Tomorrow morning at 8:00 am I’ll step into a college classroom to begin my 38th year of Professorship. That’s right; 38 years. I’ll do this with enthusiasm and energy, as has been the case since my first day at Winona State University in the fall of 1975. Since I was a student at Graceland College (Now known as Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa), I have known that I wanted to be a college professor. Frank Hough was having much too much fun teaching me economics in that little college town in southern Iowa. Being an economics professor sounded like a great gig to me, and I’ve not regretted my decision for a moment.
It took me four additional years of schooling to get my union card (PhD) at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. I enjoyed my time in Manhattan immensely, which was sweetened by having a great wife for 3 ½ of those four years. We celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary last December. This fall I’ll go into the classroom as a widower, but I know Deb would want me to continue doing what I love.
And I do love my job. Tomorrow I’ll look into the faces of freshman and sophomore students, most of whom are 18 and 19 years old respectively. Nearly half of them will either drop or fail my course. At the end of the semester, those who make it through my class will have mastered some pretty important economic concepts, while the other half will have learned that college is not easy. I’ve got a dual role; to encourage them and to work them hard. Without the hard work part, I wouldn’t feel right about collecting my paycheck.
Some of these young people have had it too easy. When they come to my office around mid-semester and I inform them that they should probably drop my course (because they can’t earn enough points to pass) the tears flow. I’ve got a box of puffs on the desk for those occasions. For some of them this is the first time in their lives that their teachers or parents have let them suffer the consequences of their actions. I tell them that they will eventually thank me for holding them accountable. Believe it or not, for many of them it is the turning point in their academic performance; the day they become students…not just sleepwalkers.
If you’re a parent that is sending your child to college for the freshman year, remember that first year college students are facing a world of many difficult adjustments. The first semester may not be academically stellar, but if grades don’t improve by the second semester, stop writing tuition checks. Let them drop out and become ski bums or whatever else they want to be for a few years. If they do return to college eventually, they’ll almost always be A students. If they don’t return to college, they will not have wasted your money or be faced with burdensome student loans.
Good luck to all! The future awaits!