A Piece of Paper

29 Jan

I finally got my piece of paper!  Obviously I don’t share Tam’s disparity of B.A.’s, though I agree with her premise – that a modern university diploma does not mean a person is intelligent.  Yet, I didn’t just work hard and spend a lot of money so that while I’m looking for work my application would at least be considered.

Many people criticize modern higher education establishments as being watered down in their grading, and being more trade schools than universities.  I’m of the opinion that a university will provide the education that the student wants to take away from it.  If you’re there simply to fulfill the credit requirement and get your piece of paper, then that is all that you will get.  If you are then to actually learn then you actually will.

But what will you learn?  Unfortunately, I learned some things that I should have already known.  Basic things like writing and math.  I didn’t take HS as seriously as I should have but was able to graduate.  I was there to simply fulfill the credit requirement and get my piece of paper.

Going to college was a different matter.  I didn’t have any plans to go, initially.  My great-grandfather (my mother’s-mother’s-father) held degrees in Mechanical and Civil Engineering.  All of my other progenitors were dirt farmers.  Both of my parents “started at the bottom and worked their way up.”  And this, essentially, was my plan.  Unfortunately, today you need a degree to start at the bottom (in a corporate setting).  The basic employment culture that I was raised in, both domestically and socially, was a model from the 1950’s – get in with a company and your loyalty will be rewarded.

In 2005 I met Tammy.  She had just finished a B.A. in History (graduated top of her department) and didn’t understand why I wasn’t going to college.  She wasn’t being judgmental, but she had a slightly different view of the world – Her family has a college background: father, J.D.; sister, M.D.; brother, J.D., sister, currently completing a J.D.  Tammy was studying for the GRE when we met.

We got married in 2006 and though I’d taken a few uncompleted semesters at the local community college a few years earlier, and a few credits at the University of Utah, she encouraged me to begin again and finish what I had halfheartedly started seven years earlier.

I began in May, 2006, during the summer semester.  At first I didn’t have any direction.  The goal was to fill my general education requirements.  I was just looking to fulfill credit hours.  My goal was the piece of paper.  Going to school part time while working full time gave me opportunity consider the classes that I was taking and what I liked or didn’t like about them.  By the time I was ready to graduate from Salt Lake Community College with my A.A. in English I had become fascinated with language and how people use it.

Upon transferring to the University of Utah I decided to change majors from English to Speech Communication.

The Communication department at the U is interesting.  Housed in the College of Humanities, two majors are available – Mass Communication or Speech Communication.  Each of those are broken down into various emphases.  Speech Comm is broken down into five tracks: Teaching and Training; Argumentation & Conflict Studies; Organizational Comm; Interpersonal Comm; Comm and Culture.  A sixth track, a General degree, allows students, with the assistance of the undergrad adviser, to create a specifically tailored degree. In all honesty, the difference between the tracks is minimal and really only there to help students build a road map to graduation.

I decided to focus on the Interpersonal Comm track and by the time I graduated I had actually combined the Interpersonal and Argumentation & Conflict tracks.  I also added a Peace & Conflict Studies minor.  I was no longer just completing credit hours and working toward a piece of paper.  The Speech Comm degree at the U can best be described as sitting at the crossroads of Psychology and Sociology, I was learning about how people talk to one another, how argument works, how conflict arises and how to manage learn from it.

Yes, my degree is only a piece of paper.  But my education is something for which I will be forever grateful.

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Posted by on January 29, 2010 in Education, Life, People


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