Memories of Awe Episode 35

Liz realized that her interviews with Professor McKown would soon be coming to an end. She wanted to focus these last few interviews on his hopes for the future of higher education. She wanted to collect stories from him that would add a human touch to those hopes.

LJ: Could we focus these last few interviews on your dream of what higher education might be? I hope you have memories that can bring that memory to life.

KMcK:  I guess my first dream would be that we view students as individuals, not as numbers. That we mentor and guide them, not process them. And that our primary measure of success is whether we help them discover their talent so that they can lead joyful and purposeful life.

LJ: I love that. Do you have a memory to support that dream?

KMcK:  I do. Let me tell you about Tori. She struggled throughout college. She was never strong in math/science classes, but Tori had a practical problem-solving ability many really bright students seem to lack.

There were times when Tori almost gave up, but she never quit pursuing her dream. She graduates with a 2.00 GPA and it was a struggle to get that grade. At the end of her senior year, Tori interviewed with one of the nation’s most elite consulting firms. As Tori described it, they narrowed down their candidates to 40 MBAs from prestigious schools and her, with an undergraduate 2.00 GPA. Only fifteen candidates would be selected. Tori was one of the fifteen.

LJ: Amazing. Why do you think Tori was selected?

KMcK:  I found that you can often see something in people that can’t be measured. Obviously the consulting firm saw that. Unfortunately we in higher education haven’t developed that ability. By the way, in all my years of teaching, you are the first person who I ever agreed to do an interview with.

LJ: Thank you. This has truly been a life-changing experience. Back to Tori, have you heard from her?

KMcK:  Just a minute while I retrieve something on my iPad.

I received the email below from Tori a year later.

“I was brought on to my project and thrown on the Training & Communication team. Since my arrival, people have been dropping like flies! I replaced a Senior Consultant and currently work at the same level with 3 other Senior Consultants. Two of these will be leaving in October and that leaves me as the most “senior” person on my team. Kind of scary, but I think it’s a good opportunity as well. When I came onto this team there was a complete lack of standardizing of any of our work and the methodologies were quite sloppy. No schedules, no templates, no formal communications between teams. A nightmare! It’s given me a great opportunity to showcase some of my practice skills. I recently developed a database that stores all projects, tasks, and deliverables associated. It also runs reports on the work we are doing and categorizes items. I know this might seem like a small task, but let me tell you, it’s intense!

In the last 2.5 months I’ve solely supported around 6 projects and work with multiples on delivering Training & Communications material to the client. I’m starting to think having to multitask with 38 credit hours the last year of college paid off. This comes so much easier to me than school ever did though…maybe it’s because I want to be here…or maybe it’s the money. I have no clue, but I’m really loving life.

I have some exciting news to share! My dreams of traveling are quickly coming true…I just found out that I will be splitting travel with one other team member to go to Naval bases and deliver in person trainings starting in November. Locations include DC, Florida, Hawaii, San Diego, Italy, and Japan. I never saw this happening a year ago! Crazy how your life can change so quickly.”

LJ: What a wonderful example of your dream of seeing students as individuals with talents yet to emerge. Thanks so much.

KMcK:  Tori’s experience is not unique. There are those who struggle in college, but have coping skills that make them very successful in their careers. I tell students to think of the coping skills that they are developing. These may be more important in the long run than the course knowledge they are acquiring.

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“Resilience isn’t a single skill. It’s a variety of skills and coping mechanisms. To bounce back from bumps in the road as well as failures, you should focus on emphasizing the positive.” – Jean Chatzky (journalist)

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