Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Survival List for Virginia Tech

As freshman, there are some things that you need to know if you are a Virginia Tech Student. After my first sememester here, this is the list I have compiled:

10)  Be sure to remember that on any other campus, weight gain in the first year of college is called the Freshman 15. At Tech, it should be the Freshman 50.Virginia Tech's food has been ranked number one in the country, so be sure to use those free gyms around campus.

9) Waiting until the last minute to start a paper, project, or reading is a bad idea. Time seems to speed up the closer you get to a dead line, so don't procrastinate!

8) Utilize your resources. There are offices all over campus, like Career Services, that want to help you succeed! Help them help you by asking for advice!

7) Keep some quarters in stock! When you need clean clothes and all you have is nickles and dimes, you'll wish you had some to do laundry with!

6) Say hello! The only way that you're going to get to know new people is to introduce yourself and to put yourself out there. Leaving your dorm room door open is a great way to meet people passing by.

5)Talk to your professors. They genuinely want to know who you are, where you are from, and help you whenever they can. Catch them after class or during their office hours so they can put a face with your name.

4) Respect your roommate. You are sharing a living space, so work out a schedule for study, sleep and fun that won't disturb your roomie.

3) Don't miss hall meeting! Your RA wants to provide you with important information during these meetings, especially when you leave for break or when you're done at the end of the year that you don't want to miss. If you do, you might get penalized later for misconduct.

2) Get involved. Find something that interests you and join that club or organization. There are over 600 at Virginia Tech, I'm sure you'll find something. If not, start your own by stopping by Student Affairs and picking up some paperwork and convince at least two of your friends to join!

1) Have fun! You're only in college for a short amount of time. Live it up. Find out who you are and find out how you can impact the world around you!

These are only a few of the helpful hints that I've picked up the way. The everyday things, like working out and ending my bad habit of procrastination, are things that I will need to keep working on in semesters to come. I hope to continue to use these tips as I advance through college and continue into my professional life, especially number one. I want to make an impact on the people and situations around me and to make a difference to someone. I can begin to do that through the clubs and organizations I am apart of, and by utilizing my strengths both in and out of the class room. That is my goal for the future, in whatever I do, and my challenge to others along the way.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Diversity vs. Integration

Anywhere you could think to look on Virginia Tech’s Campus, you can find diversity. From dorm to dorm, to the hallways between classes, diversity seems to be woven into the very being of the campus. Every student has a different story and a different reason for being here.

The first time I actually encountered the word on campus was during my class familiarizing students with the Ag. Sciences major. The main focus of the class is to not only help students find their interests within the major, but also to find their place on campus. It was during one of these in depth class discussions that Keyana Ellis, the Teaching Assistant, disputed the meaning of diversity in context of campus life. She reasoned that diversity was simply recognizing differences from people to people. It wasn’t necessarily a word that meant bringing those different people together. She suggested that when referring to a group or community of varied citizens, we should use words like “integration.” All this meant was that an action was being taken in order to bring these people together.

I had never thought of that before: that a word like diversity, which was normally associated with many different aspects of people in one place, was in all actuality, a stagnant word. It doesn’t have any movement behind it. Unlike diversity, integration has a force behind it, propelling it from just recognizing difference to an action to an acceptance of difference.

Granted, if you were reading both of these words on paper, we might skim over them, using them for synonyms for each other in the same context. Words might be words on paper, but I think what Keyana meant was that once those same words leave the paper, the contrast between the dormancy of diversity and the association linked with integration is noticeably different.

As my first semester on campus is beginning to wind down, I've realized the difference between diversity and integration and have learned to appreciate both in a new way. The people around me are diverse in the sense of location, race, background and many more aspects, however it is because we have integrated our lives together that we can function as a true university and community.

Some hallmates and I getting ready for a Thursday night game. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Celebrating 50 Years

This weekend my grandparents, Lynn and Audrey Slaven, were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Several weeks ago, my grandmother asked me to say a few words at their reception on behalf of all of the grandchildren, because I was the oldest. At first, I did not know what to say, not because I did not know what to say about my grandparents, because they have been a great support system for my entire life, but because I have only been alive for two-fifths of their marriage.

Because of that I was not sure how I was going to be able to correctly summarize their past 50 years together. To me 50 years seems like forever; a time period that almost seems unattainable to be married considering the obstacles in today’s society.

So as I began to write my speech I tried to think about all of the things they have accomplished in the past five decades. As I began, totaling up all of the occasions and events that they had been a part of I was highly impressed with all that they had successfully undertaken together as a team. Being valuable members of the community, a huge asset to our church family, a strong think that has continued time and time again to hold our family together, even when the times got hard, and loving grandparents to top it all has shown me what love can do. It amazes me to think that after all of that, their relationship is still going strong.

