Monthly Archives: July 2015

CollegeQandA book review: What got you here won’t get you there

Review – What got you here won’t get you there

Book cover: What got you here won't get you there

This is a review of: What got you here won’t get you there by Marshall Goldsmith.  The book is about Goldsmith’s coaching approach to improving executives and improving their lives, leadership skills, and associated businesses in terms of interpersonal behaviours.

Goldsmith is a corporate coach, and in this book he lays out his basic approach to improving people in high level positions to help them improve on their success.   Over four sections of the book he describes how success can hinder us, what 20 habits will hold us from the very top, how we can change for the better, and a miscellaneous section.  The book is well written and includes plenty of examples of actual people in terms of his coaching experience.

Overall, the book is an interesting read with applicable ideas for all of us.  For example, two key ideas I took from the book are how success can make us think that our methods are correct, and the need to solicit real feedback from others to figure out how to get better (which is hard when people don’t tend to provide constructive criticism).  Goldsmith provides a implementable methodology for all of us to improve ourselves, but it won’t be an easy process.

Does this book relate to CollegeQandA?

The section that everyone might want to read is section 2, “The twenty habits that hold you back from the top”.  As I read this list, I was picking out the ones that I think I am guilty of, and thinking of others who would be characterized with some.  The problem with self-diagnosis, however, is that you might be blind to what others see in you, so you really do need to solicit others true feedback.

I would recommend this book to…

I think many people would find this book useful.  I was thinking back to my sports coaching days and believe that some sort of system of improvement laid out by this book could have been a benefit to improving our coaching ability.  Similarly, I think this book could have a direct impact on my current professional life.  Most of us have areas we may need to improve on, but the book does suggest that some of us are changeable and others are not.  Still, I think the book has value and includes a good understanding of professional career behaviors for success that would be good for a surprisingly large audience.


CollegeQandA asks: How do I find high quality friends in College?

New friends…

One of the greatest things about going to college and university is the new friends you will meet.  For one, these new friends self-selected to go to college, and the population of a college as compared to your high school suggests that there is a greater chance in this larger pool of people that some or many will share your interests both academic and hobbies.

Be warned that your friends have a big influence on you, and make sure that some of them are quality friends who share the same academic, career, and life goals, or you will be fighting an uphill battle.

Picture of colonel by engineering building
The building where we met and spent most of our time for undergraduate – Colonel By.

How important are your friends?

Continue reading CollegeQandA asks: How do I find high quality friends in College?


CollegeQandA asks: What are the first few things I should do to prepare for my classes?

What should I do to prepare for my classes?

I’ll answer this question by, first, telling you what I do prepare to teach a class in, roughly, sequential order:

  1. [months before] I think about what I want to do with this course, what previously went bad, what was good, and what ideas I want to try.
  2. [months before] I come up with what are the learning objectives of this course.
  3. [weeks to months before] I layout the calendar for the course deciding when things will happen and what order we will try to progress at to achieve the objectives.
  4. [weeks to months before] I create the syllabus with these dates and objectives in mind including how to assess students on satisfying the objectives.
  5. [weeks to months before] I create the online presence that we will use to communicate in electronic form.
  6. [weeks to months before] I prepare lectures, quizzes, exams, projects, labs into some depth of the course, though this can vary depending on a number of factors.
  7. [weeks before] I check into the lab and classroom and log into the computer to check out the technology for the classroom.  Where are the lights?  What type of writing board do I have?
  8. [weeks before] I start practicing names for everyone in the class who has a photo.
  9. [week before] I run though the materials I have prepared to check if things look good.
  10. [day before] I review my class plan.
  11. [hour before] I review the plan and check all documents.
  12. [15 minutes before] I warmup my voice, head to the classroom, and prepare the room.
  13. [10 minutes before] In the classroom, I play or show some unrelated/related articles/videos/etc. to start a discussion as people walk into the classroom.
  14. Showtime !!!

