Tag Archives: University of New Mexico

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up.

When I originally went to college, I wanted to be a secondary school history teacher and a football coach.  That’s how I ended up at New Mexico Highlands University in the fall of 1971, a “teacher’s” college.  Early in my senior year of high school  was the first time I was faced with “what do you want to be when you grow up,” and there was a lot of pressure,  because I really didn’t have a clue.  The school was recommended by my counselor, who had forced my hand on what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  She went there or knew someone who attended school there, otherwise I hardly would have known it existed.  It was two states away from home though, and that seemed good at the time, so I applied and was accepted.  I declared my major but changed my mind three times in my first year at NMHU, ending up with Pre-Law, which is dumb in a way because you can get into Law School with just about any declared major.

And I tried.  After a ten-year sabbatical of sorts, I earned my degree “with distinction” from the University of New Mexico, majoring in Journalism.  There were several changes along the way there too, from Studio Art, Political Science, Communications to Economics.  I immediately began studying for the LSAT, the Law School Admissions Test, after graduation.  I didn’t attend the ceremonies and they had some difficulty finding my diploma in the Dean’s office.  “Oh, you graduated with distinction,” the girl behind the counter said after consulting a list of graduates.  She handed me my diploma and a special red cover I had earned for my final GPA.

The LSAT is very difficult to pass, let alone score high enough to gain acceptance into a Law School.  I purchased the book and study exercises and got right to it.  I was still the night auditor and desk clerk at the Western 6 motel, so I had most of the night to study.  I struggled with logic problem after logic problem.  Trying to figure out what color hat the woman third in line had on if there were five people in line each with a different color hat,  if the third person in the line was not behind the person wearing the blue hat, and the fifth person in line had on a green hat, and the person wearing the yellow hat was not in front of the person in the blue hat.  Drove me insane.  I did hundreds of these types of questions and finally felt I had a grasp of how to do them well enough to pass the exam.  I paid my money at the UNM School of Law, and waited, and studied some more.  I always felt special the few times I walked into that building on campus, felt important.

The test date finally arrived and I was early that Saturday morning, still studying logic problems and going over other areas of the test.  There are three multiple-“guess” sections in the LSAT:  Reading Comprehension Questions, (Piece of cake.)  Analytical Reasoning Questions, ( Not so much.  These involve an ability to understand a structure of relationships and draw conclusions.)  Logical Reasoning Questions. (Where I spent most of my studying time.)  The final section was an essay question.  My forte.  I can baffle them with bullshit better than most.  Learned that in summer school taking Political Science classes.

That was the most intense half-day, without a break, I have ever spent in my life.  When I walked out, I had a massive headache, desperately needed a cigarette and a drink, and was sure that I had failed.  I wasn’t going to be taking it again either, because of the cost.  This had been my one shot.

 I discovered a few things after taking the test that I didn’t know or didn’t think much about in my zeal to become a lawyer.  First-year law students are not allowed to hold down a job.  That never would have worked.  I had two kids, a mortgage, and wasn’t making enough at the motel as it was.  Preference was being given at the time to minorities and women, probably still is.  I was neither, so my score and grades had to be killer to get accepted to a law school.  Only 12.5% of those taking the test fall into the upper third of test scores, the ones headed to Harvard and Yale.  I hadn’t given much thought to where I was going to get the money to go to law school either.  I guess I intended to borrow it.  Finally, when I got my test scores back, I passed, but was in that 75% of average, just plain average, test scores.  I put the test scores and essay in a manila folder where it still is today in my office filing cabinet, never actually applying to the UNM School of Law.

I don’t think I’m really sorry that I didn’t pursue a career in law.  There are a lot of broke lawyers out there.  All those TV shows that glorify the lawyer life are not very accurate either.  A lot of lawyers never try a case in front of a judge or jury.  Most of a lawyer’s day is spent doing research.  Not all that exciting I suppose.

