Recently, I spoke to my college students about excellence.  I teach a 9:30 am seminar, and I became annoyed with latecomers showing up at 9:40, 9:50, 10:30 am, or later.  I asked them a few questions.

You set a doctor’s appointment, and you show up on time, but the doctor shows up late.  How would you feel?  How would you feel if you dropped off your clothing at the cleaners, and got the clothing back with holes in it?  You hire a lawyer to defend you against a lawsuit.  You both show up in court, and you realize that your lawyer hasn’t done his homework and has no clue what he’s talking about.  What would you do?

Students responded that they’d file complaints, refuse payment, and even sue.  They all have higher standards for other people than themselves.  They all see college as a necessary step to becoming police officers, nurses, elementary school teachers, and other professions.  Their actions trigger my suspicion that they want the degree more than the education. Hopefully, they’ll eventually see that an education is about more than getting a job that pays well.  An education helps us to be of service to others.

I started the certificate program in Adult Learning after I got my job, because I wanted to, not because I was mandated to.  Most of the people in my program are in the same boat.  We didn’t come here to get a job.  We came here because we want to be excellent at what we do.  We want to be excellent because we care about adult learners.  Having classmates who are curious and committed and enthusiastic makes a 6:30-8:30 pm class enjoyable, broadens my thinking, inspires me to try new things at work and, ultimately, enables me to be of better service to my students.

I hear that CUNY SPS students are unique in that a lot of us are already working, and came here to get better.  I know that education is also even more than about doing a job better.  It can be a transformative experience.  Until my students realize that, I’d be grateful to hear from other students about the interplay between their studies and their work.

Rhonda Harrison is currently studying at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.