Education: College

Part 3 of my educational history is all about the colleges I attended.

See Also: Education: Grades K-6 and Education: Grades 7-12

After high school I decided to attend the local junior college, College of the Canyons even though I was accepted to two colleges, California State University, Northridge and Beloit College right out of high school. At that time, tuition at College of the Canyons a mere $10.50 per semester plus books and no parking fees. Why spend more for basic core classes when I could take those classes on the cheap and transfer to a 4-year university after two years? So, junior college was a stepping stone to a 4-year university for me.  Junior college was uneventful, save for three things. Remember when I said my baseball career was over after trying out for the high school team? Not quite. I thought it would be fun to try out for the College of the Canyons baseball team. I talked my friend Dennis into trying out with me. He was skeptical at first: “we’ll get cut.” I told him, “Most definitely, but it’ll be fun.” That’s all it took to convince him. Sure enough, we were among the first cuts, but it was a fun two weeks. I think Dennis even hit a home run during batting practice.

The second thing of note was French 102. Like most, my major required 2 years of foreign language study. Although I’m from Southern California and Spanish would have served me better, I chose French. I have my reasons, but again, that’s a topic for another article. During my last semester of junior college (if I was at a 4-year university it would be the spring semester of my sophomore year), I took French 102. Class time was 12:00 – 12:50 PM, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I had an Anthropology class at 1:00 PM. Normally not a problem, but my French teacher advertised her summer French class for 20 minutes (minimum) every day. The class was going to be in Tahiti, which is wonderful and would have been really cool to attend, but there was no way I was could afford to go. It was something like $3000 plus travel. Because she rambled on and on about this summer class, she’d go overtime with her lesson, which was a problem for me on Mondays and Fridays. After two or three weeks of this, I finally got fed up and dropped the class, because I felt like she was wasting my time. A few weeks later, my instructor called me, concerned that I wasn’t attending class. I told her I dropped. Well, when I received my report card, I received a D for French 102. But I dropped the class? Turns out I goofed when I filled out the drop slip, and no one noticed. So the class was never dropped from my course load. I took my copy  of the slip and my report card into the administration office, explained what happened and they corrected it. What’s funny is that I never took a test, never turned in any homework, didn’t take the final, never attended language lab, attended just two or three weeks of classes and she still gave me a D!

The third thing that was interesting about junior college was my geology instructor, Mr. Wutkee. He was awesome. He knew California like the back of his hand. He never seemed to finish a syllabus because he always had interesting stories to tell and he always seemed to run out of time. COC Baseball players took his geology classes because they knew that it was an “easy” C. That is, Mr. Wutkee told each class that if they showed up for class, took an interest and tried, they wouldn’t fail. Well, players on the baseball team took advantage of that. But they wouldn’t pay attention in class, talking during his lectures and being rather disruptive. A couple of friends and I were taking Geology 106 (forget the title of the class) on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Since we had taken almost all of his other Geology classes, there wasn’t much for us to learn in the class. So Mr. Wutkee gave us free reign in his back rooms with a laundry list of rocks and minerals to find from his copious sample collection. One night, he asked us to go into the classroom. He took a couple of baseball players into one of the back rooms and chewed them out big time, profanity and all. I never saw Mr. Wutkee get angry except that one time; he finally got fed up with on group of players and let them have it. The other cool thing about Mr. Wutkee’s geography and geology classes were the field trips. He had day trips around Southern California on the occasional Saturday where we visit and learn about some interesting local geography and geology. Once a semester there was a trip over a long weekend to some place interesting in California. I remember going on his field trips to Death Valley, Gold Rush Country, and the central California coast. The trips were by car, so there were these caravans of 20 or 30 cars. You really wanted to have a CB radio in your car on these trips too, because he got on the radio as we were driving and pointed out interesting things along the way. There were also be short stops along the way so he could show you something with a longer explanation than was possible on the radio as we drove by.

Mississippi State University IconThen I turned down California State University, Northridge a second time and transferred to Mississippi State University. I chose MSU because I wanted to be out on my own, but with family close by, you know, just in case. My aunt and uncle live about 20 minutes from the Mississippi State University campus, close enough if I needed family. The first semester, I stayed with them almost every weekend and helped out at my uncle’s gas station occasionally as a thank you. I lived on campus in the dorms the two and a half years I spent at MSU. There’s nothing like campus life. It’s exciting. It’s fun. I made some good friends while I was there, but, unfortunately, none of those friendships lasted past graduation.

