That being said, I tried to make more time for myself in this past year, simply because I thought I was going through my daily grind and not really experiencing life. “Experiencing life” can be a bit vague, I’m talking about the little things, like looking around when I walk to and from class, or taking the time to mentally detox in the mornings and evenings. Normally, I would wake up in a rush and then that anxious feeling would continue all throughout the day. I would finally lay down in bed and immediately fall asleep, never having a chance to reflect on my experiences.
So this reflection is more of a piece for those who feel the same way as I, stressed and too busy for our own good. This is for people to take a moment to look back on the years we have spent at NIU, reflect on how we have grown as adults, while also looking forward to the future. I want this to serve as a reminder to everyone, not just seniors, that you do not have to know exactly what you want to do with your life. You don’t have to be a traditional student to be successful. Being honest with yourself and doing what your heart desires instead of what others want you to do, is the best way to your own personal happiness.
So I urge you to please kick back and do a personal reflection on yourself, it may just be what you need to get through your final semester.
When I first came to NIU, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my career. I originally thought I wanted to be an architect when I was in middle school, but that quickly changed to wanting to be an engineer. Unfortunately, I had a pretty nasty physics teacher in high school who changed my opinion on engineering in just one semester. Isn’t it a shame how some teachers in high school can really alter your view on a subject? Oddly enough, it turned out to be okay in the end. Once I graduated high school I thought I wanted to be a Psychologist, so I majored in psychology and philosophy at Elmhurst College (in Elmhurst Illinois) my freshman year. I started to come to terms with the reality that I could not afford Elmhurst College, nor were my majors something I wanted to make into a career.
Sure, the majors were interesting to me, but I didn’t want to take traditional classes on them. I would rather read about Psychology and Philosophy in my free time and make a hobby out of those subjects.
With all of that said, I wanted to go to a school that was close to home, but far enough for me to live on my own. The cost of school, in general, was an issue, so I spent my second year at Harper College (in Palatine, Illinois) where I could save some money, while also finishing my second year of Gen Eds at a community college. It was after taking all of those introductory classes that I decided to use my interest in psychology and bring that into the business world. That’s what lead me to NIU.
My first year at NIU was spent in classes all around campus, which was fun for me to see the campus in its entirety. At the time, I only was taking one class in Barsema Hall, and I remember myself feeling anxious to finally spend my time there. I actually spent most of my studying in Barsema Hall, even when I had exams for other classes. The building felt like the place where I could build a future, an area that encourages scholarly success. Something about that feeling made the College of Business seem refreshing and inviting.
I have to admit that in high school I thought I needed to get my hands in everything. I played four sports while also being in multiple organizations, so once I got to college I told myself I would only play golf and that was it. Naturally, once I stopped playing golf at Elmhurst College and came to Northern, I thought I would simply go to class and come home to study. Luckily, I snapped out of that way of thinking, because I immediately felt like I had wasted two years by not getting as involved as I should have. I felt like I was at a disadvantage to other students by not being in organizations, but at the same time, I was working until five in the morning at times at the police department on campus. That was the only job that would allow me to work more hours than normal while working at night when my classes were over. Regardless, I thought getting involved would not only bring me around likeminded people but also make friendships, both of which I didn’t have at that point in time.
I knew I wanted to join something, and so in my second semester of my first year at NIU, I choose to join Delta Sigma Pi, the business fraternity. It was through Delta Sigma Pi that I was introduced to my current position, being the Student Intern for the College of Business marketing director. I finally started to feel a connection to the College of Business with this position, and it also allowed me to get a feel for a business oriented job, instead of one in Public Service. After leaving my supervisor role at the Police Department, I started to spend more and more time at the CoB, which was certainly a benefit, becoming acclimated with traditional business culture. The first year I spent here was certainly a wild ride, but it was after that second semester that I really started to call NIU my home.
It was in my fourth year when I finally declared my business major in marketing. It took me a while to finally decide because the decision felt so daunting to me. How are we supposed to decide the rest of our lives at 21 years old? It was crazy to me, but UBUS 310 brought my vision into focus, and marketing was certainly something I could see myself doing in the long run. It just felt right, and I think that’s something important here. Sometimes you don’t necessarily know why you want to pursue or do something, it just feels right, and that’s okay.
Neil deGrasse Tyson said something rather profound on a Podcast I was listening to. He was talking about how our society, rather, our language insists on all of us coming up with words to describe our actions and how we feel. Is it black or is it white? Are you male or are you female? We demand to know exactly what people are feeling, and we don’t accept that sometimes there is not an answer for something, it just feels right. Sometimes words simply cannot describe our feelings, but we are demanded to come up with something to say, so we settle on what to think based on what we can articulate. Instead of limiting your thoughts based on the words you know, people should make decisions based on logic, reasoning, and how you feel about the situation. Of course, we can’t make decisions based only on feelings, but there is something to be said about listening to that feeling in your stomach, telling you if a decision is right or wrong.
Going back to Delta Sigma Pi, the fraternity also lead me to my love for Social Entrepreneurship, the first semester back in my fourth year of school. A brother in DSP was talking to me about my outlook on life and how my ideas matched up really well to Social Entrepreneurship, so I talked to a couple professors and I immediately fell in love, knowing that would be my minor. Social Entrepreneurship lead me to CAUSE, where I was able to pursue my passion of making the world a better place.
