When I was 10, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I wanted to study whales and swim with dolphins. I knew it would require getting a college degree, and while I did not fully understand what that meant (no one in my family had gone to college), the idea was cemented that college was the path to the work I wanted to do.
My marine biology dream was put on the shelf a couple years later because, at the ripe old age of 12, I decided that since I did not live by the ocean, being a marine biologist was not a realistic possibility. And while my logic for not pursuing that dream was flawed, looking back I realize my commitment to going to college was cemented. What I could not have anticipated at the time though, was just how much I would gain from my college education. It was so much more than a necessary step down a career path.
A college education is not simply a means to an end. It is part of our individual evolution, and what we get out of it is personal and unique to us. Think about the following.
- We choose, often for the first time, what we will study
- We are introduced to new ideas, different perspectives, and challenging situations that require us to analyze how we feel about certain issues, and why
- We get to practice integrating new concepts and unfamiliar approaches with familiar ideals in a safe environment where learning is what is expected of us
- We develop tools to cope with these challenges, and to continue to grow into them as time goes on
This daily practice of integrating what we learn – from professors in class and from new friends with diverse backgrounds – into our personal and professional choices, impacts our future decision-making capability in immeasurable ways.
Like so many others, I approached college as the first step to building a career. Thankfully, though, I also embraced my college education as more than a means to an end. The critical thinking, concept integration and decision making skills I put to the test in college have helped me every day since in my quest to be my best self: as a woman, a mother, a partner, a successful professional, and a life-long learner.
Unlike that naive 12-year-old girl who put her dream of swimming with the dolphins on the shelf for what, at the time seemed an insurmountable obstacle, I now know how to consider, analyze, and make the best choices for myself and those I care about. And I have my college education to thank for it.
Shirlayne Quayle, Managing Partner,
Q3 International, LLC and Employer Relations,
The Career Center at Dixie State College