This fall marks my 20th year of teaching a college course. I began teaching in the fall of 2001 with a Introduction to College Course entitled SFA 101 and I have been teaching ever since. I have taught courses on college preparedness, policy in higher education, organization and administration in higher education, leadership studies, and a number more. As mentioned in a previous post I am adding a course on college athletics and higher education this fall.
I have been working in Student Affairs for 25 years now. That is quite a long time. And I have had a fulfilling and enjoyable career. From my early days as a Graduate Assistant at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in the mid-90s to my current role as the Executive Director of the Florida Consortium, my roles have allowed me to work and teach in several capacities and scenarios. I have very few regrets and much more appreciation for the work I have done. But I know I am somewhat of a unicorn. See, the vast majority of my career has been spent in two places, Nacogdoches, Texas, and Orlando, Florida. If you look at my CV I have drawn a paycheck from two universities; Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas and the University of Central Florida. I moved my family exactly one time, in 2011 and I have liked the stability of that career path.
I am going to say it loud and say it proud, I love college athletics! Love em’! And I don’t mean I love them in a passive or nostalgic way. I mean the majority of my favorite memories are tied to college athletics. A few examples:
I fell in love with being a college student and college life when East Carolina’s Jeff Blake broke the plain at the goal line to secure a 25-24 win over Pittsburgh in 1991.
I fell in love with my wife when she came over to my dorm room for the explicit reason of watching the sweet sixteen in 1992, we watched UMass and Kentucky. That was the game before the infamous Laettner shot for Duke in the final eight to beat said Kentucky team.
The last interaction I had with my dying father, on life support, was to help him fill out his 2005 NCAA March Madness brackets. He would die two weeks later.
The Journal of Higher Education was a journal published between 1930-2013. It featured educational research, leaders, and voices in several topics related to the administration, social construct, and higher education organization. Many of these issues have been lost in time, but I discovered them about two years ago and have been fascinated with how each issue was like a retelling of our higher education story. I was also taken at how so many of the opinions and observations offered are still being mentioned and broadcasted today. It truly is Old Whine, New Bottles. This is the first of a weekly series where I will read that month’s issue and feature three of the articles I found contemporary interest in. A word of caution, some of the examples and language can be dated and complicated. So please know that I will try to address these complexities as they arise. I will offer links to the original journal listing for a deep dive because these will be short and sweet observations. So, I hope you enjoy and explore.
Anyone who knows me is aware that I love a good night of Pub Trivia. My wife and I currently frequent two game nights on Tuesday and Thursday. And we do reasonably well. We are Routinely finishing “in the money” and winning gift cards. Last week we finished second and were rewarded with $30 and a sense of accomplishment. My favorite game is at this local pub called World of Beer. To say I am a regular is an understatement. Let’s say I am the Norm Peterson (Norm from Cheers) of WOB. But my favorite night is Thursday, when I can play trivia. The host, Charlie, is good at developing challenging questions. His questions are as random as they can get and are often a result of whatever he was watching or thinking about that week. They can often be strung together via unexpected associations. For example, there was a question to name the capital of North Dakota (Bismarck) and Marcel Theo Hall’s stage name (Biz Markie). Get it, from Bismarck to Biz Markie. By the way, still killing myself for missing the Biz question; we said Usher like fools.
A story about my first week in grad school. As previously reported, I attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale for my graduate program in higher education administration. I went to SIU-C sight unseen and I really think that was an interesting choice at the time. While we had internet access in 1995 there was not a whole lot of content online and learning about what SIU and Carbondale was all about, so it was taking a bit of a leap of faith. But I had a great interview, and the situation was just begging me to break free and go out on my own. So, I loaded up my Nissan Sentra and headed to Carbondale.
In the early 1960s the city of Orlando was basically a sleepy Central Florida town, in the 1920s few people had even heard of Miami, and the Tampa Bay area was known more for cigars than sunshine. Yet, over time, these three cities have become powerhouses for jobs and innovation in the past few decades. Orlando is now known for its world class theme parks and for the space coast, where you can literally watch a rocket launch in the twilight of the morning and then celebrate with a fireworks show as the Magic Kingdom ends another day. Miami is now the vacation destination for the rich and famous from all over the world and is quickly becoming a hub for technology and banking. Finally, Tampa Bay is the backbone for shipping in the gulf and is a rising star in Cyber Security. To be sure, it feels like a good time to be in Florida.
I must admit, I feel off the writing train. Just happened that way. I got busy, got a little lazy and just plain forgot a few days. But I am back and looking to pick up the pace. I am learning that to promise to do anything every day that is not eating, sleeping, and personal hygiene can be a bit ambitious. So, I am going to keep it up but give myself grace when I forget or just plain need a day off. I have been blessed to have been to and see literally hundreds of college campuses. It is one of the things I do when I am in a new city, it is one of the things I do when I am looking to explore a location, and I have been known to just drop by a campus if it is on the way. From community colleges to elite private universities, from urban universities to rural colleges I have found campuses to be beautiful, utilitarian, and a reflection of the place it is located. This post will focus on four campuses that I have imprinted on and have special meaning to me in very different ways.
I am not very private about my upbringing. If you are a friend of mine, you know that I grew up in some desperate circumstances. The child of teenaged parents, I grew up mainly lower income. For a few years there we were outright poor. Neither of my parents went to college and they both worked hard at labor intensive jobs. My mother was a waitress, managed a bingo hall, and found career success at Costco where she worked from an hourly employee to a warehouse manager. My father worked at a gas station before enlisting in the Air Force. He struggled in the service and had many bouts with substance abuse. He was discharged and was homeless while working odd jobs. My brother and I lived with him for a time in a camper trailer in Pinetops, North Carolina. We have enjoyed the world of social services, the free lunch program, and I spent most of my childhood being a caregiver to my brothers. My dad drifted for most of his life but managed to keep the lights on and rent paid.