The reason I got on this subject was because I noticed I have one post on my site that continues to surpass all the others in searches and views.  It has been viewed 4,910 of the almost 19,000 views I’ve had on my site since I started.  I’ve posted a total of 196 stories since February 2011.  If you search “Who invented the light bulb” on Google, its page one, up top.  I posted the story June, 14th.  It’s a short post about who really invented the light bulb.  I have numerous comments from students thanking me for helping them with their homework.  I’ve had comments arguing with my conclusions about who really invented the incandescent bulb.  My only intention was to show that it wasn’t Thomas Alva Edison, and I point that out.  It’s clearly not a concise history of the invention, but it’s billed on Google as though it is.  

Where I’m going with this, is I should have stayed on course and taught history in secondary school.  Maybe?  I love history, especially the misconceptions people have about many historical events.  I could have been an assistant football coach, maybe one day moving into the ranks of high school head coaches.  But, truth is, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.



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How Much Laude Can You Get?

University of Wyoming 1908. The main building still stands today.

I attended the University of Wyoming for one semester in 1975.  At least I think it was 1975.  More correctly, I attended one class, one semester at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.  It was a required writing class.  Creative Writing 101.  I got an A. (Yeah, bragging.)

I was living in Laramie, Wyoming, while working full-time for Mountain Bell.  My intention was to finish my degree in Communications, one class at a time.  In fact, on my lunch hour, because there was no night or weekend classes at UW, period, and, of course, an online curriculum was still a few decades into the future.  I had transferred to Laramie with the express intention of finishing my degree, but failed to check the availability of off- hour classes before I made the leap.  I had been forced to drop out of college after only completing a year and one semester.  We won’t go into the “why” at this point.

Anyway, after one class, one semester, I saw the impossibility of the undertaking.  It was going to take me a long time to garner enough credits to graduate.  But then, today, I read that someone is graduating summa cum laude from Iowa State University taking one class a semester for 19 years!  Kathy Vitzthum, 48, is graduating in May, the school says, after attending one class each semester since 1992.  WTF

Talk about dedication.  I had a college astronomy professor, whom I really liked and respected, tell me once that there were only two reasons to get an undergraduate degree.  “So you can prove to the world that you can start something and finish it,” he said, “and to learn how to look things up in the library.”  Pretty true statements I think.  Now you spend more time on the Internet looking things up and it’s much easier than the library, so that only leaves the first part about proving you can finish something.  Working at it for 19 years is a pretty impressive way to prove that.

When I finally finished up my BA degree in Journalism, at the University of New Mexico, I was taking seven to eight classes a semester.  A little more difficult to graduate “summa cum laude” I would think.  That’s latin for “with highest praise”.  In order to graduate with a latin honor such as this, you would need to maintain some serious high GPA and be in the top 4-5% of your class.  A grade point average on the high side of 3.8, although it differs from school to school.  If I’m only taking one class a semester, I think I could pull that off, even if it did take 19 years. (Yeah, tinge of jealousy exhibited.) 

But here’s what I don’t understand.  Even though her company paid for all or a percentage of the classes, I’m sure, (Mountain Bell paid 75% of tuition if you maintained a C average) what benefit will she get from having a BA degree in Accounting?  She is already a senior accountant at the firm where she works!  She’s been working in the accounting field for well over 20 years.  She initially took the classes because her boss offered her a promotion if she did.

 I quit my job after 5 years with Ma Bell and went back to school to finish my degree.  I accomplished that 10 years after I originally started college.  I did it with the idea that a degree would open up opportunities for me to get a better job and get into something I really wanted to do.

I was a lot more serious about it than I was at age 20, so I worked harder to get the grades.  I graduated “with distinction” (Yeah, bragging again.) which translates to the upper 10-12% of my graduating class.  The same as a latin honor of “cum laude.”  Hasn’t opened one door for me.  Let me say that again.  It hasn’t opened one door for me.  The BA degree lets me send my résumé for jobs that have a minimum college requirement, but then I don’t know of any company that ever pulled my transcripts.  So the GPA means nothing.  If I wanted to go on to graduate school, or law school, or med school, yeah, it would mean something.  In the job search, nope. 

So I just wanted to say “congratulations” to Kathy Vitzthum for proving to the world that she could start something and finish it…..and for doing it with the greatest of dedication and summa cum laude.

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