I am writing a challenge to the students of Western Carolina University. I continue to hear commercials on the local radio stations here in Charlotte, NC about the “power your mind” slogan that has taken precedent at WCU. The commercials boast of the Internet connections and the abilities of students to create their own web pages. Unfortunately, having spent the summer of 1996 through December of 2000 as a student of WCU, I’m yet to see the statistics of these commercials’ claims to be true.
My challenge is for the students and faculty of WCU to make this a reality. It is sad that we are one of the most wired campuses in the USA, for the size of our campus, and yet not only do the students not take initiative, but faculty don’t know how to use simple programs such as Microsoft Word or Telnet. Being an Alumnus straight from the Forsyth College of Business, I’ve seen few professors take the initiative to actively learn or facilitate personal learning outside of the classroom.
Now I continue to hear these commercials and I cringe every time because I’ve seen what little this college did to prepare me for the outside world. It doesn’t help that I’ve actually viewed ResNet Computer Consultants and others creating websites for friends assigned to do such activities but choose to say they can’t, because they never tried.
I actively took classes that would challenge my mind, I got involved in the lives of other students, I participated in organizational activities, and I taught myself the skills I needed (HTML, computer software, sales writing, etc.)
The recession scare is currently in effect and many are out of work. I’ve seen past grads that have worked for several years, get laid off for no reason other than they were being paid money that business didn’t have. I’ve seen people like myself have to relocate because of hiring freezes (Charlotte, NC to Nashville, TN). But of what I’ve seen in the past three months, of going literally door-to-door seeking employment, is that if you don’t have computer skills beyond Microsoft Word and Power Point, most likely, you don’t exist. Unless you’re a CIS or CS major, if you don’t take the initiative to teach yourself, while you still have the time, you won’t be able to get the job you want when you graduate.
Going along with my point; I’ve also learned that without experience your degree means nothing. You are at a college getting a degree in a specific area. You have the choice to take the knowledge you learn in class, right now, and apply it to the outside world through a related job or internship, or you can sit where you are, collect your C, graduate, and realize that a high school grad has taken your job because they spent the past four to six years acquiring the experience that you didn’t.
Luckily I took the initiative. I’ve been offered several jobs in and out of my field and will seek out those possibilities once I arrive in Nashville in March.
So I guess my challenge broadens itself. For students and faculty, get past the textbook and try a hands on approach. Professors, learn with your students and allow them to teach you this newfound knowledge. Students, take the initiative to seek professionals in your field, talk with them, network and create opportunities. Get active in and out of the classroom so that you may pursue your interests before you graduate. Let your professors know what you want to learn. Don’t be afraid to have a voice. But don’t just talk about it, do something. Get involved in organizations and suggest action before you wind up in the middle of it not sure how it happened. Learn how to use email and pick a name that is admirable. “Cutechick@yourserver.com” is not a professional name. Use your specified email as a signature to introduce yourself to businesses, professors, and specific individuals in a corporate environment just as you would a handshake in person. Above all, have an opinion, have a voice. If you can think and speak for yourself, loudly and clearly, you are ahead of so many others that fear making waves to improve themselves and the lives of others.
Next time some one says, “There’s nothing to do in Cullowhee”, hand them this article. There’s everything to do. One day, you too, will walk across that stage. It will be both the happiest and scariest moment of your life. But, if you’ve prepared yourself, if you’ve taken the initiative given to you, the future will be an opportunity instead of something to be feared. This is my challenge to you, when there’s nothing to do in Cullowhee, there’s always learning to be done. There are always skills to be acquired. I challenge you to make those commercials that I continue to hear, true. Take initiative.
Kyle KissmannClass of 2000