In summary, I’m the so called expert and I’ve already spent a number of hours preparing for a class before you the learner walk into the classroom.

Based on that what should I do?

Here’s a few suggestions that you can do to prepare for my classes and others:

  1. Have your notebook (separate one per class), recording devices, and supplies organized and ready.
  2. Print out the syllabus and have it pasted/attached to your notebook.
  3. Read that syllabus ahead of time and scan through any online materials that are available.
  4. Learn a little bit about the topic of the class.  A quick search on Wikipedia should give you some basic ideas related to the course.
  5. Decide what you find interesting or curious about this topic to help motivate yourself.  Even if the topic doesn’t relate to what you really like, frame some questions back to your passions such as, “How will topic X relate back and help me with my interest Y”.
  6. Find the classroom the day before classes start so you aren’t one of the many who come in late because they can’t find their classroom.
  7. See if there is anything online about the lecture that you can read ahead of time to provide you with a framework of what will be done in that class.
  8. Arrive early to class, if you can.
  9. Pick a seat in the front or in the center to sit (the closer to the front the better).  Oddly enough, you may sit in this spot for the rest of the semester.
  10. Introduce yourself to people around your seat and ask for contact information before the class starts.
  11. Prepare yourself to be an active listener as opposed to a passive listener.  This might require thinking about your earlier questions or new ones about the topic that you might be interested in.
  12. Take a deep breath and relax…this is about learning and should be fun.

CollegeQandA’s Related Links: Save for college; return Prof talks of student myths; jobs in USA where are they; business and education; Kindergarten and College; Undergraduate where doesn’t matter;

Here’s some related links about college and stuff from the week:


CollegeQandA asks: What is a syllabus?

What is a syllabus?

Let’s start with this simple question of what is a syllabus?  A syllabus is a document that outlines the details as related to a class and is the contract between you and the instructor.  This can include what will be covered in class, when will it be covered, how you will be assessed, rules of behavior, and other details as related to the class.  The syllabus can be anywhere from one page to many pages depending on what the instructor needs to layout to the learners.  From a student perspective, the syllabus is the first place to look for information about the course, and if ignored it is  a quick way to look bad in front of your professors.

Should you read the syllabus?

Continue reading CollegeQandA asks: What is a syllabus?


CollegeQandA asks: What is one way to help motivate me to success in College and beyond?


A little bit about motivation

Our motivation is what drives us to do things.  For example, you might be motivated right now to watch an episode of Rick and Morty, while my motivation is driving me to write a post.  Is motivation that simple?

Motivation is not that simple, but having read a few books on this topic (Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action) and from thinking about student and my own motivations here’s what I think you need to know to help you to success in college and university.

Peers are important, not pears

Continue reading CollegeQandA asks: What is one way to help motivate me to success in College and beyond?


CollegeQandA asks: Why do I have a reading assignment for this book over summer for my university or college?

Mandatory Summer Reading

Ah yes, the summer reading book experience.  Summer is a time for internships, jobs, relaxation from class work, and maybe some time to holiday.  However, some institutions such as universities and even businesses (J.P. Morgan for example) expect us to do summer reading.  That’s particularly true for incoming first-year universities.


Here’s a brief list of some schools and their 2015 summer books:

That’s a lot of books.  Why are we reading them?

First off, let me remind everyone that the internet is great for reading a variety of things, we can tailor it to our likes and dislikes (for the good or bad), and find exactly what we’re looking for.  Therefore, books are not needed 😉 .  Maybe, but books are in depth, organized, well edited, and thought out writing on a topic that tends to be…a much better treatises of ideas.  For example, take this post as an example.  I have thought about it, written it, edited it (once…maybe twice), and posted it.  All of that, and I don’t need anyone to back up anything that I write.  A book goes through a much deeper proofing process.

Summer reading books are meant to challenge us, and equally, bring us together at the start of the new academic year with a common ground of experience.  I read this book, and you read this book.  We can now start a conversation on a common topic regardless of where we came from and where we are going, and this has great potential for community building.   Furthermore, Continue reading CollegeQandA asks: Why do I have a reading assignment for this book over summer for my university or college?


