Class isn’t technically over yet….right?

Well it seems like I made a mistake…  Whoops!  I don’t know about you guys, but whenever I write anything, be it a blog post or a to-do list, I do it on a word document first.  I don’t know why I do this, but it’s a habit and sometimes it leads to me submitting things late because I write the thing, but just save it and forget to submit it.

(this was one of those times…..oops)

I think that this was probably my favorite elective I’ve taken to date.  (No, Noel, I’m not just saying that to get a good grade, it’s really heartfelt.) This comes from a multitude of things, first off I liked the material we were researching over the six weeks.  Before this class I didn’t even know the word adjunct existed, and over the weeks I came to realize that many of my friends did not either.  The reason that this is so interesting and exciting to me is that the situation that adjuncts face is something that could possibly be remediated by just raising awareness and getting past the general hum of everyday life that seems to cloud everyone from other people’s issues.

Another reason I enjoyed the class was because of the people that comprised it.  Being an engineering student who is almost never around non-engineers, it was refreshing to be around people who had a wider vocabulary that didn’t seem to revolve around mathematical and science terminology.  That being said, I also enjoyed hanging out with some Civvies and getting to know more people in my major.

We had a good group, and we had a lot more people participate in discussion that my usual classes (which tend to have around 3-4 people who will constantly answer just because no one else volunteers) I think that this is what made the class such a pleasure to attend, we constantly had new ideas being contributed from a bunch of people who had a bunch of different viewpoints on the issue at hand.

In my opinion, the class was well streamlined, and I don’t think there were any real sticking points or places where I felt we were being inefficient with the small amount of time we had.  I think that the class would have flowed a bit better if Noel had made it mandatory for people to bring in some sort of comments for workshop as sometimes conversation fell flat rather quickly.  I think that this was mostly because we were work shopping as one big group, and looking over a bunch of peoples stuff and giving quality feedback is something the teacher has more experience doing.  However, when we did workshop for the infographics (and split into groups) I feel like the quality of the workshop was much better as each person was able to focus their attention to less work and really workshop the fine details.

Coming out of this class I have garnered an appreciation for the work that adjunct professors do.  I had never known about them before this class, and it has made me want to tell anyone I can about their plight to help attempt to raise awareness that could bring about change.  It was a fun class, and I definitely had fun meeting everyone.

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Better you today to better us all tomorrow

One of the more rewarding exercises we did in class was our stream of consciousness assignment in which we wrote whatever came to our minds for 10 minutes. We had a simple rubric that asked us how student debt affects our life? Now in my final reflection of our time together I will ask myself a simple question and attempt to find some higher meaning behind my flow of thoughts. The question I ask myself today is, how has this class affected my life? From this point on I will not stop writing until I reach my culminating lesson this class has taught me (currently don’t know what that is…)

Before I took WFTP I didn’t think too much about the system of higher education and more focused on how to get through it like most young adults do in college. I was worried about what classes to take to get on track for my major, what research I should be doing and with who, and where to volunteer. While juggling all these aspects of my college career I seldom stop to look around at the system that surrounds me but this class has for sure slowed me down. Now walking through campus I question what everyone is doing here. You are a student. You, an administrator for sure. And her, she must be a professor. It got pretty easy once I started looking around to see what everyone was starting to be brought to my attention through this class. There were a ton of administrators everywhere I looked and went, and these people previously held a “miscellaneous” label under occupational title in my eyes. This attributed to my further interest in student debt because of how much administration positions have risen and how the number of tenure track professor positions has stayed almost stagnant. While I can’t change the way this is and how it affects my university I feel by being more informed I am taking steps to change this negative trend. Similarly to student debt I gained an interest to adjunct teaching after asking several of my previous professors and graduate students here at University of Pittsburgh about their experiences with adjuncts and their working conditions. Getting first-hand accounts like this although not used in my writing helped me gain insight into this issue and I believe made me a better writer on this topic. Interestingly our school has many differences between conditions of adjuncts to their benefits however wages are similar to the rest of the country and leave most who choose adjuncting as a profession to make on average a yearly salary below the poverty line. At Pitt adjunct receive healthcare through UPMC and this is because of our association with them however most adjuncts across the nation do not have this benefit. Pitt also has different types of non-tenure track positions based on department that are not adjuncts and make enough more to push their yearly salaries above the poverty line. Through our discussions and projects I feel much more informed on overall student debt and how it is plaguing our generation. Ah! I think I’ve reached the end. My final thoughts on this course reside in concept taken from a reading by Williams, in which he talks about social hope. If higher education took on a mantra of bettering the nation based on potential and not income, then we might return to the real reason higher education was created in the first place…to better the young so when they grow up they will better society for everyone.

