It’s a Done Deal

Alright then, the decision is made. After a great deal of contemplation, thought, kvetching, and many a night’s sleep lost to turning and tossing, and staring at the darkened ceiling in mute despair, I have made up my mind at last. 

The question, as you may recall, was whether or not to pursue a Masters degree, now that the Bachelor’s is done. 

The answer is ‘not’. At this time.

I’m at a place on my continuum where I just don’t have the strength to commit to the rigours of a Masters degree. Its demands are many and varied – strenuous and harsh. It requires a dedication to academia which I simply cannot muster just now. Let’s not forget that I’m the Old Fart here – I’m not yet in my final resting place, but I also don’t have all the youthful energy or the quick recovery of the whippersnappers of the world.

So what’s next? And what’s next for this blog, which was itself started as a record of my didactic exploits? Well, another graduation, to be sure, for even though I am not formally enrolled in an academic institution, I’m still learning something new every day. I’m dedicating myself to the University of life now. I’m re-energizing to head off in new internal directions, even as my family and I contemplate an external move to another part of this great nation.

Learning is the most important thing we can do to enrich our lives, and in my opinion, a day in which nothing is learned is a day wasted. So I dedicate this blog anew to those who love to learn, and who do so deliberately and with passion, with a determination that cannot be swayed. The learners of the world represent courage, humility, and determination, all at the same time.

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Decision Time

On the subject of the pusrsuit of the Masters, it’s decision time. I have done my research, learned what I can about what’s involved, what it will take, and the kind of commitment I must be prepared to offer to get it done. The only question remaining, is whether I have that kind of strength. 

Let’s not forget: there were 22 years between my first and second degrees. ‘It took me that long to recover’, he said with a sly wink. Seriously though, it took a huge life change and a hope for acceptance in a new career to get me to take the second degree. But this time the life change is not there, and my explorations of the working world have shown me the real  potential for career change – and it’s not particularly encouraging. The motives for doing a degree cannot be the net results. If I do a Masters, it has to be for its own sake, which – to my way of thinking – requires that I have a passion for academia in its own right. If I do a Masters now, it has to have the benefit of all I can give it, and I’m just not sure that I’m there.

The deadline to apply is January 15th, but the process requires a decision much earlier than that. My references are assured, as long as I can get a thesis idea in place, but that’s not as easy as it sounds, either. I thought I had something to move on with, but I’ve learned that what I think is a possibility is just not clear enough, or focussed enough to get through the application process. So, the grades are there, the references are available, the intelligence exists (so I insist on reassuring myself), but I’m not sure that I have the strength to do it now

I’ve set November 5th (Guy Fawkes’ Day) as the day I choose to either knuckle down, or back away. It feels symbolic, somehow: fireworks or nothing. 

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

START THE PRESSES!

Previously on Old Fart Back in School, our hero was seen graduating from his studies with a degree in communications. His flowing gown, colourful sash, and crisply-pressed coiffure were a statement of pride, of confidence and self-respect. His mood was good, his attitude strong. 

But there was doubt about what the future held. Would he be moving soon? Would he find gainful employment back in the race of rats? Or would he return to school, to battle shoulder-to-shoulder with the other kids, for another prize, another point of pride, another feather for his massively oversized cap?

In today’s episode, our hero is proud to announce that the process of the Masters pursuit has begun. Even as we speak, references are being sought and forms are being filled in. The gathering of documents is in full sway, and the gathering of administrative knowledge is under way. 

Of course, the Masters degree is a different animal to the Bachelor’s. It starts with some obligatory courses, proceeds to some elective courses, and finalizes with a year-long research project in support of a written thesis. There are written exams, and at the end an oral exam shows unequivocally whether or not you know your material. 

Our hero has chosen a thesis idea and is proposing it as part of the application process. In essence, his thesis explores the role of technology in the job-seeking process because – as anyone who has applied for a job recently knows – technology is a decidedly complicating factor. 

All too exciting. Stay tuned for further developments!

And now, a picture.

 

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. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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

 

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.

 

Cluing In

Who doesn’t like a tummy rub?

It has only taken me (mumble-mumble) years, but I think I’m finally getting it. 

My dog had a talkative spell last week – sidling up to a lot of other dog buddies on Twitter. He made lots of friends, followed lots of folks, clicked, read, commented, liked, favourited and retweeted to his little heart’s content. He put photos up, lauded others on their photos, commiserated, loved, licked and well – you get the picture. He was a very popular little guy for about two shiny days. He got responses to his responses – he had dialogue with doggies from all over the world – lots of mutual (virtual) nose-rubs and butt sniffs, and hours spent comparing the vaguaries of the ‘hoomans’ and their many well-meaning if mis-guided attempts at parenting. 

Then he quit. Well, let’s face it, I quit. Schoolwork called, snow-shovelling beckoned, the actual world trumped the virtual,  and the pixels just had to wait. For two days he was nowhere in sight, and do you know how many contacts he got from all his new Twitter friends? Not one. 

Anyway, it’s not really important whether Poopsie hears from his friends or not – frankly, he’s far too busy here eating chicken and licking the floor. But what this made me realize is that in our modern, technological world people only bother to look elsewhere when they think there’s something in it for them. As I sadly learned in the Co-op program at university – the answer to the job search conundrum isn’t talent or grades or experience or effort or intent. The answer is networking, rubbing elbows, socializing and social networking. So what we’re seeing in fish-eye sociological terms is that the name of the game, today, is reciprocity – that talent and ability aren’t as important as audience-building and marketing – that presence means more than ability; appearance trumps integrity. Who you know is more important than what you know.   

I’d better stop before you see sour grapes where there aren’t any. I don’t begrudge anyone the right to carve success out of nothing – I rather hope to do that myself. I just hope that success (mine or anyone’s) is ultimately a product of skill and talent, not just the construction of appearances, because a world – and a society – founded on the appearance of stability is a world that’s due for a tumble.

 

Ps: I’m handing in the next two papers today.