Experience comes with years

January 1, 2012 at 12:24 AM

Experience comes with years      


Shalini Singh CC’13 and Jim Stellar


Shalini took a neuroscience-based large general education course that I co-taught last spring to about 240 students.  She sat in the middle about 3 rows back from the front.  Because she was attentive in class I asked her a brief question from the floor.  Because she was 28 years old, she looked back at me solidly in the eye and answered.  I do not remember the question or the answer, but I remember in that fleeting moment thinking she was a good student.  I did not then know then her age. At my age (60), they all look young.  But I can tell when a student appears solid and ready to interact.  Let’s hear Shalini’s side of the story.


What Jim said is true…..I was moved by the course; every lecture from all of the professors contributed a clearer understanding of my past and current experiences. Therefore, to have the opportunity to speak with a professor was a privilege. After class lectures were over, he made himself available to answer student’s questions and it was quite noticeable he or his co-teacher did not judge their students based on a GPA number or the silliest questions one may ask.  


At the same time, I knew many students that did not take upon the opportunity to speak with either of the co-professors because they felt intimidated or may have had to rush to another class. I suppose I did not feel intimidated because of my age. I am 28 years old and eager to learn from individuals that can transform my life not just numerically but by enhancing my personality and perspective. Prior to my return to college to become a psychiatrist, I became an actress after leaving High School, which placed me in front of an audience at all times. I am aware this experience may have something to do with my direct response to Jim as he remembers it. 


This is nice and we teachers appreciate when students are not intimidated or have to rush to another class, but can you go farther now and talk about how experiences shaped you?


Besides innate aptitudes, experiences can form dynamic personalities as well as the individual’s ability to learn. For instance, there are many factors that characterize one’s intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. I have been fortunate to have met with professors that have changed my life. My first biology professor inspired me to fall in love with biology and I did exceptionally well in his class not just numerically but understanding life’s origin from a scientific viewpoint. I developed an interest to understand more about life’s formation and also developed an open mind. My second biology professor allowed me the opportunity to enter into QC as a research student because of my passion to learn more, I wanted hands-on experience which is referred to as active learning. My QC research mentor, revealed the importance of accommodating others in need and this is besides learning protocols for my experiments and how to operate specific equipment involving the research protocols. Finally, Jim has been attentive to my questions and helpful toward me to understand his course.


I have learned from all of these experiences mentioned above. I have also learned that you don’t disregard a student that does not come to you instead, you should go to them; one day they might just say, yes I need help. Noticeably, all of the above mentioned professors have enriched my personality and viewpoint as well as adding experiences to my life. I am grateful to each and every individual that has expanded my horizon of knowledge for the betterment of my future.


All of these experiences seem to be ones that affect the “other lobe of the brain” as we call it in this blog.  That part of the brain that may be automatic, hidden, or what one author calls “Incognito” in his book.  The thesis of this blog is that those systems do make judgments and those judgments can fit together with data.  You already had a bunch of experiences prior to our meeting in this course.  Is it just that simple?  Do we need to get 18 year old students to just have those experiences?  Is it important to have a series of them like you did?  Or is this kind of student maturity all down to age?  I have my ideas, but what do you think?


I am not a definite candidate toward successes at all times, however, I entered into college to succeed and I knew in order to succeed, I needed to be open-minded and utilize the materials of the courses and part of the course materials are professors. Perhaps, the “other lobe of the brain” became activated upon your question and I responded based upon my need to learn. I believe the simplest approach to 18 year old students may be to provide more internship opportunities, getting students to join a research lab based on their interest, or promoting students to explore the “real-deal” of the outside work environment right in a classroom by exhibiting workshop activities. The problem with many institutions of higher learning is that we have individuals graduating with high levels of intelligence in simple black and white text of their desired field of interest, but we don’t educate the students with an actual experience of these texts. Reading, discussions, and testing are all an essential part of learning in a specific course, nonetheless, I firmly believe it is important to give students an opportunity to excel in application of what they have learned. I was fortunate to have experience the outside world prior to entering into the inside world, college. Perhaps, this does make it easier for someone to apply knowledge.


I think you said it all in the last sentence.  If one can apply knowledge, one can make it their own.  These experiences outside the classroom but in the field do help students to make it their own.  When they do that, they look more mature.  It is not the years, it is the experience gained in those years and in institutions of higher education we can pack a lot of that experience, if we are careful, into the college years.

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2 Responses to “Experience comes with years”

  1. Sarah V. Platt says:

    In this article you discuss the way in which knowledge is applied through out-of-classroom experiences and how these field experiences make students empowered with their own knowledge, hence MATURITY. However, you also discuss how this application of knowledge should come from experience in the outside world before ¨going in¨ (to college). I think this is very difficult for the majority of students, especially because of financial limitations or lack of knowledge. I think that instead of engaging in field experiences first, this process is more enriching when done simultaneously while in college (like I did), and not before. (I hope this makes sense).

  2. Jim says:

    Sarah, Thanks for the comment. It does make sense. The best such experiences come at the time the student is exploring their major field as that is when it really matters. But also it takes a certain maturity to have these interactions and everyone has to begin somewhere. From my experience as the professor, Shalini just appeared to have it and that was what triggered this post…her maturity was where we want to get with all students or at least make as much progress as possible in the time we have with them. -Jim

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