Well it has been fun

(Of course I would mess up the last post)

I’ve read through some of the reflections and for many of you its the requirement and its your first and only, as a business student who doesn’t have to sneak over here and do one of these this is my third. This was a very interesting class that had enough curve balls to improve my writing even further. I’ve taken all three of these classes from fall to spring to this summer and have noticed progressively less red on all my papers. The English department must be doing something right then.

While tweeting is something I have done many a time actually writing down opinions in a blog post was something new. As was of course the various public writings throughout the course. I now have a much wider range of material that I can take with me into my career as I go forward. I know that I didn’t realize how many different ways you can format writing in the public sphere that may only be seen by a few people but can make a big difference.

Then the theme. Well even though I may have been in the staunch big wig supporter camp for most of the semester it certainly was an interesting read into how wide pay actually is. Its enough to raise questions and read more. I don’t know if that was the goal but I think that it sure accomplished that. Not just because its a requirement but actually looking into it for personal reasons. As a business student I really liked my adjuncts that had day jobs. I just assumed they took this on as something to do and really became I little numb to it. I can safely say at least half if not more of my chosen business professors wound up being adjuncts teaching on the side. Many were ultra successful in there own right which made the issue of adjunct pay seem like an afterthought. The common first day quote of “I’m not teaching for the money” takes on new meaning after a class like this.

I feel like I have defiantly got a lot out of this class. The people were awesome and Noel yes you were to. I personally like this quick 6 week format as it was just a month and a half ago I was wondering what in the world are we going to be doing in this class. I think the speed and pace of the class was something that actually helped rather than hurt. I cant say that I would have got the same things out of it should this have been a traditional two and a half hour class in the evening or twice a week for about 90 minutes. The pace made sure to keep things rather new each and every time.

Best wishes Noel and to the rest of you.  As Ill be finishing up by the end of the year I think this class will be in the top of my memory going forward.

(Celebratory Cat Picture)celebrating-earth-day-with-your-green-cat

Have a great summer, ill see yinz at Hems

Well here it is guys the last assignment and the night before our last class. Its almost unbelievable that this course is already coming to a close. I guess ive been so busy over the past 6 weeks that, until now, I haven’t taken the time to step back and think about everything that has happened. When I first transferred to Pitt and started piecing together my schedule for the next 4 years of my life I cringed at the sight of a W intensive class. Needless to say I have pushed this requirement back to the very last semester that I possibly could. Now, 4 years later, I can look back over every other class I have taken and say that this is the very first class that I wouldn’t mind coming back to after its over. A part of me wonders why I didn’t schedule the W class sooner and the other part of me is really glad that I waited this long and got to have this experience alongside all of you. That being said I will second Mikes words and say Thank You! It really was a great time and very rarely felt like a chore to sit through class and complete the work. Not to mention snacks!

Before attending this class I had never written a blog post or even considered making a Twitter tweet. The blog posting, reading, and the knowledge gained because of it was definitely a plus. However, I really felt that the unifying experience brought fourth through Twitter greatly enhanced the classroom experience far exceeding any other resource like Pitt mail or Courseweb. Just like Mohammad said in his last post I found myself looking through Twitter and getting lost in peoples posts and research far beyond what I ever would have done otherwise.

Over the years I have had more experience with the course material than I would have ever liked to, but I still I feel as though my knowledge was barely skimming the surface. I like to consider myself to be someone with considerable street smarts and that I am well aware of what is going on around me, but after everything that I have learned this semester Im really reconsidering that. The focus of the class has literally been surrounding me for years and although I was always questioning the bigger picture I never took the time to really look into anything below the surface. I was always too focused on the small role that revolved around my life and was never able to see beyond that into the lives of adjunct professors, rise in administrators, academic finances, etc. Not only did the research have a big impact on me but every different opinion and perspective that each of you brought to the classroom was also eye opening. Similar to what Danielle said earlier this will be the first non-technical elective that I feel the need to continue learning about and try to do my part to make a change.