I think about the impact they have made on countless lives because of their strong relationship and that made me start to ponder what kind of impact I could make in the next 50 years.

Will it be a positive impact, or a negative one? Will I affect anyone or no one at all? Will somebody look at my life 50 years from now and see that same amount of accomplishments I see in my grandparents? Will they see that I did not just live and survive life, but that I lived well and made the most of every opportunity? 

My siblings and I with our grandparents, Audrey and Lynn.

As these thoughts crossed my mind, I realized that you cannot get anywhere in life without relying on other people at some point and how important it is to see value in other people, especially when people see value in you. So my plan for the future, by 2060, is to live a life that my grandparents have lived: a life full of laughter, compassion, and love for others.

Friday, November 5, 2010

If I could look into the future...

Now that I am in college, reality is beginning to set in that one dayI will need to find a job.
But as a young person entering the work force, what do I have to offer?

I want to be an agricultural educator, working with middle or high school students in a classroom and shop setting to teach about the agriculture industry. This position also requires my time to be utilized as an FFA advisor, following the FFA mission statement as a coach and mentor to FFA members.
I want to teach in one of the 180 schools that have an established agriculture department, particularly in my home county of Augusta.

Utilizing My Strengths
Adaptability - Students that come through this program are very diverse and I feel that my strength with adaptability will allow me to reach students across differences in background, and learning styles to best suit their needs.

Communication - In a position that requires a lot of talking, communication will serve me well. Hopefully by incorporating an interactive learning environment with my communication skills, my students will walk away from my class with a better understanding and appreciation for agriculture.

Positivity – I will have a close relationship with agriculture students, because many of them will take agriculture all 3 or 4 years they are in school. Remaining a positive role model for students may shape their outlook on life.

Harmony - Personalities can clash and the harmony strength smooths over any confrontations that may arise with the student body, or with faculty and staff.

Context - My history of agriculture and working with students will allow me to reflect on what I have learned in the past, remold it, and use my experiences in my future classroom.

Educational and Training Requirements
By the time I graduate, I hope to have a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Sciences, with focuses on animal and poultry science and horticulture and a minor in Leadership and Social Change.
I will also need to receive my Master’s degree in Agriculture and Extension Education in order to teach.

Essential Knowledge
To be an agriculture teacher, you should be as diverse as the industry itself. I’ll need to know everything from production livestock, horticulture, mechanics and woodworking, welding, farm business management, food science, and emerging technology in the industry. This knowledge will carry over to the FFA side as I prepare teams for different contests, in addition to the leadership and teambuilding traits that I need to pass on to my students.

Key Challenges
Job security is one area that may be a potential challenge because of state funding and the county’s view of importance of the program.
The challenge of being denied travel opportunities with students to different events due to budget cuts is another area of concern.

Betty Bender says "When people go to work, they shouldn't have to leave their hearts at home.” I hope this quote proves true for me in my future career!
My own high school agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, Eric Stogdale.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Opportunity Cost

At the beginning of the year, my Ag. Econ. professor, Kurt Stevenson, told his class of 150 students that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Everything has a cost attached to it. For whatever choice or decision we make, something has to be given up. This is Opportunity Cost.

Kurt stressed that this doesn't necessarily have a monetary form, it could also mean time, effort, or other opportunities lost for each path we chose. This got me thinking about the choices and opportunities I've had in my life and where I might be if I had gone another route.

If I hadn't ran for a State FFA Office:
There was one point during my senior year that I thought about not running for a State FFA Office. There were several reasons why I almost didn't: I didn't want to get behind in school if I took the year off, my insurance company wouldn't cover me if I wasn't a full time student, and it was yearlong commitment that I had already dedicated my entire high school career to. However, if I hadn't ran for a State Office, I would never have had the chance to travel abroad to China, to network with students and industry personnel alike, or to know the feeling of representing something larger than just myself.

If I hadn't decided to attend Virginia Tech:
As the time was nearing for me to make decisions about my educational future, this deliberation arose: To attend Blue Ridge or not to attend Blue Ridge, that is the question. My father was strongly pushing for me to attend the local community college. I could see why: the tuition is less, I would have more one on one time with my teachers, and it was close to home. But it was the last benefit, being close to home, which gave me the incentive to NOT attend Blue Ridge. As I'm sure many graduating students must feel, I needed to have some space from my family. I've always been super close to them and I knew that another two years at Blue Ridge would make it harder for both me and them when the time came to move on to a 4 year university. Since I have been at Virginia Tech, I might have spent more of my savings, but I have met some wonderful people, experienced all sorts of diversity, and have enjoyed living on my own while still staying close to my family through phone calls and cards.

