Tag: college

I Miss Casual

Guys I miss casual.  What do I mean by casual? Well, its not that I don’t have friends but its the type of friends you can have in 20s but almost never have in 30s.

Casual is having nothing to do on a Friday night, texting friends and all going to a movie.  That kind of thing never happens.

Casual is getting together to watch American Idol or Survivor every Wednesday night at your house.  That kind of thing never happens any more.

Casual is if I’m bored having someone to call and hang out with because they are also most likely bored. That kind of thing never happens.

Casual is stopping over to chat with friends, usually to bring them a flyer or something from church.  That kind of thing never happens. (all email now).

What we have in your 30s instead of casual is a calendar.  Everything is planned out and scheduled weeks in advance.  That is fine but there is something more relaxing about both the regularity and spontaneity of casual.  It was just so easy and now friendshipping is a lot of work.

Now even to meet a friend for lunch is a challenge.  Her schedule, my schedule are both busy and it’s tough.  Plus, about 80% of my friends don’t live in state any more and 99% have kids which is fine but usually requires more planning.

I know with book club I had to take a break because it was turning into this thing that I hated.  I felt like the book nag when it was supposed to be fun. It was such a chore trying to get people to come that I finally threw up my hands in frustration.

But I can be to blame too.  Just Saturday I missed the Hand Made Co-op (although I did message my friend as early as I could) . I had a terrible night with about 3 hours of sleep and I knew a drive up to Salt Lake wasn’t going to happen.  This was especially true because I would be going to Bountiful later that afternoon for the Open Water clinic.  I figured I had to pick one and with the GSL Open Water Swim coming up soon I knew I needed to be at the clinic.

So I can flake out on people too.  We all do.  It’s just tough to get people together.

That said, I suppose it is silly to pine for the past.  This is my life now and it isn’t casual.

Sigh…

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Political Economy of Women

Today I must confess- I am jealous of my sister Anna.  Is it her good looks, fulfilling relationships, pretty hair?  Yes to all three but the main thing I am jealous of is yesterday she started her third year at BYU and is taking my favorite class- Political Economy of Women PoliSci 472.

I had three classes at BYU that dramatically impacted me- PoliSci 472, Theories on Human Freedom (PoliSci 308, which I took twice once as student, once as TA), and PoliSci 201 (Western Political Heritage, Ancient Thought, which I took 3 times- once as a student, once to improve my grade (where I met my mentor Dr. Holland, and once as a TA).   I will have to do an entire post about each of these classes but today I am waxing nostalgic for Poliitical Economy of Women or PoliSci 472.

This class was special for so many reasons.  First, it was team taught by two amazing professors- Donna Lee Bowen and Valerie Hudson.  I always found the best classes in college were the one’s that teachers had a passion for- classes they usually only teach every other year.  This guaranteed a teacher with excitement for the topic and I think most anything can be made interesting by an enthusiastic teacher.

Dr.  Hudson is particularly amazing.  She is as close to a superwoman as any person I’ve ever met.

Believe it or not this description is for one woman, Dr. Hudson: (She even has a wikipedia page!)

a  full tenure professor, noted scholar of China’s one-child only policy (co-author of Bare Branches: Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Populations), she has 8 children, 3 of her children have cystic fibrosis, she has authored 3 other books including one on women in the LDS church, and in her spare time she researched her children’s cf condition and discovered a hormone that may be associated with the condition (and had an article published in a medical journal!), anyway the list goes on.  She is an amazing person and just her example, let alone her teachings taught me that I could do great things with my life.

So the teachers are great…Moving on to the course content.  It is also fabulous.  Even now, nearly 10 years since I graduated, I still remember individual lectures and discussions that occurred  in PoliSci 472.  From the syllabus here are the course objectives:

  • To understand the roles women play in world society as producers, reproducers, agents of cultural continuity and change, and to render women “visible” in international and national affairs.
  • To explore in greater depth women’s choices about education, family, and work in the developing world.
  • To investigate transnational issues directly concerning women’s lives, and the objectification and subordination of women that often results.
  • To discuss the dynamics of change in women’s lives and in their societies, including the dynamics of religious beliefs, and to learn about programs for change that already exist.

