Academics

Disclaimers

I have academic credentials, but most of what I’ve learned has been through independent study and experience.

I have long planned on expanding this section to correlate my academic experience and projects to my job skills, as well as my perspectives on the relative benefits and shortcomings of the different technical training and academic models I’ve experienced.

Like all high-minded analysis, however, the undertaking requires a good bit of collation, investigation, publishing, and self reflection, which has too frequently taken a back-seat to parenting, income generation, and academics itself.  Don’t be surprised if it never happens, or if it only happens as this site is reconstructed from the ground up in a different format.

Degrees & Enrollments

James Madison University (2015-2016)

  • Computer Science Major (not completed)

Blue Ridge Community College (2004-2014)

  • Associate of Arts & Science – College Transfer
  • Associate of Science – Computer Science Specialization

Records

  • My resume contains a condensed checklist of my academic history.
  • Academia reserves the term “Official Transcripts” for the secure transfer of academic records between institutions, but these  “Unofficial Transcripts” provide the same information without the universities guarantee of authenticity.

Reflections

My academic path has been non-traditional.

Part of this is attributable to the escalating and crippling emotional issues I dealt with during the critical, traditional, academic time-frame for young adults.

An arguably larger part is the failure of the collegiate systems to provide an education that was more than what I considered remedial training.  In the decade+ that I spent in academia, I took extended absences because the material was almost universally behind my knowledge level, and I always felt that I was waiting for a truly educational experience that was a distant dream.

I have always considered myself a strong intellect.  Whenever possible, I threw myself into my school work, transmuting them beyond requirements to meet my personal needs for growth and training, but the farther I got into academia (most specifically at the university level), the less that was rewarded and the less open to that process the curriculum became.

The death blow to my pursuit of a degree came when I discovered that arbitrary and unpublished policies at JMU crippled my ability to pursue the schools overlapping graduate program. This discovery ran in contradiction to the explicit claims of my advisor and the common sense reading of policies as published.

I had hoped to use the program to compensate for a credit issue I had as a transfer student.  (On its face) In an attempt to prevent students from gaming the community college / university relationship, in order to obtain a degree with only remedial qualifications, a policy is in place that requires half of the 120 credit requirement to be taken at a 4 year university.  Because of my non-traditional path, however, I entered the university with 75% of the credit requirements completed at a 2 year university.

Common sense would dictate that graduate program credits would meet this remedial baseline, and that meeting the qualifications to enter the overlapping program would then solve two problems at once: I would finally have access to an advanced curriculum, and I would be able to able to compensate for the arbitrarily diminished value of my non-traditional academic path.

My program advisor suggested this avenue himself, and confirmed my interpretation of the policy as an ideal solution. It was not until I tried to coordinate with the graduate faculty in charge of the program, that I learned that internal policy prevented them from applying this solution to more than 9 credits for both programs.  I could apply more credits to my undergraduate degree, but only by converting them to undergraduate credits and forfeiting my ability to use them in the graduate program.

This left me with two options:

  • Finish 30 undergraduate credits (of any level) and then apply to the graduate program as normal.
  • Enter and complete the MS program but only receive a BS degree.

The arbitrary and dismissive nature of these revelations was emotionally devastating to me and forced me to confront the depth of the battle in front of me to ever get the degree.

In the community college system, I always felt the curriculum was beneath me, but the instructors and advisors had a vested interest in allowing me to move forward, and they reinforced a belief that one day I would reach academic opportunities that were meaningful to me.  They treated me with respect, gave me the benefit of the doubt when I asked to take courses that were beyond my proven level, and overtly recognized my ability.  This was not unique to me.  One of the reasons I kept coming back, is that I witnessed them extend that same decency, support, and hope  to every student, even more so to me based on my meritocratic demonstrations.

At the university level, however, despite being a star student, demonstrating superior ability and knowledge based on my extra decade of self training and life experience (compared to my millennial classmates), doing the overwhelming majority of work in every group activity, and having completed all of the course  prerequisites for the graduate program, my ability to complete my education in a meaningful, affordable, and timely manner was essential nil.

The bureaucratic structure was designed to dismiss any concept that a student might have value that was not a product of in-house indoctrination and guidance.  The predominant attitude from faculty members was skepticism and dismissal. The students, even more so transfer students, were generally treated as largely incapable, unknowing, and in need of protection from themselves.  To challenge that idea or the curriculum based on my own personal experience was to clash with overt dismissal.

I left a system that I believed in because it treated students with equity and respect, and I entered one that seemed to lack both, for me or any other student.

To continue my education was also to continue to turn down any opportunity at meaningful income.  I was simultaneously living in poverty, acting as the sole bread winner for my child, and fighting for custody against a sexist and prejudicial system.  I had also reached the limit of student loans available to me.  I did not have the support of the system to pay for the extended stay required, much less any ability to financially survive the full-time remedial credit schedule the faculty was suggesting.  Note here the widely reported escalating cost of university tuition, generally without added value.

On the verge of my financial destitution, faculty politely dismissed the notion that I was qualified for the program because my non-traditional academic career didn’t meet their standards of proof, even though 30 100 level credits would do the same.

I could not digest that experience without also honestly admitting to myself that in the nearly 15 years since I started my collegiate career, I had watched the value of Computer Science programs diminish in relation to the state of business world’s needs as I had experienced and studied it. The foundational technologies of modern enterprise businesses and the diverse skills and experience needed to support a small business were all but absent from the curriculum.

I frequently found myself lecturing to other students about these issues, like some sort of techno-Socrates outside of class. The awe and interest these students gave me helped heal my fractured self confidence, confirming that the problem was systemic and not one of personal worth, but it also reinforced the sobering awareness that my skills and ability were tangential to the opportunities in front of me.

I saw two type of students around me.  Those already more capable than the program could make them, eager to learn, from me, a decade of industry perspectives they weren’t getting from the school, and the majority, who honestly couldn’t even handle the basics.  What all of these students had in advantage to me, was they had marched through the system as expected, when expected, and would benefit from opportunities because of it.

I could see clearly that these opportunities would not be my own, any route to achieve them would involve mountains of sacrifice, far beyond their worth, and I could trace this absence/dilemma to the haunting memories of emotional trauma that characterized my young adult life.

I left JMU feeling ripped off, impoverished, and once again burdened with a focus on the emotional traumas I had been fleeing my entire adult life.

I left understanding that I could never realistically return to finish my degree.

I left understanding that my daughter’s life and opportunity will be guided in critical ways by the emotional traumas I carried in my heart as a young man.

I left with an understanding that academia in my field is in a spiral towards irrelevance, while profiting evermore on the backs of students who don’t have the means, or can’t abandon idealism and hope, to discern that truth.

I left disillusioned and disenfranchised.