Life Long Learning by Carole Dowell

Carole Dowell is the Executive Director of Associated Students, SJSU. Here, in the inaugural blog release of Spartan Voice by A.S., Carole shares her thoughts on Lifelong Learning, one of eight Core Values in the Associated Students Strategic Plan. Read more about our organization’s values in the A.S. Strategic Plan here

“What you knew yesterday got you to where you are today. However, today is only the starting point for tomorrow.” – *Gary Burnison

I was not a straight-A student in high school. I didn’t like reading; school books were so hard for me to get through, and I could not remember much about what I was reading. I didn’t really like school for that matter except for PE. Sports was what I excelled at, no matter which one. I learned the rules as quickly as I could, went to bat, and put 100 percent into it. It was the perfect arena for me to be competitive and so it become my number one focus. In actuality though, I was doing just the bare minimum and getting by academically to finish high school.

Fast forward to college, I moved from my home in France and went to CSUN to pursue an undergraduate degree in Business. Attending an American University to get a degree became a goal of mine. I was motivated and excited for a new adventure halfway across the world.

With English as my second language, trying to understand the professor, the class, and taking notes all at the same time was a challenge. I had to focus on a basic understanding of the lesson, leaning on my books and notes, do my homework and pass the tests! This was learning at a whole new level for me. It took an entire semester to get used to taking notes in class in English while listening to the professor at the same time. 

But I was getting better and more comfortable with it. I took English 101 in the Pan-African Studies department my first semester. I had to read books quickly and do reports. Remember, reading wasn’t my thing! Ha! Well, I suddenly found myself enjoying reading a lot! This was the beginning of my relationship with books, connecting to the stories and reflecting upon what was shared. This led to a realization: Here I was at 20 years old, in a new country, in school and getting excited about, of all things, books! I was learning to better myself! 

“Be aware of not just what you know but, more importantly, what you don’t know.” – Gary Burnison

It’s a misconception to think that we learn only in the classroom and once we graduate, it’s over. After school, we get a job and learn as much as we can about it: the duties of the position, the processes, and the systems, and the people. The longer we’re at a job and the more we do it, the more comfortable and better we become at it. I’ve taken it upon myself to do more than the minimum; to get ahead of the curve, bring new ideas and solutions in the ways of doing things. 

When I mastered my job – meeting expectations and improving performance — it felt great. As it became routine, I knew I was ready for a new challenge. This was my internal sign to move forward with what’s next in my professional journey.  

I believe we all learn through our experiences, be these be positive or negative ones, but what we choose to do with the learning is up to us! I chose to keep moving forward in my journey because my experiences helped me to grow and develop as a person. The more mature I get, the more opportunities I have to pick and choose what’s next in my journey. In Higher Education, I see staff as educators and lifelong learners because, as our students change, the needs and expectations change too. Professional staff continuously adapt to these changes to best serve students and help them succeed in life in college and beyond. 

This is what we at Associated Students strive to do: continuous improvement — revising, refining, stopping, adjusting and starting services and programs to best fit the needs of our current students. We keep up with the trends in the field by reading journals, attending workshops, asking students for feedback, and communicating with our networks of colleagues. We want to exemplify the value of Lifelong Learning. 

Learning continues way beyond the confines of the four walls of a classroom or a Zoom call. I have evolved both personally and professionally in the years following CSUN. But each step forward has been the result of lifelong learning. We can be mediocre and get by, sure, but I challenge you to aim for excellence and learn every day! We, students and professionals, deserve the bounty and rewards that learning through life can bring us! 

*Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry, a management consulting firm based in Los Angeles. He has written a number of books including The Leadership Journey, among others.