Airport Assault: Road Racing at WCU

Airport Assault Road Course
Airport Assault Road Course

In a college town that consists of little more than an expanding campus and a run-of-the-mill athletic department, it’s easy to overlook the absolutely excellent events that take place.

Outside of the Valley of the Lilies Half-Marathon and 5k, and when Western alum Manteo Mitchell pulled in Olympic Silver at the London Games, there hasn’t been a ton to be proud of in terms of athletic achievement. Luckily, and thanks to a dedicated group of collegiate cyclists, Western is now set to host a three-part race weekend on Saturday and Sunday March 22 and 23.

Though I wasn’t a part of the riding community, to see this group put together a complete race experience is nothing short of exciting. It’s easy to get lost in the valley that houses Cullowhee, to forget that there are people that want to come and experience the mountains. The nine percent grade of the time trial route may not be the way most people expect to experience Cullowhee, but then again active communities like cyclists don’t always fit into the “most people” category anyway.

The races are open to collegiate riders, with registration online at USA Cycling. These races include the one mile time trial mentioned before, an 18-63 mile road race, and a 20-50 minute criterium. Distances and times will be determined by rider category, which include Collegiate M-A,B,C,D and W-A,B. Each race costs $15 to pre-register, and $18 for day-of registration.

An awards ceremony will take place on Sunday after the criterium, which should not only highlight the weekend’s top racers, but also the little-known hospitality that so many people in the WCU community are full of. With the introduction of the Airport Assault race weekend, I’m proud to say I graduated from Western, and can’t wait to see what this does for the cycling team, the university and the community as a whole.

For more information take a look at the official WCU Cycling Team page and learn more about the excellent people that are making this event happen.

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A Friday Wrap

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It’s Friday, the week has been busy, but it’s great to be alive.

After pulling my first all-nighter since college, which I finished a year ago this weekend, I realized that something has to give when it comes to my daily schedule. I’m grateful for the opportunity I have, to work from home as I study for my personal training certification, but working from home forces you to actually develop a schedule that needs to be maintained and improved upon daily.

Since it’s Friday, I won’t bore you with how to create a schedule for yourself, or even how to help jumpstart your motivation to get everything done, but what I will give you is this:

You always have more time than you think you do, you just have to find it.

I look for blog topics every morning, since October I’ve been contributing to the Third Wave Fashion Blog and monthly Fashion Tech Report, Paige and I average six runs a week, and I have to study to get certified. Without some type of order, like I lost this week, you’ll end up with the dreaded all-nighter, which shouldn’t happen once you’ve graduated.

You can make it through this Friday, use the weekend to get that big breath of fresh air you need, and don’t worry about anything until Monday. Like the photo below, it doesn’t matter how you have fun, but make sure you do!

7fd2d5e65aa211e382810ee93d32a936_8Courtesy: Paige

The Business of Edcuation

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My general disdain for the money made from higher education has been pretty evident, if it hasn’t, just browse through the education category over on the left. Typically my focus is on student loans, the impact that students are left to deal with in the pursuit of a decent education, but today I’m taking a slightly different route.

Thanks to the Western Carolinian, the student newspaper at Western Carolina University, today I’m focused on how the money is being spent by the institution. Before I get started though, I will clarify: the issue I’m addressing in this post is not that money is being spent, but how it is being spent.

Having established that, the inspiration for this post comes from a recent article published by the Western Carolinian in regard to the 2020 Vision Plan for WCU, and the impact that a potential parking garage would have on students, staff and faculty.

Parking garages are expensive, they must be managed and maintained, just like any other facility. I get that. Considering the growth that WCU has experienced over the last few years, I’m not one to disagree with the notion that a parking garage is probably a smart idea for the preservation of the campus and the community. In this case, I’d personally much rather see one structure a short distance from campus that could provide solid parking options for students without paving over the whole landscape.

There is one thing however that sticks out to me though, and an issue that I believe should be a more intricate part of the planning well beyond 2020, and should be considered as we head into 2014.

The faculty and staff of WCU have not received a raise in their salary since 2008, and some of them are upset that their parking fees will go up in order to compensate for the garage. Renee Corbin, director of assessment, even talked about parking further away from campus or making a deal with local business, for a fee. If the faculty and staff are to pay more per year for parking or other fees in order to accomplish the 2020 Vision plan, without a pay raise, they have every right to be frustrated.

