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We often hear the phrase: “$h*t just happens.” I have felt that way plenty of times. However, if we accept this premise then we are seemingly opening up ourselves to a life that is subject to Murphy’s Law. I don’t know who that guy was, but his life must have been outrageous enough for people around him to think that he was living in an unfortunate realm of continuous bad luck. It must have sucked to be Murphy. The unspoken understanding in all of this is that nothing is changeable…that we are doomed to a life that is vulnerable to every passing wave. This kind of thinking allows us to wallow in procrastination and mediocrity.

If we observe the world in a somewhat scientific manner, we can see that clearly there are other laws at work. Cause and effect is one of them. Now, I don’t presume to fully grasp all of the complex minutiae involved in explaining it…but I do know that if I throw a pebble in a pond that ripples will expand outward until they are impeded by mass. In the same way, the choices that I daily make can be greatly influenced by cause and effect. It is easy to look at ourselves and think that I only have a small pebble…but you cannot predict the effect of it until you throw it. You have the power of choice. It is one of the greatest powers that you can possess. You can choose to do something meaningful. I have a choice every day when I get home from work. I can watch reruns of The Simpsons, or I can go to the gym. That is the cause. The effect will be either a thicker midsection or a Dionysian physique. I could go on and on…

As a caveat to all of this…I do realize that sometimes bad things happen without our understanding why. I will not even attempt to explain the cosmos. What I do know is that we each have an opportunity today. What is your cause at this moment? What will its effect be? Maybe a better question is: what is the life that you are dreaming of? Perhaps the answer to getting there is hidden in your daily cause.

Charlie Newell is a recent graduate of the BA in Communications and Culture program. He is presently working as a Project Manager for a firm on Wall St. He enjoys sports, outdoors, cooking, traveling and his wife.

Most of us are professionals of some sort. I am a project manager for a major trading firm. I live in NYC with my wife. We lead busy lives. We have families to tend to…responsibilities to keep. For whatever reason, my education slipped through the cracks. Our lives can become overgrown with other obligations. Money was short. The degree programs weren’t relative. No time for classrooms. These are all valid explanations. However, they are not worthy excuses for not finishing our education.

Life is not always as straightforward as people make it out to be. We have these notions that have been fed into our brains since we were children: you grow up, go to college, get a job, find a mate, buy a house, have kids…yada yada yada. But my experience has been quite different from that one. I struggled. I procrastinated. I traveled. I goofed around. After all, if I didn’t know what I wanted to be…why should I commit to a degree?

I am now at the cusp of finishing my degree. This is my last semester in the CUNY Online Baccalaureate program. Next spring I will proudly walk the aisle and receive my diploma from Dean Mogulescu and take in the moment with my family. It will be well-deserved. However, the journey does not stop there. In many ways I feel this is only the beginning. Now that I am older (hopefully wiser) I realize that it is not about the destination. It is about the journey. Whereas before when I was but a clueless youth who had and upside-down goose’s sense of direction, I now know that it doesn’t really matter. After I graduate, I am considering a plethora of options. I could go on to grad school (because I learned that learning is fun!)…I could commit to writing more. I could start my own business.

Henry David Thoreau said : “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”

The truth is I don’t completely know what comes next. Who really does? But I do know that I will have completed a major milestone in my life that will continue to serve me in many different areas. That simplification process that Thoreau was talking about is really just putting one step in front of the other. I have dreams. I am walking towards them. I am setting goals for myself and reaching them one by one. It is very satisfying. And, it gives me hope for the future…something that is a tad scarce in these times.

So, if you find yourself considering finishing your education… stop considering. Do it.  If you find that you are overwhelmed and in the thick of a challenging semester…push through. The unintended consequence of learning is that it makes you a better person by pushing you forward into new possibilities rather than just staying in the same place. And that sounds good to me.

Charlie Newell is in his last semester for the BA in Communications and Culture. He is presently working as a Project Manager for a firm on Wall St. He enjoys sports, outdoors, cooking, travelling and his wife.

A few weeks ago was the fall-semester kick-off party… or ‘reception’ would be the more academic word for it. Being a part of an online college means that you get to know a lot of names, but not faces. When you find yourself in the trenches of a spring or summer semester, the ‘Discussion Boards’ become one of the local hangouts. It’s where you hear the opinions of others and proffer a few of your own.  You are forced into interaction (read: graded) with other students there. It is one of the key mechanisms that make this online thing work. In fact, I would dare to say that I interact more now with people then when I was in a traditional classroom. The way this program is set up is such that it groups you with people who are literally in the same boat as you.

The discussion board or ‘DB’ is actually a really good thing. It leaves little room for laziness as it can have a profound effect on your grade. However, one thing I noticed the other night was that as I meandered around the room I found myself looking at every name tag. I was trying to find some of the other scholars that I had rubbed shoulders with in the ‘virtual classroom’ but had never seen face to face. And, I did run into a few fellow students…also a few of my previous professors whom I had never met in person. I talked to Professor Ellen Smiley who was my instructor from the last summer session for Research Methods II. It was nice to be able to thank her in-person for the challenges that she put forth…and to thank her for the A. I also had the privilege to reacquaint myself with the 3 deans: Mogulescu, Otte and Peterson. I mentioned to Dean Mogulescu how much we had grown since our previous fall bash. Last fall, everyone fit into a smallish mid-town restaurant. This time, we occupied a huge ballroom. That is a testimony to the fact that this thing is working. As I scanned the room and interacted with different people it was easy to understand why. Most of us there had one thing in common: we were all hard-working professionals from various backgrounds who were succeeding at wrapping up our degrees. We were winning the race. I myself am finished after this fall. It’s been a long time coming, but well worth it.

It was a delight to finally match a name to the face with a lot of these people. That’s why these little get-togethers are so good. They put flesh and bones on our interactions. You get to hear more about the real person on the other side of the screen. Dean M gave a short speech on how the faculty is committed to our success. I knew that intuitively, but it is always good to hear. We are a real campus dealing with real people who are doing some extraordinary things to further their education. If you are new to this, or an old hat…take some pride in the fact that you are among such people who are poised to help you succeed. You are not in this alone. And take it from me…you can finish this thing. Keep on running.

Charlie Newell is in his last semester for the BA in Communications and Culture. He is presently working as a Project Manager for a firm on Wall St. He enjoys sports, outdoors, cooking, travelling and his wife.