Reducing faculty could have detrimental consequences
Seldom is a story revealed in its entirety, and this has left my curiosity insatiable since childhood. The great joy about perception is that it can change even, and especially, the caged discernments. I learned these lessons of resilience, and much more than I could ever properly articulate, from Lock Haven University, specifically the English Department.
Sifting through any Lock Haven professor’s syllabi, it’s doubtful you’ll find any explicit promise of this sort of education, much synonymous to the complex intricacies of each and every student to ever enter a classroom in our historically nascent public education system; the story isn’t easy to quantify by financial or analytical benchmarks.
As it should be, I was a very different person when I first stepped onto LHU’s campus back in 2013.
Heavily shielded by perfect attendance, excessively extroverted demeanor, and an academic security blanket, my own “complex intricacies” were slowly and secretly killing me.
Despite my esteemed interpersonal reputation, I was struggling with an eating disorder that confined me physically, emotionally and mentally in a very dark place, and despite my best efforts I could not find a way to think myself free. I accepted wading in my own demise, turning my own future over in my head a million times until it was nothing, just a successful, vacant shell of a promising young student.
My freshman year, however, a few stars aligned and I made that totally rare decision to switch my major from Business to English Education. In my first literature course, I felt this intense draw toward the art of learning, void of reportable purpose. I found relief, excitement and hope not only in my studies, but the conversations initiated by professors in classrooms, hallways, campus sidewalks, etc. Each of my professors knew me not only by name, but character, which is something that is actually exceedingly rare.
I could recount numerous formative memories from the educators I was gifted to encounter at LHU, but for the sake of anecdote, I’ll tell you this one:
As an education major at LHU, the fall semester of your senior year is solely focused on student teaching preparation. Toward the end of my fall senior semester, our practicum professor, who had basically been our mentor since orientation, sat us all down individually to discuss our concerns before we started student teaching. As I sat with my professor, a woman whom I revered deeply, I was terrified of what she might say to me. I carried inside of myself a deep curiosity but also a profound and debilitating fear of failure, of what she may think of me; they all knew I was a complete fraud. Who would ever think I was smart or articulate or compassionate enough to make a difference in any student’s life? As I sat waiting for my world to dissolve, my professor looked at me, smiled and said: “Kristin, you have all the intelligence, capability and empathy to be a success, all you need to do is have confidence in yourself.”
It would have been impossible to know at that time, or even years after, that this singular sentence could propel into motion so many life-saving circumstances in my life.
I’m sure a lot of you think I pontificated my entire way through this article, so if there is anything you take away from what I shared please let if be this: Lock Haven University not only fostered in me an organic and intoxicating love of learning that can be utilized in any realm of my life, but the professors I met and the education and growth I embarked on during my undergraduate studies saved my life.
Accessible, public, affordable, quality education should be regarded as imperative universally, and although I can’t be the universal spokesperson for all who choose higher education, I can say with wholehearted certainty that the education provided to me by the staff and faculty of Lock Haven University is priceless.
The average student to faculty ratio at Lock Haven is 14:1. I truly believe if my professors would not have had the ability to mentor and cultivate my growth with such attention, care and individualism, I would not be alive today.
It only feels fitting that I leave you with a metaphor: Lock Haven University took seeds stuck in the desert of my mind sand planted and confidently a burgeoning greenhouse.