Western Carolinian

I can’t imagine that Western is the only school with this problem, not necessarily directly related to a parking garage, but the idea that faculty aren’t seeing pay raises for the work and dedication given to the institutions they serve, as money continues to be spent on expansion projects and useless campus “beautification”.

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Where my problem with the situation goes deeper, is the fact that all of this money is spent, but programs continue to be cut, class sizes increase as classes are cut from programs, and the blame is placed on money and budgeting despite expansion and beautification projects.

Yes, growth is good. I’m not saying that it isn’t, but should the quality of education, and the quality of programs offered be driven into the ground just so the students can have a new fountain or new campus directional signs?

The simple answer is no. At institutions of higher education, something inside me says that we should be focusing on maintaining a competitive level of education, not making things pretty. There are programs at WCU that have scaled back so much, that they hardly resemble the programs that students initially came to the school for.

On a larger scale, the problem with education across the country, high schools and colleges alike, is coming from how money is being spent. At some point, the focus needs to be on advancing what is best for students, or these institutions need to quit pretending to be focused on education.

Yes, I included high schools because North Carolina can’t seem to get anything right in terms of budgeting for education, which may or may not come from the fact that all the people making real decision have no idea what it’s like to work in the actual education system.

Teachers, professors, faculty and staff, they all deserve respect from the students they serve, but they deserve even more from the systems that they are working for.

If education were actually the focus of higher education, I’d be willing to bet money that many of the problems we’re facing would seemingly fix themselves. But when you’re more concerned with the way something looks than how it operates, then no, none of these problems are ever going to be solved.

Education is a business. It’s time the employees were shown that they are appreciated, not just being used to bring in more money under the facade of helping develop the future.

As always, that’s just my two cents and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but where I do think we can come together is in the idea that a change needs to be made to the system as a whole; something is broke, it’s time we fixed it.

Investing In The Future: The Greatest Paradox

If you went to college, thought about college, or encouraged your own child to go to college, then you’re probably guilty of saying that you were making an investment in the future. Considering that any investment is an investment in the future, the statement alone seems silly, but that’s beside the point.

What has me thinking about the phrase though, and more so the paradox that accompanies it, is spurred from a comment that I heard over the weekend, when an “Economic Analyst” said that the problem with windmills is that they are:

eyesores.

Really?!

You’re an economic analyst, that speaks on national television, and the worst thing about wind energy is that the structure producing the energy isn’t aesthetically pleasing?

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Image: Siemens UK

That brings me to the main issue: in an age when we are more than comfortable telling students to pursue academic careers and higher education, to make investments in their futures; why, as a society, can’t we muster the confidence to invest in energy technology for a more stable future?

According to the American Wind Energy Association, the market supports 80,000 full-time jobs, and considering that number is projected to have a potential to reach 500,000 jobs by 2030, then we should be doing everything we can to encourage the growth of wind energy.

Do I understand every little issue? No.

But I do understand that the change won’t happen over night. I do understand that in a country that isn’t too focused on the manufacturing jobs that have been lost, we turn old factories into turbine producing factories. Hell, power those factories with wind power and it’s a double-whammy.

I also understand, however, that the reason we aren’t pushing harder for wind power is because we’re comfortable. Yeah, I get it, when it comes to where you get your power from, there aren’t a whole lot of choices, like here in the city we’re stuck with ConEd and if we lived in North Carolina we’d be stuck with Duke Power. But that’s the real problem. When there aren’t options we don’t have to make decisions, and let’s face it, American’s aren’t decision making people.

Decisions confuse us, we shake and stutter, and ultimately end up with nothing because we don’t know how to choose. Henry Ford knew it when he said that customers could have any color Model T they wanted as long as it was black.

Ultimately, that is our barrier with alternative energy. We like to talk about making investments, all of which are meant to enhance the future, but none of us want to make the decision that makes it all possible. We have a system, it isn’t great but it works, and even if we’re slowly poisoning ourselves, our grandparents started it so we’re more than ok with it too.

In 2030, I’ll be 40 years old. Like I said, the projection is that wind power will produce 500,000 jobs by then. I think it’s time we stopped investing in the generic future, and start investing in the creation of a better future. Why? Because if nothing else we deserve it.