Perhaps such topics sound dull to you but for me I begin salivating at the mouth I’m so interested.  I could talk endlessly about any one of those course objectives.

One of my favorite books we read Maternal Thinking by Sara Ruddick still has a prominent place on my front bookshelf.  It is a book that summarizes the purpose and teachings of the class well.  Ruddick says the work of motherhood “shapes the parent as much as the child, giving rise to specific cognitive capacities and values — qualities of intellect and soul. Doing shapes thinking, in other words.”

“A mother engages in a discipline. That is, she asks certain questions rather than others; she establishes criteria for the truth, adequacy and relevance of proposed answers; and she cares about the findings she makes and can act on.”

She then says we should take this nearly universal “cognitive capacity” of mothering and use it to promote peace and connectivity throughout the world.

I can’t explain why I found this so moving but for the first time in my life I finally understood why motherhood was important to the world, not just the family.  Through PoliSci 472 I learned that my life as a woman mattered to the success of the world. At the time this meant much more to me than the platitudes heaped on the alter of female divinity.  This was a concrete reason why women and femininity was important, even crucial.  Ruddick also says that “anyone who commits her or himself to responding to children’s demands, and makes the work of response a considerable part of her or his life, is a mother”.

The units on veiling and female circumcision had a particularly dramatic impact.  For the latter we watched a movie where they showed a girl being circumcised.  I couldn’t deal with it and literally left the classroom to vomit.  Clearly not an enjoyable memory but that doesn’t mean it was not impactful.   There are certain times while growing up where a child must be confronted with the evil in the world and deal with it- how lucky I was to receive such an experience within the protection and careful observation of such a great class.  I remember talking with Dr.  Hudson about how anyone could do that to their daughter and her inspiring me to make a difference in the world and to not give up on people.  What a great teacher!

We also talked a lot about the gospel and its views of womanhood.  The class explored things I had heard my entire life, like that Eve was a hero for her actions in the garden, but that had never really been defended adequately in my eyes.  I didn’t just want to know that Eve was noble and great.  I wanted to know why.  This class helped me with the why’s (not that I know the answer to every question but it helped).  Plus, it taught me to ask questions of the Lord and to not be afraid of diving into topics I did not understand.  I have learned that such experiences strengthen, not weaken, my faith.   Check out my post on Mormon Feminism to read some of my current views.

More then anything the class reinforced to me that there was room for voices just like mine (a whole class of them in fact, including the 2 teachers) in the church and in the world.  This is something I have never forgotten.  I grew so much during this class and that is what I am most envious of Anna.  I wish I could experience that kind of growth on my own but it is hard.  I am envious of the fantastic learning she is going to have presented to her and I hope she takes full advantage of the opportunity.  I know I did and I am SO GRATEFUL!

(PS- All 3 of the classes I mentioned were by no means easy.  They were extremely difficult but that’s part of what made them so rewarding.  Just goes to show don’t settle for the easy way out even in college!).

Anyway, I don’t know if I have done the class justice but it had a dramatic impact on my life and I am most grateful.  Did any classes have an impact on your life?  College as a whole was the most transformative phase I’ve ever had and I look back on it with great warmth and nostalgia.  I am so lucky and blessed to have had such great experiences.

BYU

As I write this post I am watching the BYU vs. Gonzaga game in the NCAA tournament.  BYU has a great team led by Jimmer Fredette who is an amazing player. His skill sets are so solid across the board including three point shots that are way outside.  The thing that is most impressive is he makes every other player better on his team.  I don’t see how you can help but get excited when watching someone who is so good at what they do.

Anyway, watching the game made me wax nostalgic of my BYU years (when I was there the basketball team was awful.  It was the volleyball and dance teams that were winning national championships).  I went to Brigham Young University (or BYU)  from 1999 to 2002. I know many people idolize high school but for me it is my college years that stand out.

