Archive for the ‘college life’ Tag

I obviously did not die last night   1 comment

The more that I read about becoming a teacher in North Carolina, the less appealing it sounds. Did you know that North Carolina is #46 in teacher pay? Because it is. A pay raise for teachers is a huge issue in the upcoming midterm elections, and Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan are arguing back and forth over whether that recent 7% pay raise was for all teachers, or only the best teachers (looking at the Google Search headlines, no one really seems to know either way). I just don’t feel secure in a future of teaching for North Carolina.

Which means that it’s time for Plan B: becoming a librarian.

UNC’s program for a Master’s in Library Science looks the best, the most ambitious, but they also require a 3.5 GPA, and I just do not have that. I’ve been stumped. Maybe I could start at a place like NCCU or NC State and then transfer to UNC?

In the shower this morning I pondered over all this as the conditioner set in my hair, and I began thinking about all the things that a librarian has to do. It’s not just putting books away. You have to maintain databases. You have to retrieve information and teach people how to find that information — it’s practically information science —

I could study information science to get my GPA up. Perhaps I could even focus on database management, get a head start on it? And would you look at that, Wake Tech has a couple Associate’s Degrees in Database Management. Their tuition fees are very affordable — 12 credits at only $864/semester for in-state students, and their out-of-state students are exactly equal to in-state VA students at Mason.

I could also put some more, useful skills on my resume, beyond QuickBooks (which I haven’t used in three years) and writing and editing (which no one really seems to respond to anyway). “Hey, Research Triangle,” I could tell my neighbors, “Are you looking for someone who knows, I don’t know, Linux or Unix or C# or something, because I have that. Oh, hey, temp firms, lookie here, a recent college grad who has both social sciences and information technology on her resume.” (stands on a box, uses a megaphone) “HEY, UNC, LOOK AT THIS HERE RESUME, YOU MIGHT WANT TO HIRE ME SO I CAN DO COMPUTERY STUFF BY DAY AND TAKE YOUR LIBRARY CLASSES AT NIGHT FOR A REDUCED RATE OR A FREE RATE? LOOK AT ME.”

Posted November 1, 2014 by agentksilver in Personal

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Visiting North Carolina Central University   Leave a comment

Yesterday I visited North Carolina Central University. This was the college that my Petsmart manager had recommended. I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

North Carolina Central University

While NC State had had the feeling of being a small town inside of a larger town, NCCU felt like a community college. The set-ups were similar — a collection of buildings surrounding actual public roads, with lots of bricks — NCCU just felt small. It felt like walking around the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College. The athletic areas felt like the athletic areas of Loras College — small and overblown in importance.

I had actually scheduled a tour, so I went into the Admissions building to wait for the tour to begin. It was supposed to begin at 2:00. By 2:10, there was no sign of such a tour beginning, so I got up and walked around campus by myself. Besides, I had looked at a map, which showed the agenda of a tour. It seemed geared towards potential undergraduate on-campus students. I am none of those things.

Both the staff and the student population is predominantly black. That’s something that I realized right away. I’ve never spent a whole lot of time being obviously a minority someplace. Except maybe Italy? It felt unusual to me.

I managed to find the graduate school office fairly quickly (I took that picture on the steps of the building, just before it began raining). I walked into the office and met with the executive assistant for graduate admissions.

She admitted up-front that she didn’t know a whole lot about the Library Science program (on purpose, she had learned a while ago not to guess and give false information), but she could answer all my questions about admissions. She took down my name and contact information so she could forward it on to the relevant Library Science people. Literally all of the Library Science faculty and staff were in a department-wide meeting right then. But she named off two people in particular who she would pass my info on to, who she said were “very quick to respond.”

I asked about admissions requirements, since the website gave very little information on what standards they were looking for. She said that they took a “holistic approach” to admissions — a poor GPA could be made up by a good GRE, or a bad GRE could be followed by an excellent letter of purpose.* Having excellent everything could still lead to a rejection if the staff felt like you weren’t a good fit. She used 3.0 as a basic excellent GPA, which made me feel less bad about my 3.09 GPA.

I asked if, since the Library Science program was part of the IT program, it was a technology-based program. She had never heard the question before, had no idea what the answer was, and wrote it down to pass on to both the people she was going to email about me and the people in charge of overhauling the new website. It was a very good question apparently.

She asked if I was looking for a Yes or a No to that question. I replied that I wasn’t sure. I had worked in a library during my undergrad, where I had worked with more technology than actual books. Which was good — yay more technology understanding — and bad — boo not enough books. Then we both got on a random tangent where we declared e-readers worse than physical books.

I left soon afterwards.

I still have not received an email from her or from the professors she was emailing. I don’t know her email address, either.

I walked out of there with a better understanding of what I want to do with my life. Why do I want a degree in Library Science? So I can work in a big university library, and be surrounded by quiet, books, and a learning environment (at least, it was quiet in the interlibrary loan office at Mason). I want to work in a big university specifically, so that I can have a variety of classes to take every semester, even if I’m not working towards any one degree. So I rejected NC State out of hand. I don’t want a degree in Public History. I want a degree in Library Science.

Next up is UNC. I’m excited.

*Letters of purpose seem really big in the graduate community. At NC State, the student affairs woman I spoke with went on a tangent about how some people say that they are interested in history — “Not even American history, or ancient history, just history — it’s a big subject!” The executive assistant I spoke with mentioned that they reject people who want degree just to have a degree, since they tend to not finish the program.

