Friday, November 27, 2009

Paper Chase - the race is on!

When we last met, I had just come to the realization that I’d seen the writing on the UNT wall as it were, and if I was encountering this much resistance and obstruction to registering and getting started, the whole experience might likely be as arduous. I decided to write the summer semester (and the $40 UNT registration fee) off as lost in the research process. I had not found the best program and had to pick up the pursuit again.

Texas A&M University – Commerce had the same type of Bachelor degree and offered all online classes, but the program was more oriented towards business rather than training, as the UNT program was. I emailed the contact for the program at TAMU-Commerce. To my happy surprise, I was assured that I could not only register all online, but there was no reason I would ever have to make a personal appearance on campus. I made sure of that detail, since that was the final straw with UNT, the requirement to sit all day on campus for “Transfer Orientation” before I could register for any classes.

A note here – while it may seem perfectly reasonable to require an on-campus all-day orientation for transfer students, and UNT seemed to believe fervently in the need for this – it is overlooking the whole point of online classes and degrees – that it now becomes available for people of all circumstances to do college work – regardless of age, location, family or work commitments. I considered it very non-insightful for a university to overlook this important point. (I guess I’m really not through chastising UNT about this).

Back to TAMU-Commerce – with as much as a few emails, I was registered for classes. Yesssss!! The way it should be. The evaluation of my 8 million hours at LSU was done and most of them transferred, even the oddball art classes. Quickly I had the list of required classes before me, and I set about to tackle them. Here’s where the plot thickens a bit…

While at LSU, I started out my freshman year majoring in Psychology (some of you who knew me in high school knew of my plans to pursue this). At the time, in my narrow range of understanding, I thought that I’d have to get a Masters degree to practice Psychology or Social Work. At that time of my life, that sounded like eons of school years to me, and I thought that all I could do with a Psychology degree was be a psychologist (I know differently now) and I decided to change majors. One should have a new plan to change TO before deciding to change, but that’s not how I did it. When I did change into an Architecture/Interior Design program (because I’d seen my friends returning with portfolios of work they’d shown at the interview to get into the program), I was most pleased that no math appeared to be required. The perfect major for me.

Ah, life had the last laugh. Of course, now in order to complete the degree at TAMU-C, I would have to fill in some gaps here and there, after all, degree requirements are not the same as they were a couple of decades ago in a different state. Gap-filling would include one semester of American History, 2 semesters of Government and….College Algebra!!! (scary horror music). Even Macro and Micro Economics did not strike the same fear in my heart as having to face down the Algebra dragon that I’d evaded all my life. The good news was that TAMU-C allowed me to take as many classes at nearby Collin College, which saved a lot of money. Collin also offers many web classes, so those could all be done online as well.

So I dove into the requirements – choosing Microeconomics as my first class. For those of you (and it’s almost 100%) that say you could never do an online class – I’ve done many of them, including ridiculously complicated subjects and I did well – so no excuses! I made a B in that first class – and learned what I needed to do for an A, which I did get in Macroeconomics the next semester. Online classes are good because you can work when it fits your schedule and you can listen to lecture material over and over all you want, unlike “live” classes. The Micro/Macro were taken through Collin College, and used an Austin-based class material system named Thinkwell, which sought out the best professors in the country to get their lectures on DVD. My Micro/Macro material was delivered from a well-known professor at UT-Austin. I couldn’t have had access to these great professors otherwise.

Another way that life had its last laugh on me – now I had the determination, but not the memory cells. Oh, cruel trick of nature, why dost thou mock me? I started popping B complex supplements each day along with vitamins to prop up the lagging brain power and get it up to speed just enough to get through this. I had to have been obsessed to complete the program, how else could I get myself through?

Adding insult to injury, health issues arrived to further drag me down. This was the stage where my family affectionately (?) remembers that I could fall over sideways on the couch around 7pm each night. Simple solution – pop large quantities of dark chocolate to jump-start the brain with a shock of caffeine! A side research project at the time was to investigate the many varieties of chocolate with high-percentage cacao quantity. There was a down side to that, as might be expected.

My life became a routine of work-come home-hit the books and laptop-fall asleep-wake up. On weekends I could start reviewing stuff at 5:00am. That commercial for “studying in college with your pajamas on” is pretty misleading…I may have had my pajamas on… but maybe all day long while working on school!

Wow, I thought this would be the final installment and it’s not working out that way… if you are actually reading this, I will deliver the finale soon…”the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say. Stick around for the slaying of the Algebra dragon…

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