BYU is  a very special school.  It is owned by my church- the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it has strict standards for all who wish to attend.  (Actually its the same standards asked of all the youth of the church). Each student must commit to an honor code that demands honesty, character, integrity and prohibits alcohol, smoking, coffee, tea, premarital sex among other things.

Some are critical of these high standards, but I believe strongly they provide a sanctuary for people who believe the same things- a space where learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ can be combined with secular study in a way that is not available anywhere else in the world.  Aside from the other BYU schools, there is no other place where a Mormon can express their faith in the way they can at BYU.

It still gives me a thrill when I attend a play at BYU and there is a prayer before the game.  I fondly remember sitting in science class and singing a hymn  with my fellow students or asking questions about my faith to my professors (of any class).  BYU is always criticized for ‘limiting academic freedom’ but I believe I was more free there than I could have been at any school.  As I said, nowhere else could my faith flourish along with my knowledge.

When I arrived at BYU I was SO excited and rarely in life do experiences live up to high expectations but it did not disappoint (I was so anxious when opening my acceptance letter that I went into another room and upon reading ‘we are pleased…’ I started screaming and jumping up and down).

I know its a cliche but I really feel like I found my voice there.  Within my first semester I decided on political science and with this major I learned how to defend my point of view and how to understand others.  I also studied the philosophies of the past which have led to the contemporary lifestyles and ideas.   Its hard to over state the impact these classes had on me.  Even now, nearly 10 years later I still remember individual lectures and assignments.

The motto of BYU is ‘Enter to Learn, Go forth to Serve’ (Its on a big plaque at the entrance so its hard to miss!). I hope I have lived up to this challenge.  If you had asked me at 22 what I wanted to do I might have listed some great and lofty goals.  Perhaps I may have been disappointed with my current simple life?

Its hard to say, but I believe I have taken all the opportunities I can to continue to learn and grow.  I am constantly trying to read, study, analyze, pray and vocalize my opinions to and about the world.  (Hopefully you have seen this as you have read my blog!).  Who knows what I would be like without BYU, but I don’t think my life could possibly be the same without such a fortifying experience.

Some people go to BYU (or any other college for that matter) and breeze through taking the ‘easy classes’ and not really learning- not changing.  Others nitpick every flaw, and do nothing but complain (I was so sick of hearing ‘there’s nothing to do in Provo.  Please! There is plenty to do. You should see the list of activity ideas I came up with of things to do- its like 6 pages long!).   Such whining was not my style.  I always figured if I was going to do something I would do it well, and so I immersed myself in the BYU experience.

I went to activities, followed sports, found teachers and subjects I was passionate about, and even attended a dance or two (shocking I know).  I left BYU with no regrets (and unlike most college experience I can remember the fun I had!). The truth is if you decide you are going to have an awesome experience you probably will.  I certainly did.

The only thing I wish I had done is go on a study abroad but I was having too much fun at school to take time off.  I also could have spent more time but I loved school and had no desire to go home for the summer. If I was given the opportunity to go back and get more schooling I’d do it in a heartbeat (although I am sure it wouldn’t be the same.  You can never really go back to special experiences!).

I know it sounds cheesy but I walk on BYU campus and still feel like it is sacred  grounds.  Doesn’t everyone have places like that which help define their life? Perhaps its the church you get married in or the first home you buy, but for me one of those places will always be BYU. I love it!  I got a great education and it was a happy time of growth and discovery.  In some ways I wish I could go back and live that time again.  Go cougars!  (They just won the game by like 2o points!  Wahoo!  Proof you can uphold your standards and still win games…)

Funny Glimpse into the Past

Here I am with the floppy disk!

Change

Change the poem, change the line,
change the meaning, change the rhyme,
change the outcome change the plan,
change the mood, change the man.