If I had continued to play piano:
The one path that I chose not to go down, and truly regret, is the decision to not continue with my piano education. I started taking piano lessons in the 3rd grade, and after 8 years I was totally burnt out. It wasn't until I sat down last spring to play my last recital piece that I learned that I have retrogressed. All the money that my parents spent on my learning timing, rhythm, and practicing scales was almost a complete waste. While I can still read the music, my ability to sit down and play almost anything is now gone. If I had continued to play piano, who knows what level I might be at today?

In an email that my stepmother, Dana, sent me, she gave me this advice: "Every path we take or choice we make teaches us something. Keep learning - that is what life is about."

Even as I write this week's blog, I think of other things I could have done differently, but also look forward to the opportunities coming up. Yesterday I delivered pumpkins to the White House, today I received a job offer, and in June, I'll be in route to Costa Rica on a free agricultural tour.

Who knows what tomorrow holds, as long as we take the opportunity to find out.

Austin and I delivering pumpkins to the Whitehouse on behalf of the Virginia Pumpkin Growers Association, Carrol County, and Virginia FFA Association.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

National FFA Convention - An End and A Beginning

I remember the first time that I attended National FFA Convention. It was held in Louisville, KY and I was 14 and had never seen a city besides Richmond. I was slightly overwhelmed.
(A picture taken in the 8th grade)

Over the week, I learned to appreciate the diversity around me. I saw people walking by, and for the first time, I couldn't guess what someone did for a living, or where they might live, or make any accurate assumptions about them at all like I did at home. There was life outside the town limits of Weyers Cave.

And as I am preparing to leave for Convention this weekend, I can feel myself having that same feeling, but about college. Virginia Tech has definately opened my eyes to different types of people, and I truly appreciate the values I've learned thus far about the Hokie Spirit. But it feels good to be going back to the place where that awareness of diversity began.

However, the bittersweet part about this trip to Indianapolis, the location of convention has changed since I've started attending, is that it will be my last as a competing FFA member.

I've had the wonderful opportunity to be selected as one of the top four National Finalists in the Agriculture Education Profeciency Award Area. It is the perfect transition from former FFA member to future FFA advisor, because the next time I will probably come to convention will be with students of my own.

In fact, during this time of change, I try to think of National Convention as a metaphor for my future career.

Just as National FFA Convention has given me the opportunity to branch out of my comfort zone, meet new people, and experience new places, I hope to be that type of agriculture teacher, encouraging my students to try new things and to appreciate the diversity of agriculture.

It truly is amazing to walk down the streets of Indianapolis with 50,000 other blue jackets and realize that you represent something much larger than yourself. I made this discovery through the FFA and I hope to be able to pass that on to my future students.

So even though I am sad to see this time in my life coming to a close, I am excited about embarking on a new journey in my life, one that will one day be leading a group of students much like my 14 year old self down the street of their potential.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Little Annoyances... A Lot of Patience.

In the short time that I've been at Virginia Tech, I've begun to pick up on small things that annoy me.
Here is the list that I've created so far:

Leggings: Who created the trend of wearing leggings and ONLY leggings with just a tee shirt or sweatshirt? What a horrible, unflattering fashion statement.

The Math Emporium: A learning environment that is has the same wall decor as a hospital does not stimulate the students' minds.

Last, but certainly not least:
Skateboarders/Bicyclist/Unicyclists (Yes, unicyclists are more popular than you might think): The sidewalks are not your own personal race track. If you have a need for speed, please look into the Indy 500, not the pedestrian cross walks.

Now don't get me wrong, I love most everything about Virginia Tech, but it is just these few annoyances that sometimes get under my skin.

I've realized that this situation can be compared with working around people. Just because there may be a few annoyances in a relationship or friendship doesn't mean that it's destined to come to a screeching halt, it just means that you have to take the time to work on your problems in order to become more efficient.

I also realize that to someone, I might be that slight annoyance that I see in other people. I know that I try to not be annoying, but maybe it's part of my personality and I don't even know that it's annoying to other people. I would want to know if I was!

So I try to take that same approach with people, especially living in close proximately to so many students in my dorm.  I feel like being direct, in a a kind manner, is beneficial for all!

However, for these other annoyances, leggings with tee shirts, the bland colors of the math empo, and the skateboarders who continually try to see how close they can get to me before swerving, I guess I will just have to implement a little bit of patience.