Noel, thanks for putting up with me, the great atmosphere and an unusual but very effective classroom experience. Not to mention snacks! You were awesome and I wish you the best luck with your new family. Everyone else, good luck with your undergrad careers and finding your place in Industry or Academia, but more importantly thanks for the great experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better class to take during my last semester at Pitt. I plan to leave my Twitter account active at least until it dies down but hopefully some of you guys stay in touch! If not im sure ill run into you at Hems at some point, just don’t hold it against me if I don’t remember.

Have a great summer

~Greg

Totes Magotes Bloggage – Saldiggity

Well that went by pretty quick…6 weeks gone.  It seems like only yesterday we were introducing ourselves to everyone and realizing how many awfully boring engineering students were enrolled in this class. That was a joke everyone.  Definitely one of the better classes I’ve had at Pitt; and I’m not just saying that.  It really was a great class-the people and the material learned.  I learned a lot and I think along with all of you, I became a little more expressive and outgoing and I think part of that came from the topic we were provided: class and labor at the university.  We could’ve each had our own topic, and that would’ve been fine, but I think it was really cool that we all worked within one specific subject and built a kind of comradery in our class discussions.  Not only did we all work on the same topic, but it was a topic that has affected us in some way or another and will continue to affect us in the future.   Each of us, even if it was a miniscule difference, took a stance somewhat different from our peers, but the end result was that all of us—through our own research and the research of everyone else—became pretty well educated on the matter.

The biggest surprise to me was how much I did not know about class and labor at universities.  From underpaid adjuncts to free tuition at foreign schools, much of the readings and research that I did in this class brought all new information to me.  Being a student, I think it was a great topic to jump into because it gave me an awareness that I never had before.  I am going to college, so it only seems logical to educate myself on how these schools operate and how they’ve changed over the years.  It was interesting to explore some rising issues and issues that have been around for decades.  How schools have become more and more like businesses over the last thirty years, and how schools have gotten away from an academic-focused environment have been the basic focuses of my research.  All of us at some point or another came across research or readings that had to do with the rise of tuition; and even though not everyone’s subtopic was ‘rising tuition’, I think it affected all of our viewpoints in some way or another.  I think it has also been the biggest problem in what our research has encompassed.  The rise in tuition has become utterly insane compared to the rise of all other commodities, and people have really suffered for it.  The fact that tuition keeps rising, but students and parents keep going into debt just to provide a better future is a sure sign that something needs to change.

After all the readings, class discussions, and further research, I have truly begun to think differently of universities, and even my own university.  In talking to friends and colleagues, I have slowly started to see how these issues on class and labor do affect more people than I originally thought.  People that I’ve worked with in classes, drank a beer with at Hems, or have just seen around school…all seem to have been affected by some of the issues we’ve discussed.  The disheartening thing to me though, is that it doesn’t seem like a lot of these people really know how bad it is…and how bad it is getting.  Things do need to change at universities and I think educating ourselves about the problem is a great first step to do that.

End of Course Reflection

As the semester comes to an end, I have been reflecting on what I have learned over the course of the past couple of weeks. For one thing, I have learned how difficult it is to balance work, school, and taking care of my little brother – ultimately giving me a great sense of respect for working parents who decide to go back to college. The overall intensity of this semester has been well worth it, however. When I first sat down in the classroom on May 11, I had no idea what to expect. I looked around the room and did not recognize any faces (an unsurprising situation since I transferred). The awkward silence was shortly broken by Noel, who easily transitioned us into a comfortable setting where we could laugh around and joke while simultaneously be discussing something important. For me, an atmosphere such as this is much more conducive to learning and growing as a student. I feel as if students do not feel the need to hold back a question or comment; the fear of what other’s will think of them is greatly diminished by a sense of camaraderie as a class. And that is exactly how I felt among my peers and professor in this course.