Change your looks, change your smile,
change your going, stay awhile,
change your past, change your time,
change your future, stay be mine.

william greer

Today I was filling up my new bookcase (which despite purchasing 4 bags of books from DI leaves my other bookcases markedly sparse!).  While personally oogling over each and every book- even the ones from my childhood such as the boxcar children and babysitters club- I started looking at my old books from college.  This is always a sentimental trap for me because I look at my college experience as the most defining one of my life.  My mission was the most difficult, college was the most defining.  I know it is such a cliche but I really did find my voice as a young political philosophy student.  All of the sudden I had the words to say what I had been feeling my entire life.  I can recall the first moment of reading Plato (something most would shutter at) as one of the most liberating of my life.  Particularly his teaching on forms- the belief that eternal forms have always existed.  He uses the example of a chair. We know something is a chair because it uses the form of a chair.  Abstract concepts are the same way.  We know what justice is because it fits the form of justice.  There were so many times in my life when I had been trying in vain to describe my heart and to know that this struggle with words was eternal was an ah ha moment if there ever was one!  Since then I have had many ah ha moments but none came with such fluidity as they did in college. Suddenly reading became easy and fun, writing (and even grammar) became a passion and learning new concepts an adrenhaline rush.  This love of learning has never left me and I believe is now one of the distinctive parts of my personality.

Anyway, as I was reminiscing with each old book I came across a book from my Marriage and Family course (ironic that I took 3 such courses I know!) and from inside the book fell out my old floppy drive from college!  What a blast from the past that was.  I knew it was the floppy I relied on because it was black with a green and white label.  I used to put everything on that floppy (everything that would fit that is!).  At the time it seemed more than sufficient for my back up and storage needs.  Looking at it now it has 1.44 mb. To put things in perspective one song on Itunes has 5 mb.  My current ipod has 160 GB.  The flash drive I carry on my key chain has 4 GB and my back up capabilities are over 1 terabyte.  This means that in my personal back up system I have over a million floppy drives! Amazing.

What am I getting with all those bytes- tons of added photos, videos and software space, back up for many projects, and perhaps most importantly thousands of downloaded songs and cds at my disposal. With all that I am only using about 1/3rd of my storage capacity.  It is hard to imagine filling it up but I am sure someday I will.  Perhaps someday I will be looking at my loud noisy back up hard drive and think it is so old fashioned- just as I am with the floppy drive.

That said- I wonder if my life really is any better?  Back then I still had a laptop with music files, software and was completely satisfied.  In fact, I would love to be able to look at this floppy and see what kinds of projects I was working on and items I thought important enough to save.  Most of it is probably papers that I put on the floppy to print at the SWKT computer lab (my printer was notoriously fickle- something that doesn’t seem to have changed much with ink jets!)

Do you all ever have moments like that where a simple item will start you down the reminiscing trail and lead to questions, to pondering?  Happens to me all the time.  Please share!  I haven’t had a comment in a while.  Not since my President Obama post and let’s be honest you guys don’t want me doing political posts all the time do you!!  (Btw, I’ve lost 8 lbs so far on my new fitness regiment but that’s for another entry!).  Thanks for reading.

Anna’s Present

I know it is not good to brag about oneself, but let me just say I can be a great present giver.  In fact,  a few years ago my brother claimed I was a bad present giver and I made sure to give him the best present ever- nice strategy Ben! Maybe it is because I don’t have that many presents to give, being single, but I treat it as kind of a game to win or lose at.  My dad was always a hard one to buy presents for (and still is) and so I learned to probe deep for ideas and to try to give from the heart. I have a long track record of giving the best bridal and baby shower gifts- including the longest ahhh! at all of the baby showers I attend (trust me, if you are having a baby then you want me at your shower!).

This last month I was faced with a gift giving dilemma.  What to get my about to go to college sister Anna. She and I are very similar, and she is coming out here to BYU (my Alma mater!). Naturally,  a number of possible gifts such as gift certificates to the theater or a cookbook came to mind.  I also thought of things for her apartment, to help study, or a keyboard practice music on.  All of these gifts would have been fine, but I wanted something more personal.  As is natural, she has been somewhat stressed-out about the beginning of college (even though I know she will do amazingly well).  It is a big change, and as I very well know big changes are scary.  It means saying goodbye to some family, her high school friends and California. (although, she pretends like she is dying which is not true either.  What drama!) I began to think- what could I give her that might be comforting and provide real guidance? Then it came to me- a survival book, full of the advice  I would have wanted when I was in college!

