Dave Stamps: Let class assignments work for your future

By Dave Stamps. Posted February 11, 2014.

As many of the previous UNL Grad Ambassador posts have mentioned, time management is an important aspect of a successful graduate career.  We have all learned that finding balance amongst our academic and personal lives, exercising/sleeping/eating well, and focusing on the task at hand is beneficial…but we don’t always think about our class assignments in the same light.  How many of you have wondered what the importance of a specific assignment is?  “Why do I need to do this project?” and “How is this going to benefit me?” are common questions amongst students.  I believe that asking these types of questions are good for our development.  But, it is also dangerous to ask negative questions without giving yourself a positive answer.

In my first year of my doctoral study, I took a class titled College Teaching in Music, taught by music professor Dr. Rhonda Fuelberth.  Having taught at the collegiate level before returning to school, I asked those same questions alluded to above.  “I already know how to draft a CV…why do I have to go through this again?” “Conference proposal?  How hard could that be to put together?”  But, I was missing the point of the class.  Many of the students did NOT have previous teaching experience, and the point was to examine music teaching practices in Higher Education and to make sure that your dossier is professional and marketable.  Dr. Fuelberth expertly facilitated pedagogical debates and guided all levels of student experience through the process of creating CV’s, cover letters, white papers, and more…all without telling anyone how they should or should not do it.  It was motivational…and it taught me a very valuable lesson.  I could submit projects that met the guidelines for the class and gave me a decent grade…or I could think about the future and tailor my assignments to those goals.  I chose the latter.  I reworked my CV, changed the way I formulated cover letters, REALLY thought about how I would set up a curriculum if given the opportunity, and approached my white paper report from an angle that I thought may have broader conference presentation appeal.  It was a lot of work, but the forward-thinking paid off.  The white paper was accepted for presentation at an international conference in my field, I will be starting gainful employment at a great institution next fall, and I have already designed and submitted a new course for consideration at said future employment. 

When things are tough and demanding, we often tackle projects one step at a time and simply do what is asked of us for that particular task.  I challenge you to look past the short-term and ask yourself what you truly want to accomplish after school…and then use that vision to make school projects work towards that goal.


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