How much are we actually learning in college?
Now that having a college degree is as necessary to get a job as having a high school diploma was forty or fifty years ago, what exactly are we getting out of college besides the letters “B.A.” on our resumés that is so important to succeed in in our society?
According to a study published in a recently released book called “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College campuses,” a surprising amount of college students aren’t getting a whole lot more than that. The Burlington Free Press’s article on the study explained that after giving a carefully crafted standardized test to over 2,000 college students, “about 45 percent showed no gains [in learning]after two years, and 36 percent did no better after four years.” The study cited lack of academic rigor and choosing classes that did not have much reading and writing as a key reason.
Another article on the book noted from the study, “Students majoring in liberal arts fields see ‘significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study.’”
Considering this quote, and the high level of rigour found in nearly every class offered at Middlebury, it seems safe to say that this isn’t really a big problem for us. But another quote from the sociologists who wrote the book made me wonder if this problem does exist here on a less extreme scale: “For many undergraduates, they write, ‘drifting through college without a clear sense of purpose is readily apparent.’”
The work is tough and our stamina is waning. With each passing night, my hammock and Otter Creek pumpkin ale growler cry to me louder from the closet. But never fear, my baby birds, fall break is almost upon us!
For the loiterers around town this weekend: consider heading over to the Vermont 3.0 Tech Jam, a free (ooh!) tech and job expo this Friday and Saturday at the Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center in Burlington. Over 60 local creative, tech, green, and bioscience companies will be showcasing their work, and promoting job and internship opportunities for young people interested in media and technology.
Hiba Fakhoury ’09 of Ask Hiba fame in fact received a job offer at this event in 2008, levying a connection with a Midd alum to secure a position as software engineer at Pragmatic Technologies, Inc. She returned to Tech Jam the following year to recruit for the company.
Over e-mail, Hiba provided the following advice:
…do some research on the companies that are present, what positions they are hiring for (if any), and what technologies they are working on. I say that because it can be a little overwhelming when you’re there to figure out who to talk to. Plus you can make more of an impression on an employer at the event if you know something about their company (as opposed to saying “tell me about your company”).
I’d definitely recommend to take multiple copies of your resume, and to dress as you would for an interview. I have gotten emails from companies I met at the event a year or so later when they were looking to hire. I would also make sure to keep everyone’s contact information and to try and contact them after the event.
Wise words! If you’re interested in the concept of working for money, or — for the more noble among us — for the experience, it’s definitely an event worth checking out. For more information, see the website here.
A video from the 2008 event:
(via Seven Days)
Need a way to put your fresh language-school skills to use? Are you a multi-lingual first-year? Looking for a job?
Language tables head server “Xue” Xiaoxue Weng ’10.5 is on her semi-annual hunt for students who speak languages who want to work as waiters and waitresses at the language tables this semester. At lunchtime on weekdays, students, professors, and TA’s gather for a meal in Atwater Dining Hall, agreeing to the language pledge for just the lunch hour.
The job entails signing up for (and fulfilling) a handful of two-hour weekday shifts. Each shift involves setting up the dining hall tables, serving lunch, and then busing tables. (You also get paid to eat your own meal beforehand.)
Russian- and Arabic-speakers are needed the most, but speakers of all languages — except Spanish — are always welcome. Preference is given to current waiters, to those who are available to work full 2-hour shifts, and generally to those who speak at the 200-level or above. If you don’t wind up receiving a weekly shift, however, you can ask to remain on the list; in my experience, conflicts come up, and servers are frequently looking for substitutes for coverage.
Go to the language table recruitment Google spreadsheet for more information and to submit an application.
Besides classes, the first few weeks of school is often when Middlebury students look for on-campus jobs for the semester. But as the Student Employment Office (SEO) listings dwindle, some students might be wondering where have all the jobs gone? What are the “good jobs”? And who is getting what job?
The truth is that while the SEO listings are a good place to start, many on-campus jobs are not listed there. Why? Well, rehires are common. If you had a job last year and didn’t royally mess it up, chances are good you’ll be offered the same job this year. Secondly, many jobs are specialized and are appointed. For instance, you probably would have to be a senior Economics major to grade problem sets for Introduction to Microeconomics. Similarly, language table waiters would be hired through the language department. These types of positions bypass SEO’s website.
Student Employment Coordinator Dee Gilbert wrote in an email last spring, “We encourage students looking for work to continue to check the online posting and to talk their friends who have jobs on campus as well as to their professors and coaches for opportunities of which the SEO might not be aware.” I would venture to say that some of the best jobs on campus are those you learn about through upperclassmen friends or close staff mentors.
I’ve seen a rise in experimentation with student staff toward more “intern-type” positions rather than the clerical work (i.e. do homework at a desk for a few hours). With departments restructuring due to financial challenges at the school, it seems natural that student workers would be in a position to take on more responsibility. JJ Boggs in the Center for Campus Activities and Leadership (CCAL) consolidated six to seven front-desk workers answering phone calls to three “intern” positions with higher pay but more responsibility. She sees this as an opportunity for students to do meaningful work. The Admissions office is continuing its Senior Fellows program started two years back. The Career Services Office (CSO) also concentrates on finding a few dedicated students to work closely with on specific projects. But specialized intern positions mean less number of available jobs overall for students.
Last spring, we saw some reduction of hours or elimination of student employment positions at various locations around campus. In particular at the Bookstore, students reported “layoffs” for up to eight student workers who didn’t prove themselves by working during any non-class time during the first week of class. The Grille, perhaps in a less drastic manner, dropped hours for many of its student staff.
It remains to be seen if students this Fall are finding work if they want it, but also finding more meaningful/useful work is increasingly important for both the College and students alike.