 11 to go, and I’m currently working on the proposal and annotated bibliography for the final project of the last communications course I will ever take. Exciting stuff. 

Meantime, the house must be cleaned, dinner must be made, the dog must be walked, and the frigid temperatures must be endured. But hey, it’s February: we’re closer to March, now, than December, and that’s a really nice thought. 

Library time!

  

14 minutes

The Experiment

Alright, the experiment is over.

I’m a disciplined, self-starting kind of guy, but this is ridiculous. So here’s what I’m going to do. 

Starting next week I’m going in to the campus a couple of days a week to work in the library. I’m doing my best at home, and I’m getting stuff done, but there are just too many distractions – a TV, a radio, a dog to walk, a meal to cook, and I feel really lazy and house-bound staying at home all the time. The temptation to wallow is just too great.  

To enable discipline I need structure. Discipline builds more easily in a focused environment where everyone has the same goal – one like the school library. I know the traveling is a pain in the apple, but there’s simply nothing else for it.

I’m just glad it has taken me only two weeks to figure this out.

 

Now, here’s a topical shout

Grammar is one of my buttons.

And we’re back

A particularly furry little animal

This is week two of the new semester – my final semester – the final steps on the road to the educational grail. 

I’ve waited a couple of weeks before making an entry this time because I wanted to become familiar with my schedule first – you know, rooms, times and so on. It’s a very complicated schedule. First are my Monday classes, from noon to 245pm, and 4pm to 645pm. Then I go home.

I almost feel guilty with this schedule – underscore ‘almost‘. I’m finishing up a second degree but my schedule makes it feel like night school. I mean, I don’t have to get up early, I get a solid hour for lunch in between classes, and I get a six-day weekend every week.

This pseudo-guilt is quickly overcome, however, by memories of my first two semesters in this place when I had to go to campus early, six days a week for eight months. Oh, I know, compared to a five-day week in a full time job it sounds easy, but while work passes quickly because it’s constant, the school process is very irregular, and in my opinion harder because of it. The semester starts with a certain calmness, but then deadlines hit, reading, research, writing, presenting, citing, and all the while the quality must be high enough to make the professor happy. This is a herky-jerky process of compilation and rendition which can be quite taxing at times. The deadlines come in waves. The pressure can be likened to that of a thumb screw – it hurts, but you get used to it, it hurts more, then you get used to it again. 

Anyway, this one-day-a-week thing is easy in one respect, but it calls for more discipline than I’ve ever had to show before. I’ll get it done, I’ll pull my weight – with a lifetime of team play in the workplace behind me I know how to get and keep people moving. But the temptation to coast is definitely there because the pressure won’t ramp up quite as often as in the past and every week I’ll get the chance to decompress. Honestly? I am already guarding against relaxing too much.

Did you see that? I’m trying hard not to be relaxed

Oh, what an odd and furry little animal is post-secondary education.

Thanks for stopping by.