Choices

This is a talk I gave at “Experience TAMUQ,” a recruiting event aimed at helping potential applicants learn what university life is really like.

Howdy! I’m Amy Hodges – my students call me Dr. Amy – and I’ve been teaching first-year students for twelve years. In addition to watching many, many students come into my classroom and four years later walk across the graduation stage, I have done research on how first-year students transition into university.

What I love about this research and what I love about teaching is that each student has a special journey from secondary school, to university, and to whatever lies beyond. But when I thought about sharing the bigger picture with you – what REALLY happens to students when they choose to come to university – I tried to find some common truths from the research and from what I’ve heard from my own students at TAMUQ.

First, I want to be completely honest. When you choose to come to university, you’re choosing to take a risk. You’re choosing to walk into a new place, with new people, to learn new things. The scholar Ellen Cushman says that “very few places in society act, feel, and sound like universities.” Coming to university is both a very scary and very exciting thing to do.

The good news is that everyone – including professors like me – are choosing to take risks right along with you. Taking risks is how scientists discover new knowledge and how engineers design new worlds. And universities like TAMUQ create support systems, like the ones my colleagues will tell you about in the next few minutes, so that it’s safe to take a risk and learn from what happens.

Second, when you choose to come to university, you’re choosing to explore new perspectives on who you are. That is, many students think that you come to university to learn more about your area of specialization, like engineering, which is true. But what they often don’t expect is that they learn a lot about their own abilities: their ability to be a leader, an expert, a friend, a poet, an adult.

I’m biased, but at its best, the American university system helps students discover this self-knowledge. The scholar Mike Rose says that “a good education helps us make sense of the world and find our way in it.” When you choose to come to a university like TAMUQ, you choose to take classes (like my first-year writing class!) and join clubs and meet friends that make you see yourself in a different light.

I hope that if you decide to come to university – be it TAMUQ or elsewhere – that you enjoy taking these risks and learning new things about yourself. And if you don’t – because even at TAMUQ every day is not sunshine and happiness and A pluses – I hope you know you’re not alone. As a university community we are committed to making sure you don’t regret this choice.

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