Tag Archives: college

How To Make Sure You Never Forget How Old You Are

Wow! I remember my WordPress password. So now that I’m here, let’s write a blog, shall we?

People often ask me if working on a college campus keeps me young or makes me feel ancient. I always tell them it’s a little of both.

I work directly with students and sometimes they actually like me. They stop by my office just to say hi, compliment my outfit, or friend me on Facebook. Now and again they might even “like” one of my status updates. And that small click is “fountain of youth” worthy! Feeling young doesn’t mean I’m their best friend. I don’t have the desire or energy to feel 19-years-old again. It’s more like the cool aunt who because I am slightly younger than their parents, I am deemed acceptable to have a conversation with devoid of eye-rolling or texting. It is on these days when I think to myself, “Caryn, you are still hip!” I give myself a little high-five, pop up my collar, blast some T-Swift, and so very quickly, any youthful vibe is erased (but that liked status update lasts FOREVER).

But lately I have just felt old. Like “maybe I should take down my diplomas so they don’t see the year I graduated” old. Thinking back over the years of my career in higher education, I have pinpointed the following reasons why this may happen:

Pop Culture Differences

Every generation has their Beatles, their New Kids on the Block, or their Justin Bieber. And I love talking about who or what was popular “in my day” with students because sometimes they have heard of Nirvana or watch The Cosby Show on Nick at Nite. But everyone now and then, there is a disconnect that will leave you deciding that since you don’t even remember the 2.5 years you spent in the seventies, you will just tell people you were born in 1980.

I’ll never forget discussing the demise of Saturday Night Live with a student a couple of years ago. Generations have been having this conversation for decades, so there is nothing new here. And I felt a commonality with her as she lamented that she missed the “classic” seasons when the show was groundbreaking and funny. I thought, wow, here is a teenager who gets it and understands the legacy of sketch comedy people like Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd created. And then she added, “like when Will Ferrell was on it.” Okay, we’re done here.

Blank Stares

The Blank Stare is an important signal that you are about to feel like your grandmother. It is not uncommon for one to say something to a college student on any given day that will be met with an expression of concern that you may have just suffered a stroke because the words coming out of your mouth made no sense.

In a few weeks, I am taking a group of students to New York City for a study trip. I couldn’t wait to tell them that I had secured tickets for us to attend a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman! And there was plenty of excitement. But all I could focus on were the couple of Blank Stares in the crowd. “Who is this David Letterman of which you speak”, their faces said to me. Geez, it’s not like I said we were going to Jay Leno. (That would be less cool, right?)

Similarly, a classic story I like to tell is when, as a career counselor, I was explaining to a student the importance of using LinkedIn. I told her it was like an online rolodex. What’s a rolodex, she asked? Enter my own Blank Stare.


Assuming it has nothing to do with an action item I may has assigned them, the memories of these kids are amazing. They can tell me in detail about their weekend, semester-long study abroad, or four years of high school (and I’m glad they do, I love hearing their stories!). Meanwhile, this morning, I spent a good five minutes in the shower trying to remember if I had already shampooed my hair or not.

Look, I am nowhere near ancient. And I think one reason I enjoy my work so much is because I am youthful and can relate to students, developing relationships with them that allow me to feel like I might actually make this transitional time in their lives just a tad bit easier, more enjoyable, or supported. And if I am being honest with myself, the times when I do feel old, I am really feeling a twinge of jealousy. For the unique friendships they are forming, the new experiences they are having, and the adventures ahead of them.

Luckily, we all have new experiences and adventures awaiting us at every stage of life, and if we can go after them with the same zest and energy that college students tackle theirs, I think we are in good shape.

But first, a nap. I’m exhausted and I think I need to wash my hair again.


What Makes A Great Professor?

Well folks, it’s been an amazing summer, but as the bell tolls for August 24 today, the literal and figurative honeymoon is over.

With the advent of the back-to-school season and the signs of life on campus, it has become very real that in, um, three days, I am teaching a college class for the first time. Call me Professor JB! (But actually don’t, because I don’t have a Ph.D. and people are really weird about that “professor” title).

But however you name it, someone has deemed me acceptable to welcome new freshmen into college life and stare into their “when will it end?” eyes every Tuesday morning for an hour. This will be one of my biggest professional challenges in my career and I want to do it right.