CollegeQandA’s Related Links: Need a graphic art degree? Ideas on learning… Student recruitment through social media…

Some things I read this week (related links):


Question – Why am I going or should I go to University/College?

This is my part 1 answer of an unknown number of parts.  First off, universities are not the only path towards a career and a good life.  For example, if you are predicting the robot/automation job takeover of the future, then you might choose a very different path that focuses on becoming a modern day artisan.  On the other hand, our world seems to have an ever increasing need for credentials to get basic jobs (credentialism debates: 1, 2, and 3).

My first answer to this question is from my experiential perspective.  Why would I tell my younger self to go to college?  The problem with my younger self is I was 18 years old, my brain wasn’t a complete adult brain yet, and I was more interested in music, video games,, parties, and basketball than a field of study. My slight interest in programming and parental insight was enough that I would survive the first two years of engineering.

My answer to that person with this inside knowledge would be, “don’t go to university since you’ll not get the real benefit of those early years”.

And that’s what happened (forward-sight advantage).  But on the other hand, those two years of getting through early university courses allowed me to mature, live on my own, and see more of the “real-world”  to solidify my desire to learn about computer engineering and take a fulfilling path.  Still, I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t have that slight interest to push me forward through the directionless times.  Unfortunately, because my passion was not sparked early, I missed out on some ideas and lessons that still hurt me today.

So the answer to the first why is an undergraduate degree is an opportunity for some people to mature and find their path.  This happens to many of us.  What scares me is that those of us who enter college, pay large sums of money, but then leave because of other factors (no passion, no commitment, financial problems, and life problems) can horribly suffer from this personal experiment.


Question – How should I use college rankings – Money’s article “Special Report: Best College Values 2015” ?

This morning I got my copy of Money (note, the only reason I get this magazine is was part of a deal to get the Economist).  In this months magazine there is an article on the best college values for 2015: Special Report: Best College Values 2015.  I’ll talk to the idea of rankings and ratings.

Rankings and ratings are by far, the easiest way to figure out whether something is better than something else based on a system of measurement.  However, rankings are created by joining together a number of numbers (metrics), and the real question about a particular ranking for a given system is are those ratings relevant to what you are interested in?  When I was picking colleges, we used Maclaen’s (a Canadian magazine), and I remember wondering why the number of books in the library mattered to my undergraduate education (that metric is no longer used).  Sure there might be some indirect learning value to the number of books in the library, but should that have been a key metric in the ranking?

In the Money article, there are some interesting categories.  The tuition price and potential financial aid can be very important to some people, but they left out the difference between in- and out- of state differences.  The category “early career earnings” is biased to schools that focus primarily on engineering and technology.   For both “value added grade” and “career services” these are based on a letter grade.  This means there is a rubric or criteria definition that is used to categorize a university in a grade.  In all, I think the rankings provides you with some numbers that you might consider when picking schools to apply for.

The second lesson for looking at rankings is to look into how each category is defined and calculated.  In the case of the number of books, what was the count if there were duplicate books?  In this article, quality of education is based on areas such graduation rates, student-to-faculty ratio, and RateMyProffessor grades.  What do these metrics reflect and can they be manipulated?  The answer is it’s hard to say for your individual case and, yes, the stats can and are manipulated.  For example, here are some ideas on manipulating the student to faculty ration.

So how can you use these ratings?  Well, these numbers and rankings should be part of the information you collect to make your decision.  If anything, use the bottom of the list as a warning that those particular schools might have problems, but check if the real reason they are at the bottom is meaningful to your situation.  The university I work at, Miami University, is ranked/tied at 171st.  Would I recommend Miami over any of the higher ranked schools?  Yes.  If you live in Ohio, the major you want to pursue is available, and you’re interested in active early engagement with professors and early exposure to research, then yes.