Past my comfort zone….

When I first arrived at the University of Mary Washington I was a timid, but still a confidant transfer student who really did not know what he wanted out of his education. In my first meeting with my advisor I was told that transfer students usually do not fare to well at UMW. I was told that I should not expect the same grades I received prior to coming to the university. Rather than seeing this as an insult, I saw it as a challenge. I thought to myself that “you don’t know Jack!” I knew I was going to have to prove, not only to my advisor and other professors, but to myself that I could and would succeed as a student. Soon after I was hit with similar situation, I had accidentally signed up for an honors history course because I was unfamiliar with registration system at the time. I was told by the professor of the course and the person running the honors program that it would be in my best interest to drop the course and save myself from the headache and potential bad grade that could potentially ruin my GPA. I was told that I probably could not handle the course load and wouldn’t be able to keep up with the rest of the class. I thought to myself again that these people don’t know Jack. I proceeded to take the course regardless of its honor title and took on the challenge

After a few weeks into my first semester I quickly realized the warnings were not without merit. I had never before in my past educational experiences received so much work! Reading two or three books a week while simultaneously writing papers and doing projects was quite the challenge. Nonetheless, I learned to adapt and soon found myself excelling at my studies. After a couple of semesters at UMW I started to fall in love with education and work. This is mainly thanks to the many great professors I had while attending UMW. In fact I cannot recall a single professor I did not like or did not enjoy a class with. School was no longer about just getting a degree, it became much more than that. I started to have true passion for my work and what I was learning. That’s least to say I didn’t have passion before, but that it reached an entire new level. Thanks to UMW I do not think I will ever stop wanting to learn. It truly has become an addiction that just won’t go away.

After a successful first semester at UMW I decided to take a class with my advisor in my second semester and to be honest I was a little concerned at how well I would preform. The intelligence of this man was nerve racking and I heard rumors that he was very subjective and critical of students’ work. Once I started taking his courses I was able to confirm these rumors were true. However, the subjectiveness and criticism were only a small part of how he taught. In the first day of class I was hooked. You could instantly tell that he had a passion not only for history, but for teaching. He also pushed his students farther than any other professor I had before. He introduced many students, including myself, to new types of technology that weren’t generally associated with a liberal arts degree. He pushed me way past my comfort zone, which today I could not be thankful enough, especially towards helping me in my professional career. Though that class didn’t go exactly according to plan because of some other conflicts ( projects..cough), I still enjoyed every last bit of what I was taught. I gained a whole new sense of confidence to take on classes that I thought were way beyond my capabilities, including a few more with my advisor.

After a couple more courses with my advisor, he approached with an opportunity to work on a digital history project with several other students. Until that point I had never been hand selected for an academic project in my life. It was perhaps my proudest moment at UMW. However, after being told who I was going to work with I was a little intimidated. The three other students I was going to work with were way beyond my academic level (Thanks again for pushing me out of my comfort zone). Throughout the entire project I could not understand why my advisor chose me out of seemingly endless candidates to work on such a project. As the semester progressed my confidence grew, I was no longer out of my comfort zone, but exactly where I needed to be. I guess my professor saw something in me that I did not see in myself. The most important lesson he taught me during my education was not about the history of mental institutions or the history of the atomic bomb, but that it is vital to push yourself farther than you ever thought you could accomplish because that is the only way you will truly learn something new.

I can not thank you enough Dr. McClurken. You have opened a new world of possibilities for me and I am absolutely certain you have done so for many other students before and will continue to do so as your career goes forward. You have been a tremendous teacher, advisor, mentor and most importantly a good friend who I will always feel indebted towards. Please continue to push your students past their comfort zones because the rewards are truly endless. I also do not wish to say goodbye because like I said I am forever indebted to you with my education and cannot simply leave with a thank you.

Dr. McClurken is not the only person I would like to thank for my time at UMW. There are endless people who helped directly and indirectly with my education. The folks over at DTLT brought a whole new meaning to education in my life. Even before we all formally met, you guys already had a tremendous impact on my education. I hope they continue to have the same impact because I just know in my heart that they are transforming education and are continuously making history. I also have to thank the various students I have worked with over the years. To know that many of you share the same passion I have about education and technology tells me that UMW is doing a tremendous job at transforming the way we learn. We pushed each other farther than I think most of our own teachers thought we would go and I hope you continue this trend in your own personal and professional lives.

Thank you UMW,


p.s. I have been writing this post for almost two months now. Post-graduation life is busier than I could have ever imagined.

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