Visting NC State   Leave a comment

I’m finally doing it! I’m finally taking a step forward towards grad school. Today I visited NC State. The university is over 125 years old; it began life as an agricultural college, but the sudden increase of students in the post-WWII G.I. Bill boom meant that they had to refocus. It’s a giant campus, big enough that you have to drive across. There’s even a railroad track running through it.

Tunnel under railroad track

And don’t worry, there are tunnels underneath the railroad

(okay, WordPress, I told you to center that text, why aren’t you centering that text?)

Joyner Visitor Center

I started out my visit by going to the, well, Visitor’s Center, where I encountered the dilemma that would hold me throughout the entire visit: I have no idea what I’m looking for. The friendly undergrad running the desk asked me what grad programs I was interested in, and I confessed that I had completely mixed up the three schools I was looking at, and had no idea what grad programs I was interested in. She asked me what I was interested in studying in general. I said “History and classics and libraries” so she put an X by the Humanities building, the History building, the student center, and the library. And the main parking lot.

After getting completely lost and then parking in permit-only parking, I headed for the student union, since it was closest. The Student Union is in the process of getting renovated, so I had to take the long way around, crossing the street twice just to get to the next building over. I earned a finger-wag from a passing bus drive. It was a weird moment of confusion, not only in where I was supposed to be going but also in the fact that people finger-wag?

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The Student Union, Talley Hall, is gigantic, about three times the size of Mason’s Johnson Center. The food court puts the Johnson Center to shame as well; it’s an actual food court, with lots and lots and lots of seating. It was about 2:00, past a normal lunchtime, so most of the people there were snacking and studying, except for one dude who was trying to access one of the free X-Boxes that they have there for students to play on. Their convenience store was about twice the size of the Johnson Center convenience store. They had a pizza shop and a Jimmy John’s. And an ice cream store. I couldn’t resist.

Next I crossed under the railroad tracks and visited the academic side of campus, which is the more historic part of the campus and was absolutely beautiful.

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Despite being a college campus, the whole place had a serene small-town feel. There was a mix of architectural styles from the various eras the campus had existed. I didn’t take a picture of it, but there was a building, the 1911 building, with a grand entrance of four pillars. I could hear birds chirping. A small group walked by in serious discussion. A young man skateboarded by. I watched him hop the curb and then, confidently, skate off towards his destination past the silo. He didn’t even look both ways. He didn’t need to.

I walked down the street and found a busy two-lane street, lined with Jimmy John’s, I ❤ New York Pizza, and a Chipotle, among others. I walked down this street to the Humanities building. They sent me towards the History building, because I had no idea what was really going on or where I was.

As I walked, I wondered if I really wanted a Masters in History. I concluded that I didn't, not really. The fun part of history is really just reading about it. I've never really been one for original research. What would I do with a Masters in history that I couldn't do with a Bachelors? No one really seemed to think a history degree is worth all that much. Come to think of it, why was I even studying Latin? What good would that do me?

I had absolutely no idea how to explain myself once I finally arrived at the third-floor office of the History wing. I stammered out that I was looking at grad schools (true) and I was interested in history (false?) and maybe there was someone I could talk to? They gave me the email address of someone I could talk to, then sent me further into the office to talk with Nerene, the woman in charge of Student Relations.

I said I was doing preliminary research into grad schools and she asked what I wanted to know. I had absolutely no idea what to say. Finally I came up with how long the program lasted, and the conversation continued from there. Honestly, most of my questions could have been answered by looking on the website. The program is 30 credits long. They get around 80 applications every year and they accept about 50 of them. She started talking about how many of the students become Teaching Assistants or work in the library, which sounded very appealing to me. She also said something about how they got students who "did 21 hours a semester in undergrad, and then they come here and do 9 and say that they work even harder here."

I confessed that I came from a school where full time students were 12-16 credit hours, and that I had preferred to do 12 credit hours a semester because I couldn't handle the standard 15. She nodded and said that it wasn't unusual for students to do part-time, but that part-time meant that I couldn't be a TA. From the many, many, many times she mentioned students as TAs, I got the sense that being a TA was standard. I asked how one becomes a TA.

They ask you to become one; they go in order of your GPA. But it didn’t matter if you only had, say, a 3.3; if the person who had a 3.5 turned down the offer, then they would consider you next.

I got very nervous because I had a 3.09 at George Mason and maybe wouldn’t be considered to be a TA at all.

Then she mentioned, for the third time, that “public history is different of course” and so I asked what public history is.

Well. Public History is history, of course, but with an emphasis on real-world work: archiving, working at a museum, working at a historical site. There were several classes in common, but they had their own classes too. This is when I got excited. This sounded like exactly the sort of program I wanted. Somewhat of a cross between library science and history.

Sensing my enthusiasm, she started talking about applications: deadlines, three letters of recommendations, they only asked for an unofficial transcript and that only when you had already been accepted…Oh, by the way, what other colleges was I looking at?

“My manager recommended North Carolina Central’s Masters in Library Science,” I said.

That was a very good program, and also, a lot of Masters students here went on to study Library Science at UNC. It was very normal. A lot of them did their final semester at NCSU and their first semester at UNC at the same time.

Then we talked about me for a little bit, and she recommended how to balance working at Starbucks with pursuing a Masters degree. Then I left.

I still feel out-of-sorts and unable to decide. On Monday I visit NCCU. I’m still not very good at asking questions about programs. But I have email addresses now, in case I have further questions. I just have no idea what I’m looking for.