I’ve been thinking a lot about the college cheating scandal. As a poor kid, higher education was the ticket I chose to build a better life for myself as an adult. I worked incredibly hard in high school and I was so fortunate to have an amazing guidance counselor.
My college tuition was more than my mother’s annual salary. I am forever grateful to Penn that they had need-blind admission and that they had (and continue to have) a guarantee to meet 100% of a student’s need through loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study.
I worked 3+ jobs all through college. It was tremendously difficult to be a student who struggled financially in a school full of privilege. That shame left a scar that took years into my adult life to heal. I’ve learned to be proud of those scars; they show what I survived.
Now w/ college 20 years in my rear view mirror, a graduate degree from the Darden School (another wonderful school), and currently enrolled in a second graduate degree in biomimicry at The Biomimicry Center at Arizona State University. I understand the pressure to get into a top school and the opportunities it affords.
What’s most tragic to me about this college cheating scandal is how many students there are today who are in the same boat I was in at 18 years old. How many spots were taken from them at these colleges by people who had parents pay their way in? That loss is what hurts most.
My great hope is that this situation will lead to greater equity in higher education. I’m living proof that it is a path to a better life, and it’s an opportunity that should be open to all who are willing to work for it, regardless of the financial status of their parents.
Can’t get this smile off my face because this wk I’m officially a grad student for the 2nd time & for the 1st time am a scientist-in-training. I started my biomimicry program at The Biomimicry Center at Arizona State University. (The program is mostly online so I am still in NYC!) To realize this dream means more to me than I have words to express. Beyond grateful!
“The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30. You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” ~Tina Fey
Strongly feeling this sentiment from the great Tina Fey as I get ready to begin grad school in biomimicry on Monday. A HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who have been so dang supportive of this whole process. It’s really overwhelming and exciting and mind-boggling that I’m standing on this precipice and taking the leap. I’m scared and happy and nervous and thrilled and in awe that this all worked out as it did. All the feels.
I couldn’t have dreamed a better next step. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and I’m going to work my tookus off to do the very best I can. And to think this is all happening right now because Alie Ward interviewed a shark expert on the Ologies podcast about the healing properties of its mucus. Goodness, I will never forget that moment when I was on Broadway across the street from Lincoln Center walking to work, completely enthralled with the idea of finding a class or workshop in biomimicry. I never thought I’d find a whole damn Master of Science in this discipline and that I’d get in. Magic is everywhere; it’s all around us all the time.
If you’re starting something new in this new year, I hope this quote by Tina Fey helps you, too. Be scared and do it anyway, whatever it is. We’re all in this together. We’re all just walking each other home.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on career planning as I craft the materials for ACanofCoke.com, my program to provide college- and career-readiness guidance to high school and college students who need additional support. I came across Mike Rowe’s video entitled “Don’t follow your passion. Do this instead.” I don’t agree with his entire outlook though I think his point has value. I think passion is an important part of building a life and career that brings us happiness and fulfillment. But passion isn’t enough; it’s only one part of a more complex equation:
Passion + ability + opportunity = a career (and life) worth having
Identify what you love to do. Evaluate whether or not that’s where your talent lies, or where it could lie with practice and a strong work ethic. Determine the size of the opportunity that could utilize your passion and talent, or develop a plan that creates that opportunity if it doesn’t exist.
Building each piece of the left side of that equation isn’t easy, though it’s the only way to turn that right side from a dream into a reality.
A week from now, I’ll be in Charlottesville at my 10th reunion with my dear Darden MBA friends. Those two years were joyful and difficult. They were filled with learning and challenges and triumphs. I was sometimes disappointed and sometimes elated. I failed and succeeded in equal amounts. I worked my tail off every single day. And the greatest thing I received there was not a degree but the amazing relationships I formed. We started that journey as classmates, students, professors, and staff members. Two years later, we were friends. And that is priceless. Can’t wait to give all of you a hug in a week!
Monday night I met with the team over at Notion Theory, a fantastic design shop that specializes in being a CTO for-hire (among many other amazing specialties!) I spoke to them about my virtual guidance counseling idea. They could have quoted me an outrageous amount of money to build a proof-of-concept. Instead, they said it could be done for $0 and I could do it myself in a few hours with free online tools. Sure, it will be a little manual but for MVP, it can be hacked together. What I really need to focus on is finding a couple of schools with a small amount of students who are willing to let me test the idea on them. I think it’s pretty amazing for a design shop to tell me that right now I don’t need to pay them a cent. The time for a slick seamless interface will come, but right now I just need to find people who want my help. Given how much need there is, I can get started right away with what I’ve got.
I recently took an Amtrak train up to New York for a long weekend. I love the train for many reasons, especially because it gives me a chance to roll past my alma mater – the University of Pennsylvania. I always get a little teary eyed. Those years were hard for me. I learned a lot. Struggled a lot. Grew a lot. And growth is often painful. It’s uncomfortable to become something. It’s scary and difficult. And yet, it must be done. To become the people we’re meant to be, we have to grow and evolve. We need to learn hard, painful lessons about life, about the world, and about ourselves. Sometimes I think it’s a miracle of the highest order that I even survived. Do I wear my diploma like a badge of honor? You bet I do. I earned every letter of that sucker and then some. I wouldn’t want to do it over again, and yet I’m grateful for it. It taught me to stare into the fire and smile instead of flinch. And that kind of strength is invaluable. It erases fear.
The Tuesday after Labor Day was always the first day of school for me when I was a kid. This time of year always feels like the New Year to me. I look forward to Fall all year, and I’m looking forward to it more than ever this year. Apple and pumpkin in everything. Boots and sweaters. Beautiful leaves. Crisp, fresh air. A feeling of hopefulness. I’m excited to see what it holds for all of us, whether we’re in school or not.