I gathered materials and made the book out of 5 by 7 scrapbooking cardstock and then printed out all kinds of quotes, study tips, Provo restaurant recommendations, coupons for meals/rides/clean room, suggestions such as attending BYU athletics and more.  It ended up being 24 laminated pages with a binding and stickers as illustrations.  Of course, I ended the book with a letter of congratulations and encouragement.  She’s such an awesome sister, and I feel privileged to know her.  In many ways she makes me feel complete and understood in my family- something I often didn’t always feel while growing up (does any teenager?).  I love chatting with her, getting excited about David Archuleta, singing our favorite Broadway songs and giggling over the Office, Glee or some other show.  I am so grateful for all she does for me, and I hope my little present actually helps increase her happiness while at school and provide real concrete guidance when she struggles.  It will be like having her big sister in her pocket whenever she need’s it.  (Of course, I will be here in real life as well- just around the corner- despensing hugs, laughs and sister-filled fun). Good luck!

anna'sbook2anna'sbook

Hurray for Dr. Holland!

I just found out today that my mentor and friend Dr. Matt Holland had exciting news- he was named as President of Utah Valley University in Orem Utah! This is a large college nearby my Alma Mater Brigham Young University. The school has 23,750 students and was recently upgraded from a college to a university.

I can’t think of anyone who deserves this more.  I met Dr. Holland as a student in political philosophy in 2001.  I had taken classical political theory previously, but I hated the teacher.  He was one of those teachers everyone said was “easy” but I found it boring.  I actually stopped attending after a while and just turned in my tests. I thought the class was so obvious and boring.  Despite being absent I still passed the class and gained an appreciation for philosophy.  For some reason I decided I wanted to be a teaching assistant for a political philosophy class (which is odd considering my experience with the class).

To improve my grade I took the class again for summer term and was lucky enough to have a brand new teacher named Matt Holland.  I loved all my philosophy classes, but Dr. Holland’s was special.  He just made me want to be a better person, to look at these theories and see how they could improve my life and the lives of those I love.  All of my philosophy classes helped me understand the world, helped me understand myself- and helped me know how to express my soul.  I remember in high school feeling like I could never convey what was inside my heart- the thoughts were there but the words would always disappoint.  It such a cliche to say but it was in college I found my voice.  Dr. Holland inspired this journey.

Just before his class was ending I approached Dr. Holland about being his TA (and when I say approached I mean I called him about 15 times in 2 weeks).  I knew that I needed to be persistent because I didn’t have the greatest GPA. Let’s put it this way- there were definitely students with higher GPA’s he could have hired. Something inside me knew I needed this experience. To my delight a week or so before class started Dr.  Holland called me and said “So, you want to be my TA hah?”.  After that, I was hired along with two of my best friends in the major Raelene Kochel (now Bradley)  and Bob Floyd.

See if you can feel my enthusiasium from a journal entry dated 09/01/01 (just after getting the job)?:

Oh, that’s right I am going to be a TA. I haven’t told you about that yet! I ended up getting an A- in my 201 class and I asked Dr. Holland if I could be a TA and he said sure! I am so excited. The best part of it is that I am going to be TA’ing with my friend Raelene who is super nice. She is honestly probably my best friend in the political science major. I really want to become more involved in the major this semester because this is my last chance. This TA will be a start….I am kind of scared to be a TA but I think it will be a super good experience and Dr. Holland is super nice. So, I am excited (If you couldn’t tell!).(09-01-01)

Now listen to a letter I wrote (don’t know if I sent) to my parents  just after my job is finished:


I think out of everything I am the most proud of my work with Dr. Holland. I have been thinking so much lately and I know that I am a better person for all that I have been experiencing. It’s intimidating to get up there and teach other students or grade papers, but he makes me want to try harder. My hope is that maybe when I see you again at Christmas, that you will be shocked at how much I have grown and changed.(12-09-01)

It’s hard to explain how a simple college job could be so important to me.  I cry whenever I think about it.  As part of this job I graded papers and tests, tutored students, created multimedia presentations, and even instructed the class on grammar once!  I’ve always respected that Dr. Holland never  questioned our grades, never second guessed us.  He had faith in us.  There were times when he gave correction but it was in a way that motivated, not discouraged.  Dr. Holland was without a doubt the best boss I have ever had. I wanted to be great because I knew he believed in me.