When I attended, Mississippi State University was a suitcase college. If there wasn’t a home football game that weekend, it seemed like half of the student population packed up their suitcases and headed home after classes ended on Friday. So non-football weekends were pretty quiet. But if there was a football game on campus, the place was buzzing. After all, 1) MSU is an SEC school and 2) football is third only to God and family in the south (and some people will put it ahead of family!). During my time at Mississippi State University, the football and basketball teams were not very good at all. But the baseball team was pretty good. Will Clark, Rafael Palmiero and Bobby Thigpen were stars on the team then. All three went on to have Major League Baseball careers of varying success. Will Clark and Rafael Palmiero you probably know (maybe not for all good reasons either, at least in Rafael Palmiero’s case), but you might not know Bobby Thigpen. Well, Bobby Thigpen held the single season saves record until Greg Gagne broke it many years later.

During fall baseball practice and intra-squad scrimmages, I decided to try and get a position on the campus newspaper, The Reflector. I wrote a an article on one of the fall baseball games. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the position, but not much of a surprise. I had no idea how to write a newspaper article back then.

I didn’t participate in the graduation ceremony. I finished my Geology course curriculum in December 1984, but the graduation ceremony wasn’t until May 1985. I had no idea where I might be living by then, figuring I’d not be living within driving distance to Mississippi State University. As fate would have it, I was still living in Fayette, Alabama in May 1985. I don’t regret not participating, but I’m pretty sure my mother was disappointed.

While high school and junior college were, for the most part, an academic breeze for me, Mississippi State wasn’t. In high school and junior college I got good grades simply by paying attention in class and doing homework. But there weren’t as many homework assignments at MSU. The homework was mostly reading textbooks, which I rarely had to do in high school and junior college, except for English. But the professors at MSU didn’t teach the entire textbook in their lectures and they added to the textbook in their lectures. The exams were on the textbooks and lecture material. So, as I learned the hard way, not only did I need to pay attention in class and take notes, but I needed to read the textbooks. As a result, my grades my first semester at MSU dropped from As and Bs to Bs and Cs. It also didn’t help that I was spending a lot of time experiencing campus life and not devoting enough time to studying. They crept up a bit during my second semester, but it wasn’t until my senior year that I finally developed better study habits, managed my time more efficiently (oddly enough, working a part time job helped with time management too) and got my grades up where they belonged. It’s not that my college grades were bad, just not where they were during high school and junior college.

While attending Mississippi State University, the rest of my family moved from Santa Clarita, California to Fayette, Alabama, about a 90 minute drive from Starkville, Mississippi and Mississippi State University. After graduation from MSU, I moved back home. In 1986, I got a bit bored (Fayette is a small town) and I was considering attending the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to earn a second Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. So, I attended what was then called Brewer State Junior College (now called Bevill State Community College) taking COBOL programming. I never did end up enrolling at the University of Alabama, but it was an interesting class and gave me something to do.

University of Phoenix IconWhile in the United States Air Force, I was required to take courses through the Community College of the Air Force. So I received an AA degree in Aircraft Armament Systems from the CCAF. Doesn’t really have much use outside of the USAF, which is why I’ve never listed it on my resume. Perhaps I should, just because. In 1996, after getting passed over for an appointment to USAF Officer Training School for the 5th and 6th times, I got fed up (again, better discussed in a separate post), I enrolled at the University of Phoenix’ MBA program. It wasn’t particularly difficult, though it was trying as you’re in class at minimum once a week with few breaks (mainly for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays). Each class ended with a group paper and presentation. I didn’t care for the presentation part as I don’t like speaking in front of groups, but I got better at that as I progressed in the program. About halfway through the program, I had a statistics and probability course. I didn’t find it that difficult (I’m good at mathematics), but many did. That one course weeded out nearly half of the people who started the program when I did. I finished up my MBA program in November 1998, three weeks before I separated from the United States Air Force. The graduation ceremony was in May 1999. This time I participated in the graduation ceremony. I figured why not: 1) I didn’t participate in the Mississippi State University graduation ceremony and 2) I knew we’d still be living in Las Vegas in May 1999. My parents (sorry mom and dad; totally forgot that you attended) and my in-laws all attended. It was a rather surreal experience, walking across the stage in cap, gown and hood with thousands of people watching.

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