Is a university campus the ultimate “start-up?”

Does this mean that Irish playwright, dramatist and Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw swung and missed when he coined the clever and oft-repeated, “Youth is wasted on the young?”

One of the reasons that I made the decision north of life’s Mason-Dixon Line to leave the foreclosure and traffic madness of Silicon Valley for a college town in Oregon’s Willamette Valley pertains directly to quality of life. Another revolves around the young attitudes of the majority of people around me.

In the corporate world, it is populated by a cadre of middle-aged complainers/whiners who can’t believe that their lives turned out the way that they did. Worse, they don’t have time anymore to start over. And they will tell anyone their plight, who cares to listen.

These people have baggage, and in most cases it is not a carry on. For many, their marriages are a distant memory. Their trapped in an underwater house and the bank has no interest in providing them with a loan modification. They may have been laid off and the economy has been downright cruel. Gas prices are heading toward or exceeding $4 a gallon. The commute (if they have one is at least 45 minutes one way). Their job, let alone their life, is not what they anticipated 20 years ago. I just can’t stop humming Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”

In a college town, such as Eugene, another set of lyrics comes to mind, “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” by Fleetwood Mac. Students are dreaming about their futures. What do they want to do? How will they change the world? The tyranny of FICA has not yet completely made its presence known.

This point was made evident this past week when I was grading a series of three-and-four minute student multimedia (e.g. video, audio, still photography, graphics) autobiographies. Even though I had a template for grading these projects, I pretty much cast it aside. Instead, I was looking for quality in how they told their stories and made my grading decisions in how well they presented their futures compared to their student colleagues.

I was floored by the one woman who told the story of how her mom was on meth amphetamines and her father, heroin. She doesn’t understand why her parents have turned their respective lives over to these dangerous addictions. She is not following their footsteps, but she still loves them for being her parents. She is dedicated to making something out of her life. Some would say the deck is stacked against her, but she is not buying any of that and neither am I.

Another hearing disabled student, has learned how to interpret sounds and to speak with some difficulty. Nonetheless, she is going to become a story-teller. She has already overcome much in her life, so what’s another challenge?

One African-American student absolutely blew me away with the quality of his website. He wants to be a blogger for a major publication, such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times or the Washington Post. And at the same time, he wants to be a rapper. Blogging, rapping, blogging, rapping…Go for it.

An émigré (or the daughter of émigrés) from the Czech Republic told the story of how she has been stereotyped as just another pretty blonde. She has a very active brain under those golden trusses and a remarkable ability when it comes to audio, video and layout presentations. She already has the talent to work for a major corporation in telling multi-media stories.

Not only going back to college, but also going back to a campus environment has changed my life. Anybody who has known me for a few nanoseconds or more knows that I have faced more than my fair share of adversity. As the Germans would say macht nichts. I am stronger for the experience and I am surrounded by people who are excited about the future, so why shouldn’t I too be excited about the future?

Whether these students, regardless of their story and their backgrounds, make most of their opportunities is still to be seen. Some have already faced steep hills with a sneer of their faces. The challenges of this 21st Century world are great. They will take them on with an infectious enthusiasm. More power to you brothers and sisters. And thank you for being such as inspiration to the follicly challenged TA sitting near the front of the lecture hall.

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/George_Bernard_Shaw

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glory_Days_(song)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don’t_Stop_(Fleetwood_Mac_song)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Insurance_Contributions_Act_tax

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