Monthly Archives: April 2019

Imposter Syndrome in College

Imposter syndrome or the imposter phenomenon is a situation in which an individual feels that their current level of achievement and status is a mistake or accident that is unrelated to their actual knowledge, skills, and abilities. It is fairly common among Ph.D. students because that level of education requires blazing a trail into new territory that has not been fully explored before. However, I also think that some college undergraduate students, particularly non-traditional aged students, also have similar feelings of being found out that they are an unworthy imposter who does not belong in college.

I started college ten years after I graduated high school. I can remember sitting in certain classrooms, my math class was one of them, when I was looking around at my classmates and thinking to myself that they seemed so comfortable with the environment and the topic of study that I must not really belong there. Certainly, age played a factor in that kind of thinking since college seemed to be arranged more for the benefit of an 18-year-old than a 28-year-old student. But there was also the fact that my classmates had likely been studying math the previous year and were far better prepared for it than I was.

Or so it seemed.

I don’t really know how well prepared my classmates were. I didn’t have access to the grade book to see how others were faring. All I really know was that outwardly, no one besides me seemed to be struggling. What I didn’t realize then that I know now is the fact that we all wear masks, we all put our very best foot forward and we mostly strive to outwardly appear to be doing fine, to have everything under control, and to by all means show no weakness.

In our online social media environments, this is especially the case. People online rarely share the struggles they are going through and mostly keep things light, upbeat and positive. This tendency can make us feel as though everyone else has a perfect life compared to what we are experiencing. Because of the mediated format and the social distance between individuals, violators of the unwritten rule of not sharing personal problems or concerns are often met with shame or ridicule.

In most cases, I think it is the fear of being found out, shamed and ridiculed that sufferers of the imposter syndrome stay quiet. To students of all levels who feel like they might not belong, that they might not be up to the task I would like to offer some thoughts.

I have been there. I have struggled in isolation and felt like no one else could quite understand what I was going through. But I was wrong because at some point most people have similar feelings. In fact, I think that students who have the “education game” all figured out–that is to say that they know all of the ropes, all of the tricks and shortcuts, including the shortcut of not thinking deeply but simply giving the teacher or professor what they want–these students are the real phonies. Such students are not challenging themselves and their own thinking. They are not trying to grow and to change. They see school as a game in which if they figure out all of the rules and shortcuts to success they never really have to expend a lot of energy discovering themselves and growing from the experience.

All of this comes from comparing ourselves to others around us. It is better to run our own race and to be our own best competitor. Compare yourself now to where you were when you started. If you see changes and improvements, you are on the right track. If you are basically the same person you were, perhaps it is time to re-examine why you are in school in the first place.

I want to encourage students everywhere to be open to constructive suggestions for improvement. Find mentors who are older or more experienced than you. Don’t be afraid to talk to your professors after class. That is why we are here–to help you. I sometimes even see students having conversations with custodians and maintenance workers around campus. I think this is a good thing because those folks are part of your educational experience as well. They have a perspective on things that no one else at the school can possibly have.

In any case, don’t keep these concerns you have bottled up. Find someone who cares, and share your concerns. Even if there are no easy answers, and sometimes it is the case there isn’t an easy answer, you will be better off in sharing what is on your mind with someone once in a while. In fact, you might even be doing that other person a favor too, because it is good for their soul to do kindness for others like simply listening to a person who is struggling.

Finally, I would say this, if you are there in that class, in that school, you do belong. There used to be popular sayings like he’s not college material. What does that even mean? This person or that person doesn’t have a right to further their education? To expand their knowledge? To get ahead in life? Don’t be silly. Everyone is running their own race. Find someone who recognizes this fact and will do their best to help you. The people who fail at college usually are those who give up. Yes, life can present some difficult circumstances, but honestly I have seen students give up over things that are far less cumbersome than what some other students plow right through right up to graduation day. Persistence is your biggest ally. Don’t try to do it alone and don’t give up. If you do these things, I think you can make it.


Finding Copy-Paste Legislation

Pay attention to how this unfolds, it is important. This news is both fascinating and disturbing. Special interest groups write models of laws they want to be passed. Large verbatim copies of these models appear in bills and even final laws that are passed.

In a digital world, it is a trivial thing for writing professors to detect and verify when students have copied and pasted large portions of their writing assignments. Now it seems that Rob O’Dell and associates have devised a method to do the same thing for lawmakers taking shortcuts.

Why I do not carry a smartphone

I have been using mobile computing tech for longer than most people. Over two decades ago, I while other college students were still talking on their new cellular phones (college students don’t talk anymore, they text), I was walking around campus with my laptop computer. Few students had such luxuries at the time, but my wife was working full time and I was on the GI bill so I could afford a refurbished laptop complete with a monochrome screen. I loved that machine. At the time, there was no wifi, but at the library and a few other places, I could connect a cable to the school’s network and get high-speed Internet access on it.

