This is the second “Letter to Your Undergraduate Self” written by NAU-Yavapai faculty. Inspired by the vigorous exchange evident between students and faculty on campus, I decided to ask “If we could go back and talk to our younger selves, what advice would we give?”
This letter is from English/Communication Professor, Ian Derk.
Dear Undergraduate Self,
I need to start with the bad news: This essay doesn’t have any sports scores, election results, or stock tips. I got the privilege to write to you in the past and want to respect the time-space continuum. As a fellow science-fiction fan, you understand the ramifications of playing with time. Although I won’t share anything that will affect the future dramatically, I want to share my wisdom with you. Please use my advice ethically and don’t alter the forces of time.
You’ll learn a lot from the classes you didn’t like. That advanced composition class, boring as it was, will teach you how to write. Notice that I didn’t say, “Write better,” I said, “Write.” You will learn that the passive voice doesn’t make you sound smarter. You will learn that clear, simple writing beats the wonky and pretentious style you have now. When you fill out that evaluation, remember that this class is something you will use every day. Even though the teacher was a lout, you should evaluate him based on the fact that he taught you something.
Because you’re going to spend a lot of time teaching, watch those classes that you thought were badly done. Observe how your social work teacher blew off class because he wanted more time to write his thesis. Remember how you fumed when a feminist rhetoric teacher gave you a B instead of the A you earned by points because her syllabus said, “The instructor has the right to alter grades if she feels there is a valid reason.” These two will show you the value of diligence and fairness, for these qualities stand out when they are absent. These bad teachers will teach you more about the profession than the good teachers.
Although those two points focused on classes, know that the things I attempt to recapture from college aren’t the classes. When you decide to stay home instead of trying out for that play, know that I have a hard time joining new activities. As you blow off that cute girl’s invitation for a study date, understand that I don’t have the vast social opportunities you do. The thing I remember most fondly about college is when we could sit under a tree and read a book. I don’t have the time to sit, and the trees in your future won’t shade you well. Classes will teach you something, but how you spend time between classes will make me who I am.
Since I know you pretty well, my guess is that you will ignore most of this advice. However, I know that you are teachable, so I hope some of my tips will help us in the future. Because you made it this far, I will give you one tip: Kansas will always disappoint you in the Final Four pool.