September 14, 2015

In Memory of Dean Paula Van Riper

Rutgers, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the SAS Academic Advising staff have lost a colleague and friend with the passing of Dean Paula Van Riper on August 20, 2015. Dean Van Riper was the Director of Advising at SAS and had been the heart of the Livingston advising center at Lucy Stone Hall since 1990 and the days of Livingston College. 

A gentle, but never weak, soul, Dean Paula Van Riper was a tireless student advocate. She welcomed students warmly and gave them a patient and knowledgeable response, even lightening the mood with gentle teasing. She was that favorite aunt who offered both sympathetic ear and gentle kick in the pants to get you back on the right path, particularly for those students who were struggling or confused. She took great joy in her students. Those of us who worked beside her reveled in her stories and characteristic good humor, maintained even in the face of professional frustrations and personal setbacks. We marvel still at how she never let her challenges affect her work. 

Diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 1999, Paula Van Riper fought cancer for 16 years, becoming a patient advocate and founding the Central NJ Multiple Myeloma support group. Just as she served students through her career, she served those in the Multiple Myeloma community -- with information, patience, good humor and a sympathetic and caring presence. As a friend shared of her at her memorial service, "Cancer may have killed you, but you never let it beat you." Indeed, as she explained to CureTalk about her reaction to her long battle with cancer: "I find time to laugh and enjoy my co-workers, friends and family each and every day. I truly do not ‘sweat the small stuff’. So much of life’s inconveniences are the small stuff." 

Paula was particularly a friend of the SAS Froshblog, and always wrote to acknowledge and celebrate a new post. She took particular joy in our silly colloquial expressions. A recent response that so completely demonstrates Paula's way of being in the world:

"Once again the Frosh Blog is written in a chatty, friendly manner, chocked full of sensible advice. Providing the pros and cons that most students are not knowledgeable enough to be able to articulate and nor should we expect them to do so.
Love the "obvi" - too old to know that current colloqualism. This blog info has a universal message....thinking about how the rest of us can apply it!
Stay warm and I am sure you are pleased it is - TGIF!
Miss you all, Paula"

So, it is on behalf of the thousands of students whose lives you touched and the colleagues and friends who have learned much from your example that we pause to thank you, Paula, for the gift of your love and friendship and service. Our world is sadder and darker for the absence of your light. But as we managed the usual hectic school opening this past week, many of us took solace in doing your work: offering students our best to help them achieve their best. 

We hope we've made you proud
Contributions may be made in Paula's memory to the International Myeloma Foundation, Miracles for Myeloma Central Jersey Fund

September 4, 2015

Carpe Diem, Rutgers! Advice from a Professor

Today's guest blogger is Dr. Charles Häberl, a professor in the AMESALL department, who offers five great recommendations about exploring your academic options at Rutgers:

Discover Yourself

You likely chose Rutgers with a specific major in mind. Don’t be alarmed, but history and experience tell us that you may throw out all those ideas before you even declare your major next year.

Remember, Rutgers is not just another four years tacked onto high school. Here, you’ll be exposed to entirely new experiences—many good, some bad—and through them, you'll likely find a bunch of new interests that you didn’t even know you had. Maybe you came here wanting to be a doctor, but now the sight of blood makes you squeamish. Perhaps your ambition is to be an engineer, but calculus keeps kicking your butt. You may plan to be the next Toni Morrison or Junot Díaz, but find you’ve got a terminal case of Writer’s Block.

No worries! If you keep an open mind here, you WILL discover your passion, and that will inevitably translate into better grades and a successful career.  Being a mediocre student at something you THINK will guarantee a job may make you miss out on your calling. In the "real world," your passion and your GPA will matter more than the subject that appears on your degree.

Challenge Yourself

Don’t take a course simply because it is required or you hear that it's a GPA booster. Let both your mind and your heart be your guides as you review the course listings and finalize your fall schedule. Part of discovering yourself is finding the courage to try new things and experience different perspectives on the world.

This may be your first experience away from your hometown and your comfort zone. At first, the myriad perspectives of your classmates and your faculty may seem odd or even alienating. Avoid opportunities to simply surround yourself with people with like minds, interests, and backgrounds. Learning how to navigate, tolerate, and even celebrate differences in people and ideas is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL you will learn at Rutgers.

A willingness to SEEK OUT new subjects to learn will serve you well. Your eight short semesters will be your best opportunity to be flexible. As you grow older and establish families and careers, you will find it more and more difficult to learn new things and tread unusual paths.

Study a Language (or two, or three, or…)

Rutgers is one of the most multi-linguistic campuses in the world, offering classes in more world languages than you can even imagine.  Hungarian, Sanskrit, Japanese, Swahili, Twi, Korean, German, Filipino, Italian, Polish…the globe is the limit!

Yes, learning a second (or third, or fourth…) language will open new scholarly and cultural doors for you and help make you a well-rounded adult. But, language fluency is also a path to a lucrative career.  The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has identified Translation and Interpretation as the 5th fastest growing career, particularly in the legal and medical fields.

Don’t delay, though: fluency takes time and practice! Ideally, you should start language study in your first or second year to enable you to build fluency. You also open the door to a possible Study Abroad plan or even a second major or minor in the language.

Embrace Electives
The best kept secrets at Rutgers are our electives: electives (those courses that are NOT just Intro-to-Your-Major) are routinely rated higher by students than required courses. You need 120 credits to graduate, and even after your SAS Core and major/minor courses, you’re still guaranteed to be a few credits short. Bridge this gap with electives. Not only will you likely enjoy those electives more than your required courses, but you might discover a new interest!

The course I remember most vividly from my own college experience was an elective course on Russian Fantasy and Science Fiction. It had absolutely nothing to do with my major, but twenty years later, I remember the professor (Alexander Levitsky), all the authors (Andrei Bely, Alexander Bogdanov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Nikolai Gogol, Fyodor Sologub, Ivan Yefremov… there was A LOTof reading), and the books (still found in a favored space on my bookshelf). I must have taken dozens of other courses, but none that I remember with the fondness that I do that one elective.

Read the Syllabus

READ THE SYLLABUS. Seriously. It’s THE strategy and FAQ guide to your course. Your professor has crafted it specifically to give you great information about the class. Most of the answers to your questions about the course are there - In the syllabus. If you really want to get your professor hella mad, ask a question about something that is covered in the syllabus. I don't recommend this, though…

Good luck in your journey at Rutgers!
Dr. Charles Häberl is a professor in the African, Middle East, and South Asian Languages and Literatures (AMESALL) department and instructor of the very cool, Languages in Peril course (013:305).