Realize: UR getting a good education.
Author: Jordan Ubbens
Students at the University of Regina have an official pastime: hating the University of Regina. And I think it’s hilarious. It has certainly engendered a lot of great op-ed pieces in the Carillon, including the article entitled “Learning Costs” by Alicia Miller. Despite the entertainment value of articles like these, I think that there is a need for a tough-love primer on what the academy is and how to manage your expectations of it.
First off, let’s talk about what the academy isn’t. It is not a trade school. With the exception of some professional programs such as engineering, nursing, and business, your degree was never meant to get you a job. Students at the first universities studied religion, literature, and philosophy, because they were from families who owned land and who would never have to work. Here in 2014, we’ve somehow transitioned into thinking that a liberal arts education is a qualification for getting a job. Despite the best efforts of your Faculty to persuade you that your degree program will teach you marketable “critical thinking skills,” it won’t. If you don’t have those already, then you shouldn’t be here. Go to SIAST and learn how to weld — you’ll be much happier there.
So, why should you get a degree? For the same reason those first students did: because it’s important. Because you want to take part in a beautiful, rich tradition born of thousands of years of human thought. I graduated from the Faculty of Science and this goes double for us as well. None of us should have to defend the existence of our field, because the study of it is important. The university used to be the last bastion of this idea – before the commercialization of the degree and everything else. I cringe every time I see the university marketing materials that trot out History on a leash and tell you that the hiring manager at SaskPower would love to see a B.A. on your resume.
Secondly, let’s talk about how teaching and learning works in a university. The professors who teach your classes almost certainly have no training in how to teach. They are here to do research, and your class is probably an unwelcome distraction in their day.
It doesn’t matter.
In high school, you were taught by career educators. In university, chemists, and psychologists, and physicists, and artists are teaching you. That’s the value in your education. No, there’s no expectation that they make it “fun.” Some of them try to, and thank god for those people. But they don’t have to. Your organic chemistry professor isn’t going to try to get a group discussion going about reaction mechanisms, because that’s ridiculous. Yes, it will be on the test. Yes, you will have to memorize it. Most university classes are lecture-based, and that’s a perfectly acceptable format, given the material. If you cared enough, you might even Google the guy’s name and find that he’s a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada for his contributions to the field that he’s teaching you about.
The University of Regina may be small, and I laugh at all the jokes made at its expense, but we’re a heavy hitter in terms of research. As a graduate student, that’s why I’m here. We are able to punch way above our weight in many categories, and there is cause to be proud there. My advice to you is to look into undergraduate research opportunities in your department and get to know your field. You might be surprised at how well respected we are, even relative to universities you’d rather go to.
And, to respond to Alicia, your U of R credits may transfer. Look up the Pan-Canadian Protocol on the Transferability of University Credits.