College: Is It Worth It?

It’s been a well established factor of every American’s life since the late 90s that a college degree is required for a halfway decent future.

But is that really the case?

tumblr_muumxk9HyX1spokgpo1_250Gif via Chekovy.tumblr.com

As startups and 20-somethings launch their ways through the fog of the saturated job market, it’s left some people wondering if traditional colleges are actually providing an ROI that balances rising tuition costs.

Thanks to The Daily Beast, a list of the 20 colleges with the worst return on investment has been put into pictures. Feel free to peruse the list, and with a list of only 20 it will be easy to think that you’re in the clear.

If you are, that’s great, but more than likely, your next job application is still going to say that you’re not qualified, regardless of whether or not your school was fortunate enough to not make the list.

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I’ll offer my experience as an example.

The image above would be the essence of why we have to question the ROI of college. As tuition costs rose at the university I went to, though not on the list, the school still managed to find the extra money in couch cushions to get signs made that were totally misspelled.

So, as I look for my next job, lucky to be in New York, I too am wondering just how far a four-year education from a school that couldn’t spell university right is going to get me.

347_1053085692656_6951_nOur first picture together, circa 2008

I can gladly say that I met my wife in college, and some of the closest friends I have today I met in college, so I can’t say don’t go.

But when it comes down to dollars and cents, with high school grads developing the next great app and fast-growing businesses, I must encourage everyone to at least consider their options. Weigh the consequences for yourself, and most definitely don’t go longer than you need to.

If you’ve already graduated, struggled finding a job, and you’re considering grad school; reconsider those student loans and figure out if it’s really worth your time, effort, and money.

Student Loans: What They Don’t Understand

“I guess the best advice is to use your head when you are making loans and not to go over your head, to think about the job you’re trying to get and whether or not it is going to provide the income that will sustain your family and enable you to repay your loan.” (USA Today)

I thought it would be best to jump right in with that gem that Molly Corbett, American Council on Education, gave USA Today.

Corbett, President Obama, governors, it doesn’t matter who is speaking about student loans, none of them actually know how the system is working.

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As I did my best in college to make responsible loan decisions, this is how the one-sided conversation really went:

Welcome to college, how will you pay for it?

Oh, your father lost his job? That’s too bad, here, take this higher interest loan. You don’t want it? Well, you can’t afford to attend school without it, good luck.

We see you accepted our offer last year, and your dad found a job, that’s great! We see that he only makes half of what he did before, and you’ve got two loans that we’re cutting back, just take this Parent Loan. They can’t afford it because you’re sister is starting college next year? Well, you won’t be able to pay for school without it, and we’ll just make a note to make sure we only give your sister these options, that way we can catch her with these loans at the beginning.

Congratulations, you graduated! Now, we know this is one of the worst economies ever, and that you can’t find a job, so we’ll set your payments around $500.

Oh, you can’t afford that… Hm. Just ask your parents for help.

They still can’t afford it? That’s right, you have a sister, well congratulations on graduating, but we’re still going to need that money.

Student Loan Image

I only accepted federal student loans while I was in college, but I am paying back Sallie Mae and Great Lakes, a non-profit student loan group that I send money to every month. With that being said, I find it hard to believe that the government is actually concerned with my financial well-being, since they already made their money by selling my loans to two other companies.

The truth is, there is no job post-graduation that will provide the magic sustainability to repay loans and start a family, it simply will not happen. Personally, I am paying for loans from each semester I was in school, in addition to the loans that my parents had to take out on my behalf.

Why?

Because it isn’t my parents’ education. It was mine. Unfortunately, being responsible for yourself isn’t what pays loans or eases the burden.

Nor does losing a job.

So allow me to ask, what are college grads supposed to do when they pay their loans responsibly, because they took the first job that came their way, but that job comes to an end without a replacement to be seen?

Why should students pursuing a better future be penalized for doing things in the order it was prescribed to them?

The student loan problem will never be fixed, because there is too much money to be made from it. Thanks to the inflation of college, tuition is never going to be checked. The colleges raise tuition, they get paid by the banks making the loans, then the banks make money by sticking their hands in the pockets of the students and their families.

You tell me where the problem is, and if you really think the government cares.