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“Student Outcomes”: Neha Bawa

May 22nd, 2008

“Student Outcomes” is a new, ongoing series of interviews with my former students who are now living life after college. Considering how much of our work is based on the assumption that “learning outcomes” will be met, I thought it would be a good way to catch up with them and to see what sort of impact college has had on their lives in the long term. Past students interested in participating should e-mail me. Comments, as always, are appreciated. — Michael Arnzen
First up…
Neha Bawa, Seton Hill U class of 2006
Start with a brief bio that tells us first where you are now, then what your status was in college (e.g. “Creative Writing major, Volleyball player, Tetris fan, whatever.) Let your personality show.

I am an eternal English major who keeps moving from one aspect of dissecting the language to another. I’ve completed my undergrad as an English Literature major, and currently, I am teaching English writing to college freshmen and I’m about to begin graduate classes in Communications.

Tell us where you thought you’d be now, back when you were a college freshman.

As a college freshman, my worldview was very convoluted, and I had no idea of how to picture myself in the future. When I first took Introduction to Literature in sophomore year, I knew I wanted to teach college students, so I’m exactly where I thought I would be.

Describe your college experience in one word. Then elaborate in no more than five sentences.

Eclectic. My college experiences have shaped my life and my thinking tremendously and have made a hard core liberal out of me. From the good to the bad and the ugly, the only year I would relive would be my Senior year, for both, academic and personal reasons.

Describe one very specific lesson from the college classroom that you’ll never forget. Give us concrete details. Tell us not only what it taught you, but also how and why it worked.

It was a class with you, in fact, that taught me a very valuable lesson in classroom management. I remember, I had started explaining something to a classmate about poetry, and you stopped teaching and asked me if I had started teaching the class at some point. It’s always stayed with me because I use it in my own classroom every time my students start talking in the middle of my sentences. Sometimes, respect has to be commanded.

What do you know now that you wish someone would have taught you in school? How might that lesson best be taught?

I have always wished that, beginning with freshman year, universities made it mandatory for students to learn about post-college savings and retirement options. Terms like “Tax Deferred Annuities” and “Individual Retirement Accounts” hold no meaning for college students and new college grads, which means that the time they spend with philandering away their earnings could have been spent building a nest egg. Also, I’ve always wanted universities to spend more time and resources on career advice and counseling, especially at Seton Hill, where the resources exist, but are not advertised well enough for the students to be completely aware of them.

What teaching method(s) were you subjected to that never made a dent on your learning?

Reading responses based on emotions, instead of literary techniques used in a text. Being inundated with homework doesn’t necessarily mean that the class work is being understood. That just means that there’s more on the plate as “busy” work.

What college experience did you find most displeasing at the time, but now recognize as an important contribution to your learning?

Writing research papers. I have never had the patience to sit in a library for hours and research a subject into the wee hours of the morning, but now that I’m teaching, I realize the importance of understanding research methods, especially when time management is involved.

What habits — good and bad — did you pick up in school, that you still continue to apply?

Constant reading. Constant. Whether I read fiction or non-fiction, a newspaper article, or even the back of a tube of toothpaste, I make it a point to read something new every day.

What do you miss about the college classroom, if anything?

The personal and social touches to teaching and learning.

If there was one suggestion you would make to college teachers everywhere, what would it be?

Please don’t ever let yourselves forget, that at the end of the day, after the tenure has been earned, after the papers have been published, after the book deals have been signed, that our profession is about making a difference in our students’ lives and not always our own.

THANK YOU, Neha!
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  1. May 22nd, 2008 at 05:56 | #1

    Mike, this is a great idea for a blog series! Not only is it a great excuse to catch up with former students, it also provides us all with a wealth of information to draw upon when we start working on the next wave of students.
    Neha, we’ve now added a “Writing about Literature” class, which all English majors take after “Intro to Literary Study.” The big research paper that used to take up a big chunk of EL150 has been moved to the new course, which leaves more time in EL150 for career development.
    There’s also a new English Club that invited recent English alumni and CareerWorks to give talks.
    I’m not sure that most 18-year-olds are ready to hear about taxes and IRAs…

  2. May 22nd, 2008 at 07:22 | #2

    I’m class of 2006??? It’s been TWO YEARS since I’ve graduated??? Ye Gads…I’m old…

  3. Neha
    May 22nd, 2008 at 10:44 | #3

    You’re probably right about the taxes and IRAs and the 18 year olds, Dr. Jerz, but I don’t see any harm in encouraging them to think about planning for more than just graduation.
    Saving $20 a week for an entire year adds up to somewhere in the 4k range. 4 years of saving $20 a week? That’s a substantial sum right there. Financial independence after an undergraduate career is just as important as doing well in college, because the student loan payments come very quickly. Most banks let people open locked rate, fixed term CD’s with as little as $500. It’s a good idea.
    That being said, I did hear about the English club on campus. Very exciting! Have we had any guest speakers?

  4. May 22nd, 2008 at 16:08 | #4

    Yes, little bits can add up quickly.
    The English Club started up this past spring, and only had a few events scheduled before the year ended. Here’s an announcement one of the students posted… maybe if you’re ever back in the area, you could offer to share your insights?
    http://blogs.setonhill.edu/nmj/025220.html

  5. Neha
    May 23rd, 2008 at 06:25 | #5

    Incredible. I love it. Makes me wish I had thought about starting it too!
    I’ll actually be in PA next week, and I’m thinking about swinging by the campus. Will you be around?

  6. May 23rd, 2008 at 10:17 | #6

    Yes, I’ll be around. We’re actually putting out an issue of the Setonian for summer freshman orientaion, and next week is production week.

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