On Being a History Major in Student Affairs

History+Homepage+ImageReflecting back to my recent interviews, I found myself conceptualizing myself as being someone who, due in large part to my history major at the University of Delaware, needs to have some context to things to be able to fully understand and appreciate them. It could be current events and their historical precedence, or it could be an initiative from a supervisor and wanting some further explanation behind why we are doing something besides "because I said so" or "because that's how we've always done it". I need something more than that. What I need to hear contextually as a proud history major working in student affairs is a logical context preceding our actions. I need to hear that a new effort is backed up by theory, data, or exceptional practices from colleagues and fellow higher education institutions. We should never be making decisions, in student affairs or otherwise, on whims or emotions or simply personal anecdotes. We need to pull from more credible bases.

A history professor I had in college once told me that the study of our past is captured well by the metaphor of "a turtle on a fencepost". This means to say that the turtle could not have possibly gotten up on that fencepost on its own. Someone had to do something to put it there. Pretty much every major thing happening in the world today is like that turtle. It was caused by the actions of someone or something. It is crucial for us to understand these phenomena and causes, as to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

While this contextual philosophy of mine was garnered from a very macro perspective, I see it being highly applicable to the work I do on a micro level every day. We need to learn from the past to improve for the future. We need to build upon the successes we've had, avoid making the mistakes again we've made before, and work to continuously improve to better serve our students.

I don't think I wasted my undergraduate degree coming into student affairs. I think it has made me a better professional.

Book Review: American Nerd

american-nerd The 2009 book, American Nerd: The Story of My People, written by Benjamin Nugent, is an exploration of the history behind the word "nerd" intermixed with stories from Nugent's past. It reads like a long blog post or magazine article on the subject, covering the wide breadth of the issue of bias toward nerds. I just finished reading it and I found it to be a light, engaging read on the subject, a tad different from my previous review of Nerds by David Anderegg. Anderegg is an academic and Ph.D, while Nugent is a writer, which definitely benefits the latter in the feel of the book. They cover very similar territory but where American Nerd differs is in the personal stories and a more thorough delving into the history, where Nerds goes more into why the bias against nerds is bad by extrapolating about what it means for our future.

I found Nugent's anecdotal stories from his past to be spot on of my own experience with fellow young nerds back in the day. The reasons why people are "nerdy" are highly complex and diverse. It might be an escape or it might be a bonding mechanism, both of which can take varying shapes. Nugent also gives a nice overview of different aspects of nerd culture for those who may be unaware, which I appreciate since it allows for this book to lean towards a wider audience.

This book is great for simply existing and expanding the conversation of the issues facing the geek/nerd community. I'm excited to keep engaging in the literature behind the debate so that I can be the best informed I can be. I definitely recommend this book as a great place to start for anyone interested.

Check back soon for another review! Thanks for stopping by!

Self-Reflection: Moving Forward by Looking Back

So I write to you all tonight a month after my last post, fresh from my summer work and thrown right into the thick of training for the next academic year. Not having a break to speak of at all was frustrating on some levels but I am thankful for the opportunity to be doing some great work consistently with even greater people. That being said, I wanted to get some more thoughts down as I sit here in my apartment after a long week of training.

Something I think a lot about is the past. I was a history major as an undergraduate student so I appreciate the story that every person has and the fact that everything that happens around us has some sort of context through which it happened. A professor shared a fun anecdote that explains this. He described the discipline of history as a "turtle on a fencepost", as to say that turtle could not have gotten up there on it's own so there is some story there to explore. History is the same way. Whether it is something that happened yesterday or two hundred years ago, there is a story there to learn and grow from.

Another great quote is "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." It applies to the history of us as humans but also our own personal stories. To simply forget whatever came before deprives us from an amazing learning experience. Granted, one has to be comfortable enough to take a hard look at themselves, but I think the results are very powerful. Being able to analyze and scrutinize our own behavior and choices, especially with the help of a trusted confidant, is really one of the only ways to constantly grow and develop to be the most good, prudent, and self-aware person we can be.

So, in order to be the best professionals and best people we can be, I think we all need to stop every once in a while and take a look back at where we've been in order to better get where we're going.