Dear Professor,

I was not able to attend any events this semester since I work, what should I do?


Dear Professor,

I have not been able to attend any events this semester due to my work schedule, however I am an active member of Beta Alpha Psi and this semester we had two guest speakers from various accounting firms. I also helped organize our “Meet the Firms” event and spent the day practicing my interviewing skills with different company representatives. I have cards from the speakers and reps, could I schedule a time to come in and see you to discuss possibly using this experience in place of my event requirements for the class?

What is the difference in these two emails? I’ll give you hint, one email sucks and the other is from an Accounting student.

Granted, both of them could be from Accounting students. It’s just that one took the time to actually think about what they were asking. The other is a knee-jerk reaction to waking up late in the semester and realizing something didn’t get done.


A long time ago, I worked on offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. It wasn’t a glamourous job; I used muriatic acid to soften hardened seagull poop and scrape it off with wire brushes. Then someone who had worked their way out of poop patrol would come back and paint. Got paid fairly well for the job; well enough that I paid for school so I wouldn’t have to scrape poop anymore.

But I also learned a lot out there. One of the lessons was, don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions. So, when we needed supplies, we brought a list of stuff to buy. If it was too long or had frivolous items, we got yelled at. If we ran out of stuff, we got yelled at. If we bought cheap stuff or too expensive stuff, we got yelled at. If we stood around not knowing what to do, we got yelled at. Basically I learned that if I didn’t want to get yelled at, I better get my ass in gear, do something productive, do it right, and make it awesome. If I wanted to get yelled at, I should stand around with my thumb tucked away warmly and either wait to be told what to do or whine about what needed to be done.

The one yelling had a lot to do with my motivation not to be yelled at. He was a crusty old fart, had worked in the oil patch almost 40 years by the time I worked for him, and he didn’t particularly like my colleagues and I. In his mind, we were snot-nosed college kids out there to make a quick buck and just get in the way. He was going to teach us a lesson. Me, I was a hard-headed little punk and wasn’t going to let him run me off; I would be awesome despite his tirades…and my penchant to just slide by.

Go figure, in our own ways he taught me something and I learned it. It wasn’t a warm, supportive environment where my needs were assessed and he put me in safe learning opportunities followed by a reflection exercise and short quiz. He busted my ass when I screwed up, told me to find out what I needed, and quit waiting for someone to tell me what to do. I learned to be self-reliant, to have a sense of urgency, and not wait to be told what to do.

Too often, students come to me with problems rather than solutions. In a quest to get something exactly right, or follow a prescribed protocol, they forget that the key isn’t getting right answers, it’s to get the answer right. In a meeting a few months ago another faculty member was lamenting students’ use of “Google” to answer conceptual questions in his/her class. Instead of parroting the correct concept out of the assigned text, students had the audacity to source answers on their own. My reaction, if you’re teaching a class that can be taken by just searching Google you’re wasting the student’s time! I’d want my money back!

This isn’t a dig at students. It’s a dig at what we’re doing to students. All Rottweilers are not bad dogs. But there are people who own Rotties that raise them wrong. The way we conduct our classes needs to change. We need to support problem solving and teach students that there are multiple ways to get to the right answer. That what’s important is not the acquisition of knowledge, but the action you take as a result of that knowledge. Just because you learn something doesn’t make it right. What matters is that you use that knowledge to DO something right.

Because when you start coming to me with solutions rather than problems, with answers rather than questions, and with action rather than complacency; you will be self-sufficient, you will take ownership of your future, and you will act on your plans.

And then 30 years later, you’ll tell your kids about this crusty old fart who yelled at you for missing an appointment.