Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Dominican Difference

Dominican University is the third college I have attended in my post-high school adult life. I’m the kind of person who does things in the most non-conventional method possible—it’s always been my nature. I take wayward, meandering paths as someone who likes adventure, variety, and new experiences, as opposed to the linear path of “high school, college, internship, job, marriage, kids.” My philosophy has always been, “Live in the present, create rich life experiences, do what makes you happy.”

After brief stints at Northern Illinois University and Harper College in Palatine, I came to the conclusion that going to school to get away from your parents after high school is not a valid reason, and going to another school to spend time with your best friend is not a valid reason.

I took classes in the business administration and marketing field for a while, and while [sarcasm]I LOVE economics and accounting, [/sarcasm] I began to realize that the business world held absolutely no appeal to me. My friend and I wanted to start our own modeling agency, but deep within myself I wanted to use my brain power in a way that utilizes my strengths.

But what was it?

I had inclinations toward writing. That was really the only thing that I genuinely enjoyed doing—that and having a positive influence on people.

My roommate, Mariya Kozlova was a student at Dominican University, and she highly recommended I check out the journalism program.

We pulled up to the Visitor’s Circle on a sunny June day. I observed the ivy covering the buildings, the beautiful architecture, the quiet neighborhood nook down Division St. where the main campus was located.

It sounds shallow, but at that moment I was sold. Dominican isn’t a sprawling, indifferent campus. It isn’t full of impersonal lecture halls. There’s a different feeling to this institution.

I talked to Christa Raska in recruitment, and was even further sold. I was going back to school to major in journalism. In retrospect, I obviously didn’t know what journalism was—all I knew was I wanted to write and pursue truth.

My first class at Dominican was “Communicate: A personal, social, and career focus.” Dr. Germaine Goetz-Sota, a former nun, was the professor, and from the first day I KNEW I was WHERE I BELONGED at Dominican.

Dr. Germaine Goetz-Sota is one of the main people who so radically changed my life.
In this class, Germaine had us read a book called Please Understand Me: Temperament and Personality Types by David Keirsey. We had to take the survey in the book and learn about our temperaments, which resulted in a four-letter classification using a combiniation of Introversion/Extroversion, INtuitive/Sensing, Thinking/Feeling, and Perceptive/Judging.

My result was ENFP.

It was in Germaine’s class that I learned WHO I was. I finally understood WHY I am the way I am. I got HOW I relate to other people; how I perceive myself and how I approach the world. The test results said ENFPs are well suited for careers in journalism, like to express themselves and communicate, and are wordsmiths by nature.

It all made sense.

“ENFPs may suffer test phobias, because even those who do very well in class and know the material feel boxed in by fact-oriented exams that have only one "right" answer. On the other hand, they do well on essay tests, which give them the opportunity to integrate their knowledge into a bigger picture.”

Indeed. And as I grew to know more about myself at Dominican, I realized that I can’t make excuses for how, and who I am. There’s no fault in being different from the status quo. Human beings are complex and different for a reason—we all should embrace the way we function; the people we inherently are.

Germaine taught us life lessons that are absolutely invaluable. Through our class projects we learned the concept of empathy and non-judgment. We talked about paradigms and how individuals’ life experiences shape the way they see the world, and how they act and react to certain situations. Germaine had us write a mission statement for our lives. She taught us to look into ourselves, to truly dig deep, find out, WHO we are, and to run with it.

And from that semester, I ran with it. Germaine’s genuine caring for her students is stronger than any other professor or instructor I’d ever had at that point.

There was one day after class when she pulled me aside. “Are you okay?” she asked me. “You don’t seem yourself.” I spilled my heart out to her, just relieved that I could confide in someone who understood and would encourage me, regardless. The fact that she had picked up on my change in demeanor touched my heart.

Long after I had taken two of her classes, my random encounters with Germaine would instantly change the tone of my day. Her mere presence—her positive energy and love—has never ceased to make me want to do well in life, and impact others in the manner that she does just by being herself.

Through studying journalism, I’ve learned so much more than I feel I would have at any of my previous schools. I know what kind of writing I enjoy; where to focus. I embrace my strengths and don’t worry about my “shortcomings.” I focus on what I know I am meant to, and able to do.

Dominican University has been home to me for three years. After attending other colleges, I realized just how real the Dominican Difference is. Even though I may seem aloof to others—as a commuter I go to campus, take care of business, and leave without spending much time hanging around—the Dominican community is my extended family.

Whenever I see academic advisor Angela Frazier—who helped launch my career here and was one of the leaders on my first Study Abroad program to Ghana—we have a lovely short conversation and she ends with a word of encouragement for me and a, “Tell your mother I said hello.”

Before Mariya graduated, she and I would spend hours hanging out with Professor Nkuzi Nnam, whom we lovingly referred to as “Father Nnam.” He is crazy, and we had the best bonding times in Ghana, but he taught us life lessons in his wonderful, African way.

Dr. Jeffrey Carlson, Dominican’s Dean, taught a Mystery of God course which radically revolutionized the way I view spirituality and changed my paradigms of Christianity. I LOVED the fact that a Catholic institution challenged traditional approaches to God, encouraging us to investigate and understand the concept of faith so that it was relevant to the individual.

A couple semesters later, Dean Carlson would encourage me and my classmates in our DominiNET endeavors, and tell me that he forwarded one of my blogs to everybody he cared about. The passion and realness of our quirky Dean never ceases to amaze me.

Professor Kathleen Prunty, instructor of “Communication as an Instrument of Personal Power” (I LOVE COMMUNICATIONS CLASSES) empowers her senior students, preparing us for the professional world with her practical knowledge and experience. Her incessant encouragement and genuine love for her students is astounding. She’s one of those people you instantly connect with—and a laugh riot. She keeps it real.

Tracy Samantha Schmidt, an adjunct professor of journalism who is all of a couple years older than me and SO accomplished, is a daily inspiration to me. She led me and a small group of students in an online journalism class which was quite revolutionary, compared to the other classes in traditional journalism which I had taken the years prior. Her instruction showed us how to ride the wave of the changing face of the industry, preparing us for the new generation of journalists. She is a nonstop hustler and is making a fantastic name for herself.

In Tracy’s class, I became good friends with Natalie Tolomeo, a sassy Republican whom I couldn’t stand in the beginning of that semester. She, Tom Blackwell (another journalism major) and I bonded over being some of the founding parents of DominiNET, declaring that we were going to take over the industry in the most fierce, flawless fabulous way. We are working on launching the TNC Dynasty soon—watch out!

"For the ENFP, work, too, must be play or it is probably not worth doing. Worthwhile tasks are those that affirm and enlarge the self and involve more fun than drudgery. They have a great deal of difficulty settling on just one career, for three reasons: They truly believe they can do most anything they want; the search for ever new fields to master is always more fun than remaining in a career already conquered; and they usually can do almost anything they set their minds to."

My experience at Dominican affirms that—showing me that I can do WHATEVER I WANT. Dominican unites. This community of exquisite people—professors, students, faculty—has forever impacted my life and drastically changed its course.

People, circumstances, and experiences such as all of the above (plus more) have made lasting impressions and been key in my personal and professional development. For all this, I am eternally grateful that my life’s path led me to this university. Undoubtedly, I would not be the person I am today if not for the Dominican Difference.