Transformational experience needs better sales people

ReAnne Utemark

The WSGA election is finally over. A new set of students was elected by a small number of students to “represent” the student body. (When one reads about politics too much, one often becomes increasingly cynical – even about student government politics.)

Either team’s policies would have faced an uphill battle in this climate of fear, budget cuts and downsizing. Both teams had ideas that are going to cost too much and are not likely to happen. But, as President Obama said of his dog promise to his daughters, t hey, it’s a campaign promise – no big deal.

As for the team that got elected, some of their ideas will pan out and some of them will not. I do not hope that they and the students who voted for them are under the delusion that all of their campaign platform talking points are going to be completed. For one, there simply is not enough time, but more importantly, there is not enough money.

For this reason, the new president and vice president must be selective in their programs and their plans. I hope they accomplish all they want to accomplish – however, the one thing that I think they should focus on above all else is the Washburn Transformational Experience.

The WTE has the worst salesmen on the planet. This is not to speak poorly of the people who advocate the WTE – they work tirelessly to keep it alive. I am talking about the people who tell new students, “it is a requirement that you have to do to graduate.” That makes it sound awful. It adds yet another requirement on the laundry list of things students must complete in order to receive a diploma from Washburn University.

But the WTE is so much more than Algebra or English 300. The WTE is an opportunity to make yourself more marketable. Putting it on my transcript means little to me, but the ability to put original research, community service, leadership and international study on my Curriculum Vitae or resume makes me much more marketable to graduate schools and employers than someone who just went to class and passed.

Another thing that is absolutely killing the WTE is when those marketing it only tell students about the study abroad, mostly because it sounds like the most fun and the easiest way to get students interested in doing it. Some people take studying abroad seriously – some do not. This marketing strategy has also turned the study abroad program and the community service into a weird elitist struggle. As if, students who have money can go study abroad and students who do not are stuck doing community service. This is absurd. Of course, the study abroad program does cost more, and through studying abroad, one can learn about other cultures and expand boundaries. Additionally, historians can see where history happened, as opposed to reading about it in a book. The study abroad program is extraordinarily beneficial and I am glad Washburn emphasizes it. However, unless you are going to become a translator or go into international business, perhaps the more beneficial WTE for you would be scholarly research or leadership or community service. The WTE is about making students go above and beyond their classwork and their internships. It is supposed to make them think and act and reflect on what their area of study is.

The WTE is not just another requirement for graduation – it is an opportunity for Washburn students to make themselves stand out.