In regards to the course content, I was challenged in many ways that I have not been challenged before. For starters, I have never had to write a memo, white paper, make an infographic, and an audio essay. Literally every assignment was something new and I am so grateful to have had an opportunity to experiment with these forms or writing for the public. I felt that with each new assignment, I was being more and more challenged. The audio essay, for example, will be the most difficult assignment for me strictly because I have never made one before and want to do well. Overall, I hope to take all of the information that I learned from what we did in class and apply it to other courses and even potential future careers.

Spending the semester focusing on one main topic was difficult at times, yet I learned a great deal about an issue that I had previously known little about. I had heard about adjuncts earlier this year around National Adjunct Day, however the extent of my knowledge was very shallow. Discussion, readings, and research enlightened me in many ways and I have found myself discussing the adjunct crisis with my co-workers, friends, and family. Interestingly, my parents were unaware of the term “adjuncts” and had no idea what the job entails. Showing them my white paper and infographics helped shed some light on the growing adjunct issue and I am very proud of the work that I have done in this class. Doing my research and for for the assignments has reshaped the way that I think about college faculty and higher education. While I found myself frustrated about how things are at times, I also felt a great sense of admiration for adjuncts. Their hardwork and dedication goes without notice and it really is a shame. I hope that their pay grade and conditions improve in the years to come, allowing them to provide the skills and education that they are so capable of. Additionally, then college students will get the education that they are paying for since adjuncts would be able to dedicate their full time and attention to their classes.

I owe a great deal of thanks to Noel and my classmates for making me think in ways that I had not touched before. Hearing the perspectives and opinions of my peers pushed me to understand things outside of myself and my own beliefs.  The readings in general played an important role in doing just that, as did the blog posts.

Thank you all for your discussions and company over the past couple of weeks. I for one, learned a lot from you and Noel and found this course to be challenging in many ways, yet enjoyable. I hope that you have a great summer and maybe I’ll see you around campus sometime!

-Morgan Mihelic

Reflections on Writing for the Public – Stephen Dine

When I signed up for the class Writing for the Public I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I was thinking it would be a class based on writing briefs, articles and small essays centered around expressing an idea to a general mass of people.  Although this has been a small part of the class it hasn’t been centered around this original thought.  I definitely was not under the impression that a topic would be presented and it would open my mind towards a subject I truthfully hadn’t spent much time pondering.

The topic of class and labor in the university has been extremely interesting.  Points such as adjunct pay, rise in the hiring of administration and the salaries that accompany administration had never really been a thought of mine.  I think I have developed a much better understanding of how my money is or isn’t spent.  I also have developed an opinion that higher learning has become more of a business and is operated as such.  Higher learning is a great path, but should have more thought into which university or college to attend dependent upon the major of choice.  I also think that these businesses have a great model that will most likely go unchanged or challenged for a unknown amount of time.  I believe this will happen because their business model is an expensive cost for most students and is obtained over a short amount of time.  Because of the four year time span to obtain a bachelors degree, universities don’t have to worry about repercussions from students over an extended time period.

As for my topic of class and labor in universities, it gave me a better understanding of options or lack of options available.  Finding alternate paths to fund child care is difficult.  Through my research I may have found additional place to look and that some schools embrace nontraditional students more than others.  The University of Pittsburgh I feel could do a better job.  My tuition funds activities that I wouldn’t be able to participate with fellow students.  Mainly because my distinction as an adult learner with a family.  It would be nice to see Pitt take similar paths to other schools on the subject of child care within the student population.  Government aid is available to  universities and colleges to develop and maintain child care facilities.

The assignments I thought were extremely interesting.  I really enjoyed the “workshop” classes prior to assignments being due.  This created a sense of others having similar problems and how my classmates handled the problems.  All the assignments were given with a decent amount of time with respect to the extremely short length of the term.

I would definitely recommend this class to my peers.  Especially people  need a “W” course and are interested in learning the material.  The environment was extremely conducive for a class of this style.  The circles we formed made it great to be able to put ideas out and listen to other.

I would be curious to see how different the class is conducted over a lengthy semester as opposed to the six week super speedy course.  Overall I thought this class was great and was a great tool.