I’m not striving to be the coolest teacher in the building. Or the most inspiring one who gets mentioned as changing their lives when these students win their Nobel prizes or whatever grand award that business people get (ohmygosh, how am I teaching a business class??).

Basically, I don’t need to be the Dumbledore of the university. Though that would be awesome. Especially if I was a wizard and had wizardry. And a pensieve so I could go back in time. And do business teachers read Harry Potter?! THIS IS WHY I GET CONCERNED!

But anyway, I do want to provide value to my students through this one-hour class. I want to challenge them to work with their peers, contribute to a class discussion and connect with the personal goals they want to achieve while in school and beyond… you know, all those college-y things. While doing this, I want the students to walk away from this class feeling like they have built a strong (or at least middleweight) foundation for their business education and their college success. My biggest fear is that their evaluations at the end of the semester will read: “The instructor was nice and tried hard, but I didn’t really learn anything.”

Honestly, that one line of text that has yet to be written by anyone keeps me up at night!

So here is where I need your help friends and readers! Besides knowing the course material (which I figure I still have a whole weekend to learn, right?), what made your favorite college professor so powerful? What did they do to make an impact on you in class? Any tips are so appreciated!

If you’re a student, teacher, parent, or just have to start driving through school zones again, happy back to school!

UPDATE: I asked my friend’s 11-year-old nephew today what he believes makes a great teacher and this was his response: They are nice, patient, and don’t just call on the people who always raise their hands, but get the whole class involved. I thought it was so sweet and insightful, so I wanted to share. I appreciate everyone’s feedback!

Could 33 Be The New 18?

A friend recently posted this article on Facebook. It quotes a Daily Mail survey that found women age 33 are experiencing the busiest times of their lives as the convergence of professional, social and familial responsibilities eclipses any hopes of substantial “me” time.

When I read this, my thoughts went in two directions. First, is that a picture of Shakira alongside the article and if so, does that mean she is 33? After a quick search, it was confirmed that this beautiful, sexy Colombian and I are indeed the same age. See, I thought to myself, I can be beautiful and sexy at 33 just like Shakira!

After some celebratory hip-shaking (quickly disproving my thought), I went back to the article to think about this time in my life and is it actually the “busiest” I have ever been? Perhaps. And then, when was I not?

College. I have extremely fond memories of these four years, and what I don’t remember is ever feeling super stressed. Sure, I had all-nighters in the journalism lab trying to build a website (we called it “new media” back then) or pressure to find a suitable date for a sorority formal, but I don’t recall ever yearning for balance.

For someone who works at a university, I think I need more college in my life. Or at least my college attitude. And I think this is how I can make it happen:

Stay clueless.

One reason I wasn’t so stressed — I had no idea what I should be stressed about. In high school, I worried about grades, getting into my 1st pick college, etc. In college, I kind of felt like I achieved all of that and in my blissfully ignorant way, just assumed I finished school and a job was guaranteed (and when I graduated during the last year of the tech boom in 2000, it was — take that 32-year-olds!).

I’m not advocating for being an unaware adult – real life with real challenges has crept in and that’s how it goes. But rather, understanding we do not need to know everything and we won’t always have it all figured out. For many things, we will know what we need to know when we need to know it. I’m working on truly believing this and I feel like when I do, it will naturally create a sense of balance for me, especially as it pertains to relationships.

I secured my first internship as a freshman by just calling up the company, saying I needed a summer internship and asking how this would be possible. I had no idea about the proper protocol of job searching and I would be frightened to see what I passed off as a resume. But I got the internship. I think I’ve lost a little of this chutzpah.  I rarely ever say to myself, “What do I have to lose?” We should say this more.

My senior year in college, I participated in a fundraiser where my friends and I danced for 30 hours straight. When it was over, I took a shower and then slept for 15 hours with no interruptions. I was completely clueless to the world around me but woke up refreshed. I think it’s time for another 15-hour nap. Being 33 is exhausting.

Were you clueless and carefree in college and if so, how have you maintained this among “real life?” What has been your busiest age? And finally, if you knew me in college, am I delusional or was I really this, dare I say, laid back?!