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Student Perspective: Francisco Galdamez

College Education vs. Work Experience or Vocational Training

degree[Note:  Student Francisco Galdamez wrote this article based on his own  personal experience and views. He said, “for about 20 years I made excuses for not completing my college education. My journey through college as an adult, a husband and a father, gave me, as corny as it may sound, a deeper appreciation for a college education.  15 years of professional experience, a couple of professional certifications, and a handful of seminars, did not come close to what I have gained from the past five years at NDNU.”  Thank you, Francisco, for sharing your perspective!]

It seems that in the past couple of decades there has being a push to convince young minds that a college education is overrated or perhaps even unnecessary. While there are a number of articles written on the subject and many different positions to support both schools of thought, one can only help but to wonder: is it possible that we, as a society, have gotten to a place where technology and wealth have driven us to crave the instant response we get from phones, email, the internet, etc…. from our education? Is it instant gratification that drives us to underachieve in an effort to get a quick fix, an instant response (i.e. a certification, a training seminar)?

It is not that a college education is the answer to all educational or professional needs;  certifications, seminars and vocational training all have their place and purpose. Still, I believe that a college education should remain the goal of every mind, not in the pursuit of financial success or admiration resulting from intellectual achievements, but because the goal of a college education should be a journey of discovery, of revelation, an appreciation of the greatness and endurance of minds. This journey can only be approched through the exploration of variety of subjects and experiences that result in reflection about one’s self. This discovery occurs when exposed to the origin of the people that first populated America, the influence of agriculture on the creation of civilizations, the study of faith and its evolution and impact on early civilization, the creation of empires that changed the world, the exposure to ancient works of art and the analysis and interpretation of what influenced its creation.  The revelation happens through reading great works of literature, understanding the greatness of struggles through the lenses of the great writers, and by participating in opportunities to serve others who are also on the path of discovery. While too often these experiences are underestimated, their impact shapes our ways of thinking from a position of ignorance to one of appreciation.

It would be naïve and idealistic to think that these experiences are only found in a college education.  However, it would also be naïve to believe that in this fast paced world of instant gratification, one would ever find the time to have these experiences if not for college.  It is even less likely that we could create a community of those who are willing to make the time to explore these experiences outside of the context of a college environment.

A college education should become once again the aspiration of every student, of every young mind, of every adult that lost the college path in the younger years, not for the sake of financial wealth and/or professional advancement, but for the advancement of the “us” as a whole. We are the ones shaping the future for the generations to come, we are the ones impacting the world today.  Together we will leave our successes or failures for the future generations to enjoy or resolve.

College Education vs. work experience or vocational training: does it have it to be one or the other? Not necessarily, but a college education should be the priority.  The narrow focus of the alternative is too limited, causing us to underachieve as a whole. College may not be the not answer for everyone, but my experience leads me to believe that it should be everyone’s aspiration.

Thanks also to Grant Writing instructor Marsha Pendergrass for facilitating this contributor’s post!

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