I carried that computer with me everywhere. I even browsed the web with Netscape Navigator after going to bed, much to the annoyance of my new bride. At the time, most people who were fortunate enough to have dial-up access to the Internet still did not have a mobile device and had to sit before a desktop-style computer. The computer was a destination in the home; they had to go to the computer.

I was an early adopter of bringing my computer with me wherever I went.

I totally understand the allure of a smartphone. But I don’t own one. For certain, I’ve been tempted to purchase one. I was opposed to my kids getting smartphones. I held it off as long as I could, but around age 14 or so, the pressure for my kids became too great. First, my bride decided it was time for her to get a smartphone. Then one after the other, the remaining members of my family capitulated.

The smartphone seems to be the essential accessory of modern living. Even in less developed countries, people have completely skipped over desktop computer ownership and dived right into owning smartphones.

So what is the big deal? Why am I such a holdout? Well, for one thing, the Internet is the world’s greatest machine for learning, but also the greatest machine for distraction. Making a habit of excessive consumption limits our creativity but most people, myself included, are drawn to the consumption side like a moth to the flame.

There has been a massive cultural shift since the introduction of the mobile smartphone. It affects everyone, but the most pronounced effect has been on young people who don’t remember how things were before we embraced these things. You don’t need to read Sherry Turkle or Jean Twenge to notice that many young people have been socially and emotionally affected by these devices.

I want my kids to be different, to still be involved in the human experience. The jury is still out on how that one is going.

Another reason I carry no smartphone is that I already have no fewer than five or six different devices I can use to connect. Except for one cellular-data enabled iPad mini, all of my devices require WiFi to get online, which usually presents no problem because I typically go online at work and at home. I rarely need Internet access when I am driving in my car, but the cellular enabled iPad works great as a GPS and as a mobile hotspot if I am away from my usual WiFi connectivity.

Another reason I carry no smartphone is the fact that I was raised by people who were raised by people who lived through the Great Depression. As a kid, money was still a thing not easily had. We did without things that were not necessities. As an adult, I’ve been through some rocky financial situations as well. For one thing, we decided early on after having babies that dad would work and mom would stay at home to be there for the kids. To do that, we do without some things.

I think that mobile phone plans are the biggest scams out there. The fees are exorbitant and the cost of keeping up with new tech is always expensive. I rarely adopt the latest, greatest of anything techie for this reason. I bought an internet-ready television that was less than half the cost of the latest model, simply because I bought the previous year’s model. Now that it is a few years old, some new televisions with more capability cost less than my bargain TV. That’s the way tech is.

Now my kids have both had phones for a year or more. The elder child has had her phone for almost three years and claims it no longer works as well as it did when new–and I believe her. Computers always do this. The longer you use them, the more gummed up the system gets from adding and deleting software and from stray files and processes hogging storage and memory.

I bought a $300 bicycle fifteen years ago and I thought it was outrageous since I could buy a new bike at Walmart for $89.00. I still ride the same bike almost every day. So I think my money was well spent. But you can spend $500 on a cell phone that is no good after three years of use? Something is wrong with this picture.


I think it is interesting that we are now at the point when our employer expects everyone to own an up-to-date mobile phone and have the technological know-how to set this up on short notice. I expect today will be really frustrating for a great number of my colleagues who will be surprised by this when they try to use our courseware or other university resources today.

Our technology dependence and our susceptibility to tech’s vulnerabilities, all weigh heavily on us. Technology is wonderful when it works as designed and is extremely stressful when it falls short.




Duo Factor Problems

This morning I went to log in to my Canvas courseware and I was directed to sign up for our new 2-factor authentication system. I’ve known this was coming. I got the e-mail saying to sign up by April 16th.

Yesterday at work, I tried to download the Duo app and install it on my iPad mini, my preferred mobile device. But I was unsuccessful because the iOS it runs is not a new enough version. Fine, I thought. I will use the iPad Pro I have that is more current. I don’t lug that thing around very often because it is so big, but at least I know it has memory enough and the OS is new enough to make this stuff work.

So this morning (April 4) I was locked out of my school stuff almost two weeks before the announced date. I’d better get the iPad out and finish what I started yesterday.

So I tried to connect to and set up the required Duo authentication system and it timed out on me for a while. Evidently, some others at our university are trying to do the same thing this morning too.

After waiting a while and being patient, I finally got the app installed on the iPad and could login to my stuff again. If others run into what I did, I expect it will be a busy day for the IT Help Desk today.