It was also a great experience to work and instruct students.  I remember the first time I connected with one.  It was an older Latino woman who was struggling to understand Plato’s cave. I could not figure out how to explain this concept in a way that an ESL student would understand.  After several attempts it finally occurred to me to ask if she had seen the movie the Truman Show?  She said she had.  I then showed how the set Truman is stuck in is similar to the cave.  Everything surrounding Truman is like the shadows in the cave- they aren’t real.  They have been placed there by the director, just like the shadows are placed in the cave by the philosopher kings.  She got it!  It was so exciting to see the light bulb moment in this student.  It made me feel smart, made me feel confident, in a new way.  I owe that moment to Dr. Holland and his faith in me.

Once I finished being his TA, I had Dr. Holland as my professor for my senior capstone class.  It was possibly the best class ever.  There were only 7 of us in the class- and Raelene and I were the only girls.  Last year I asked Dr. Holland if he’d seen anything like us again and he said “No, you two are legends”! He also said Raelene and I were two of his favorites! (That meant a lot to me!).

I started this class determined to get an A.  Despite learning a great deal in my classes, I often felt frustrated by my inability to get A’s.  I wanted to show Dr. Holland I could get an A in the most important class- the senior capstone.  I also wanted to prove to myself I could do it.  The class was on the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and the main assignment for the class was to write a 20 page paper on his political philosophies.  I chose to focus on Jefferson’s theories of education. Here is the link to the paper if anyone is interested in taking a look:  Senior Capstone Paper.

Anyway, I worked for hours on the paper.  My friend Marcus and I met in the law library and poured over them again and again.  It only ended up being 20 pages, but I felt like I had written a book. It was one of the few moments in my life where I can genuinely say I did the best I could. I put in every ounce of effort I could.  I felt that way when leaving my mission.  I felt that way when leaving my job last year, and I felt that way then.  I always try to do my best work but this was something different.  This was my heart and soul.  Dr. Holland recognized that and was very encouraging.  In fact, when others in the class wanted to extend the date of the paper he called me to discuss it.  I felt that an extension would be one more example of how I worked the hardest but then ended up the same as everyone else.  Perhaps this comparison was beneath me but I just felt like I had earned the highest grade in the class for once in my life.  I wanted to prove to Dr. Holland and to myself that I could do it without any extension or help.

Finally I turned in the paper and low and behold an A! It still holds up as one of the best moments of my life. To end the class Dr. Holland gave me a book called Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.  It has since become one of my favorite books (anyone who has been in a book club with me can attest to that).  The inscription on the book reads:

Rachel,

I hope you enjoy this stirring narrative of a female slave.  I believe it embodies many ideals you seem to cherish and represent yourself!  Courage, discipline, and freedom for all– especially those who lacked it in previous societies.  It’s been a great delight having you in class.  Both as a student and  teaching assistant.  Good luck, Prof.  Holland.

This meant so much to me.   It’s hard to describe.  It just did. Still to this day, I feel motivated to do my best because of Dr. Holland’s faith in me. I don’t want it to have been for naught. I want to mean something to the world.  I know I can accomplish great things.  That is the power of a great teacher.  Dr.  Holland isn’t perfect.  He was just the influence I needed at that moment, at that time, and he rose to the challenge.

Everyone has key figures in his or her life- people who if they made a biographic film  would have to be in it.   My parents, my siblings, my grandparents, Dr.  Holland and a few key friends would have to be there. I am not a believer in total fate, but I do believe that each person has key people who we are supposed to meet along the way- both people we need to help, and that improve our lives.  Dr.  Holland was such a key person for me. I am grateful that he took the time to nurture my intellect and encourage me to do my best. He saw a potential in me that I didn’t even see in myself and once again- that’s a great teacher.  I am so excited for his future as the President of UVU, and I wish him all the best.  Good luck!

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