Here is a Hinakaga yearbook photo from 1984 of my two quarter-of-a-century departmental colleagues Virginia and Ralph Parsons. Thank you Ralph and Ginny for sharing your wisdom with me during my “freshman” faculty years.
A few years ago, I wrote the following blog piece in an open letter to the Freshman class of 2018. I shared this with one of my first-year students, Kristen (whose mother attended Carroll and whose aunt was my research assistant). She will be graduating in May Magna Cum Laude with a major in psychology, a minor in biochemistry, and a pre-med emphasis.She plans to start working at Rogers Behavioral Health as a Residential Care Specialist right after graduation. She then plans to prepare for and take the MCATs, shadow, and apply to medical school in the next year.
Here is what I wrote when Kristen was a freshman.
Dear First-year Student,
I may not meet you for a while since I am not teaching first-year courses as often as I used to. I do offer you a heartfelt welcome. You may well be the son or daughter or niece or nephew of one of my former students. That happens a lot.
First-year students have played a very important positive role in my life during my 36+ years of teaching here. You have made me smile, motivated me to learn from your enthusiasm, made me proud as I have seen you grow across your years here, and made me especially happy when we have been able to stay in touch across the years.
You sometimes have been favorably referred to as “the App Generation.” Don’t forget that your best apps are your values and your mind. You, the Class of 2018, do have very different life experiences than I. I look forward to learning from you and with you–if not directly this year, then in subsequent years. Do drop by and say hello in the interim.
Here are a few friendly suggestions I offer based on my years of teaching and learning.
Don’t be too proud to seek help or advice from faculty, staff, administrators, and older students here–especially those who know the campus and our students well.
Take advantage of opportunities to try new things, to meet new people (especially from different cultures), and to learn how to learn better. Let us become a global choir of learning. Research suggests that the quality of relationships (e.g. with peers, with faculty) is central to a positive, successful college experience.
Set aside some time for self-reflection.
Let self-discipline enable you rather than imprison you. Find the right balance between service and involuntary servitude, between doing a right thing and doing things right. My own freshman year at Oberlin College in 1967 was informative and formative, lonely, and elating, value challenging and values affirming. I envy you the learning opportunities that are here.
The last time I taught a first-year seminar (dealing with Internet Learning tools) I asked freshmen to reflect upon their freshman year–and I returned their paper to them when they were seniors.
I asked Kristen to share her experiences during her first year at Carroll. Here are her thoughts at the end of her freshman year.
As I start to wrap up my freshman year at Carroll University, Dr. Simpson suggested that I take the time to step back from my busy schedule and reflect on my first year of college.
One of the main things I noticed right away about college was the improved maturity of my peers. In my first semester, I was astonished to see how everyone treated each other with kindness and respect. Not only this, but you can tell the students at this university want to engage in the subject. Even when the content is not pertaining to their major, they still take the subject seriously. Originally, I thought that taking classes that were not pertaining to my major was a waste of time. However, after taking multiple general education classes, I realized the value of them. One of my favorite classes that I took at Carroll was called Music of the Movies. It was very insightful and focused on how movies and culture changed over time. I can definitely see how these general education courses can help students who do not know what do to in the future. These classes have helped challenge me in becoming a better overall student and person. Working with a professor has also challenged me in ways my classes never have. To be able to work with someone who is knowledgeable in my field of study is an incredibly unique opportunity. I have not only learned more about my field of study, but I am also challenged in ways I never thought before. I can also tell I have changed as an individual. Throughout my high school career, I was extremely shy and had a lack of confidence in myself. I would rarely ask for help from my teachers. Although I still struggle with my confidence at times, I am, however, more talkative with my peers and professors. I also contribute in more classroom conversations and never hesitate to ask for help when needed. Throughout this first year, I have learned more about myself than ever before. Although it can be quite difficult at times to balance education and sanity, overall, I find college to be an unexpected enlightening experience.