Sunday, May 16, 2010

Summa Cum Laude, Sort of...

While not quite official yet, I have just completed my second undergraduate degree - B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology, from Boise State University. I can pair this with my original degree B.S. in Mathematics and Computer Science from Willamette University (1988). As a second degree this one took significantly less time than the first time around; completed in under 2 years.
While I have received highest honors on the dean's list for each semester I have been enrolled, I am not eligible for graduation honors. Graduation honors at Boise State are only given to those individuals receiving their first undergraduate degree. Apparently my past experience at graduating has somehow given me an unfair advantage over the poor, and much younger, individuals trying their first time around. I am not sure if my first degree has provided that advantage, but my 21 years of work experience definitely has. Anyway, if they were to give me the honor, Summa Cum Laude would be the answer. This is for cumulative GPAs higher than 3.95. Mine came in at 3.98! A single A- tarnishes my transcript, although its possible I may have earned one B in this final semester. But hey, they don't count the final semester! It will be another week before my final semester grades are in and I know for sure.
The education experience has been a great one for me. I enjoyed all aspects of school this time around. I was definitely more focused and worked much harder as my grades show. But I also have to wonder about a number of changes in the school environment and possible grade inflation. Of course, its easy for me to say "back when I went to school", but the truth is, I have now completed two degrees separated by multiple decades. I have experienced a small private school and a large state school. Maybe my memory is failing me, but there is one aspect that truly seems reduced now and that is student accountability.
In my experience many students expect A's in their classes, but they don't expect to work for it. I see individuals just going through the motions who complain if they get a B on an exam. I listen week after week as student beg for extra credit opportunities because they didn't do the work the first time around. Many professors don't put up with this, but many go out of their way to enable it. Take my physics class as an example. I wonder how someone couldn't get an A in this class. The exams are curved up to a 75% average, the lowest exam is dropped, and there were sufficient extra credit opportunities to raise your grade a whole letter grade. There were 30 points extra credit given for completing all of the homework. The homework didn't have to be right! Maybe school was like this first time around, but I sure don't remember it that way. To be fair, not all professors operate this way. There are a number, generally more experienced, which truly hold students accountable to know the material. These individuals are highly respected by a few student and widely criticized by the others.
The next step? More school! Two years of school was far too short. I am not ready to be done. Therefore in August I begin my next educational journey, a three year masters program in Raptor Biology. I am still working through what my specific thesis focus will be, but I am making progress. It will definitely focus on some aspect of avian predation, most likely involving avian prey.
Before worrying too much about that, I will spend the next eight weeks surveying for Flammulated Owls for a partnership including the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the BLM, and the Idaho Fish and Game. I will spend 4-5 nights a week hiking through the backcountry, stopping occasionally to survey for owls. The general plan is to cover one previously assigned 16 square kilometer section of forest per night. We plan to drive as close as we can, set up camp, and the hike into the area before dark. Starting 30 minutes after dark we will start surveying 8-10 pre-assigned points within the area. At each point we will perform a 10 minute protocol including a silent listening period, then a series of playbacks of owl recordings each followed by another silent listening period. Near 2am (hopefully) we will hike back to camp. The next day we move to the next location. This will definitely be an adventure as this will involve 10-12 miles of hiking per night in very rough terrain. I look forward to the adventure. After this program is complete, I will return to the Idaho Bird Observatory to band songbirds daily until school starts in late August.

1 comment:

April said...

Congratulations! It does kind of suck you don't get "honors" but I think a 3.98 is a pretty good indicator to whoever cares about that (grad school, etc.).
I agree with you about grade inflation, even though I graduated in 2006. I didn't put forth a full effort and walked away with a solid B average...maybe it's relative to the other people in your class(es), consciously or unconsciously?