That fourth year was wonderful, I was taking classes I loved and making connections with professors that would eventually lead me to bigger and better things. I was working for the college, while also getting really involved with organizations and sitting on boards that were making real decisions for the College of Business. It felt like I finally found the right place to be.
Fifth and Final Year
Well, after all this hard work, I’m staying here even longer. I thought all I wanted to do was be in sales and make a living on my own hard work, and don’t get me wrong, I would still love to do that, but not at this current stage of my life. It wasn’t until the first few weeks of this academic year that I came to visit a professor I had a few semesters ago. She sat me down and we talked about my plans for the future. I honestly was feeling a bit uneasy about my future at the time. I really wanted to do something that would make an impact on people, but I simply didn’t know what. She asked me if I had considered teaching in higher education, and that’s when the “lightbulb” went off in my head. Yes, yes I had, but why didn’t I fully think of that before? I guess I never really took the time to think about it clearly. I was always moving so fast through my undergraduate degree that I never really evaluated my true feelings about my future. I never stopped to reclaim my days as mine and reflect on what had happened that week, analyzing what stood out to me. It wasn’t until I had someone else slow down my crazy life, that I began to see the last puzzle piece I was missing. After thinking more about it, teaching would be the perfect career for me. Constantly learning, the opportunity to impact young minds, and continuously being progressive through the power of education. It was then that I decided to stay and be a GA while obtaining my Masters at the College of Business here, the home I have come to love. It couldn’t have worked any better for me.
So what now? Well, more school. But I was trying to get at the constant change in my career path. I changed my major more times that I ever would have expected, but I think it was my open-mindedness that allowed me to audit so many different majors, and experience such a wide variety of subjects to finally make up my mind.
There seem to be many people who know what they want to do with their lives right out of high school, which is completely fine. However, it’s the student who doesn’t, who may feel a bit behind, like they are missing out by not knowing exactly what they want to do with their future. I’m writing this to tell you, that’s okay. You don’t have to know. Be open with the fact that there may come a time when you figure it out, and then it changes. That’s the beauty of enrolling at a wonderful school like NIU, you get to choose your future.
At the end of the day, I’m happy with the way everything turned out, and if you are too, good luck moving forward. For those of you who are looking deep down inside yourself wondering if your choices so far are really yours or something someone else told you, it’s not too late. Take the extra time to evaluate your life and do what truly makes you happy, because, in the end, it’s not anyone else’s decision but your own. Your way to true happiness and fulfillment is gaining control of your life.
I hope this inspired someone out there, and for those of you graduating this semester, cheers to you and see you in May!
Gathering Feedback from Students
The feedback students provide about your teaching on their end-of-semester course evaluations can be valuable in helping you improve and refine your teaching. Soliciting mid-semester student feedback has the additional benefit of allowing you to hear your students’ concerns while there is still time in the semester to make appropriate changes. In her bookTools for Teaching, Barbara Gross Davis offers a variety strategies for gathering feedback from students in a chapter called Fast Feedback.
In-Class Feedback Forms
One way of gathering feedback from your students is to take 15 minutes or so during class to have them anonymously complete a mid-semester feedback form. A feedback form can contain a mix of free-response and quantitative (also called Likert scale) questions. You can write your own questions or use questions you find on the sample forms available below.
The following sample forms are available as PDF documents (for printing and copying as is) and as Word documents (for modifying or customizing).
The following sample forms are available from the McGraw Center at Princeton University. See also their list of additional questions.
Pros and Cons
In-class feedback forms have the advantage of a high response rate (as high, that is, as your typical attendance rate). One downside is that you might recognize your students’ handwriting and so their answers might not be as honest as they could be.
Another way to gather feedback from your students is to have them complete an anonymous, online survey about the course. The kinds of questions you can ask on such a survey are the same ones you would ask on an in-class feedback form, so please see the above sample forms for ideas.
At Vanderbilt, the OAK (Online Access to Knowledge) course management system (powered by Blackboard) can facilitate an anonymous, online survey. Instructions for surveying your students via OAK are available from the University of Oregon’s Teaching Effectiveness Program.
Pros and Cons
Since students type, rather than write by hand, their responses, online surveys can do a better job of preserving your students’ anonymity and thus increase their ability to be honest in their responses. However, online surveys often have lower response rates than in-class surveys, unless you provide your students with some incentive to respond. (Blackboard can tell you which students have completed your survey without letting you know individual student responses.)
Other Online Surveys
Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG)
The SALG instrument is designed for instructors of all disciplines who would like feedback from their students about how the course elements are helping their students to learn. It is offered as a service to the college-level teaching community. Once you’ve registered (which is free), you can do the following both quickly and easily:
- Modify the SALG instrument so that it fits your own course design
- Enable your students to complete this instrument on-line
- Review and download a statistical analysis of the students’ responses
Small Group Analysis (SGA)
The Small Group Analysis (SGA) is a method of gathering anonymous feedback from students about what is helping them learn and what is not, in a course. This service is provided by the Center for Teaching, and is an excellent way to assess students’ response to your teaching mid-semester. It goes beyond the methods described above by involving a CFT consultant to help clarify and decipher the sometimes mysterious comments students make on written course evaluations.
Please see our Small Group Analysis page for more information on this service.