Memories of Awe Episode 23

Liz wanted to continue to explore the role of the parents. She had seen a recent poll of college students which said the two most important things for students about their college experience was first having something they could point to as their own and second, having someone they could turn to for help and guidance. Clearly Professor McKown played that role for the students in his program but she didn’t have that person until she met Professor McKown. Colleges had gotten away from that role of individual support for students. She felt that she was being processed rather than educated.

LJ: You seem to have taken on a role that few faculty accept. In effect, you’re their campus parent. Would you agree and would you share with me why you have adopted that role?

KMcK:  That’s a fair characterization. Let me share a story about why I think it’s important to have faculty adopt that role.

Lcee came to see me the first week of college. “Dr. McKown, I think I have enough money to get through the year, but I’m worried about having enough to graduate.”

I think asked where she was from to determine if she was paying in-state or out-of-state tuition. She didn’t answer. I tried a different question: “Where are your parents?” Lcee started to cry. “I don’t know,” she responded. Lcee had been essentially abandoned. I found out later that her friends had given her places to live during high school.

LJ: It’s hard for me to imagine finding a professor in my program that she could turn to. What did you do?

KMcK:  Federal financial aid seemed to be an obvious answer to her needs, but we could never work through the lack of a parent financial status validation.

The second semester, Lcee took two of my courses and acquired skills she would use to get a co-op assignment. That’s when you work for a semester instead of going to school. The co-op Lcee obtained involved a lot of travel. In addition to her salary, she also received a per diem to finance food and lodging. Lcee was able to save much of her co-op earnings plus a good share of her per diem to be able to return to college.

Over her time in college, she repeated her co-op and earned enough money to self-fund her education. Lcee not only graduated debt free, but she had professional experience that led to a full time job offer at one of America’s most prestigious companies.

LJThat’s a remarkable story. You in effect became her surrogate   parent.

KMcK:  It’s students like Lcee that have kept me teaching for over 50 years. I haven’t told you the rest of the story.

When Lcee was due to graduate, she didn’t plan to attend the ceremonies because there was no one in her family who would be there for her. What she didn’t know was that her classmates had selected her as the Graduation Marshall to lead the entire student body into the ceremonies.

Lcee came to college with no family and left with an entire class of brother and sisters.

LJ:   And a parent.

* * *

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” – Booker T. Washington (African American leader)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.