“Student Outcomes”: Michael Diezmos

“Student Outcomes” is a continuing series of interviews with my former students who are now experiencing “real 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

Michael B. Diezmos, Seton Hill U class of 2007
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 attained my MAs degree in American Studies in 2009 at Utah State University.  My thesis explored how marginalized people gained power through word manipulation and language play.  I took a year off to get work experience before finally deciding on applying to the Peace Corps and to several PhD programs.

At Seton Hill U, I was a writing fanatic. I kept a personal journal, and I maintained a blog. I also wrote for the public. I contributed to Eye Contact, SHU’s literary and art magazine, and to the Setonian, SHU’s student newspaper. I did work-study at SHU’s Writing Center, and an internship at SHU’s Office of Public Information. I incorporated writing in other activities I did. As Vice President of my class, I did a class newsletter. I wrote articles about my community service experience. I also translated a Filipino legend for my Honors Capstone Project, and reflected on my process.

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

I thought by now, I would have a 9 to 5 job, and even if I might not like my job, I would still be writing my novel at night.

However, life turned out differently. 3 years after graduating from SHU, I realized I wanted to be in the education field either as a Professor of Rhetoric or as a Director of a Writing Center. I want to work with tutors and students. Completing the Peace Corps or a PhD program will help me become a better tutor and teacher. I still write, but I’m reading more so I can learn from authors I like.

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

My college experience can be summed up by the word, “hands-on”. In writing and other types of communication, accurate information is important in attracting and compelling an audience. As a Setonian journalist, my experience in Fine Arts, Art History, and Dance made me more credible when I reviewed art exhibits and performances. I learned more about audience and the publication world in general as the Eye Contact Business Manager, and as an assistant to the Associate Director of Media Relations.

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.

One of the many lessons from a Literature class that I’ll never forget is developing my voice through weekly reading responses. I could focus on the obvious or start exploring the not-so obvious or analyze a detail that caught my attention as long as I supported it with evidence ( textual or basic common knowledge ). This exercise made me comfortable in expressing my opinions. This lesson worked because the teacher remained open to possibilities. Even when the idea seemed improbable, the teacher nudged me in a good direction, where I could make the idea and argument into a reality ( a possible research paper ).

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

I wish someone would have taught me how to better aply for jobs. Throughout my college experience, I though my resume was enough. My main priorities were to complete my classes’ requirements, participate in extracurricular activities, and graduate on time. There were resources available, but I didn’t know how to navigate them.

This lesson could be best taught if there was a structured class dedicated to career and life after the university, but this class had to be SPECIFIC to the student’s major and field of study. The class will be the main resource for networking, for news on internships and job openings, information on graduate schools and scholarships, and discussions about the field. The class could even have a budget for speakers, workshops on cover letter and resume writing, Q-and-A sessions with human resources and hiring committees, and mock-up interviews ( specific to the field ).

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

Taking tests was a teaching method that never made a dent on my learning. I did well recalling the agreed answers ( as discussed in class and the textbook ). However, thinking back, all the tests I took blended into one. On the other hand, writing essays and doing research papers made more impact on my learning. Even if I didn’t remember each content, I remembered the process of gathering materials, exploring different angles, and synthesizing the information. The focus on process helped me to develop my critical thinking skills.

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

I didn’t enjoy doing presentations and participating in discussions when I was in college. But I’m glad I did them because they are helpful in my chosen profession as a tutor and teacher. Presentations and discussions helped me to think on my feet, to be more social, to stand up for my beliefs and opinions, to be open-minded to others’ beliefs and opinions, to negotiate, and to have patience.

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

Making a list is a good habit I picked up in school and that I still apply today. Lists help me to set goals ( short and long term ), draft papers, and organize in general. If I wanted my day to be extremely productive, I would make a list where I would even note daily routines ( such as eating ). It feels good to cross things out ( a good reminder that I accomplished something even if it’s trivial ). The activities I don’t finish will just be moved to the next day. A list gives me an overall picture of the day, and it helps me to anticipate and react to the day’s surprises.

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

One of the things I missed about the college classroom is the physical space for conversations on literature, current events, philosophy et al, and a community that inspires its members for positive ( social ) action.

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

The best advice I received was not to give others advice ( ironic? ). According to this Austrian actor, advises took away the responsibility from the advisee to make things happen. With that said, it’s always nice and great for students to have a supportive teacher, who is realistic, a problem-solver, and a co-conspirator ( contradicting? ).

Congratulations to you and best wishes to you on the next leg of your journey, Michael!
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Published by

Michael Arnzen

Professor of English, Seton Hill University.