The Transition: Social v. Academic
I have a colleague who has always wanted to have the infamous “Howard Experience.” He heard about our student activism, organizations, history, legacy, diversity, parties, student life, influence, and decided that he wanted part of it. He was quite disturbed when he arrived at the Mecca to find that he was about one degree too late for many of those experiences. You see, there’s a huge difference between the Howard undergraduate experience and that of a graduate student at Howard. The social life of an undergrad Howardite is markedly different from the more academic in nature focus of the graduate student Howaradite. While pursuing my bachelor’s degree, I attended several meetings a day, a couple of bible studies, the choice of five different programs in the evening, protests, demonstrations, worked, studied, partied, planned rallies and programs, participated in student government, attended conferences, and a whole host of other things. In pursuit of my first master’s degree my days are filled with a lot less choice and a whole lot more responsibilities. 95% of the programs catered towards graduate students are academic. Most of our organizations deal with our discipline and don’t include many opportunities to socialize.
For those students who came to Howard for graduate school in hopes of recapturing the Howard spirit that they have heard about, they will find themselves disappointed. They will capture a Howard spirit, but it is much different from their undergraduate counterparts. It is an experience that focuses on research and intelligentsia and an atmosphere of collegiality. It is a drastic change from undergrad where most people are driven by their social life and not their books. This is why I applaud the current HUSA administration’s “Blackout Wednesday” which seeks to bring the more academic side of Howard to the undergraduates as well. There is no reason why more of our students are not Rhodes, Fulbright, Marshall, Truman, and White House scholars. We have the experiences, the scholarship, leadership, and community service that the Ivy League students possess. Most undergraduates simply have not made it a priority amongst their meeting and event heavy schedules. In contrast, more graduate students should participate in student organizations. I think that many of my colleagues are cheated of the Howard experience that I have enjoyed over these past four years. Many of them do not even participate in the events and organizations that cater to their academic disciplines, let alone join the undergraduate heavy social, political, state, and spiritual organizations. This has to do more with the fact that graduate and professional students have a heavier professional load than most other Howard students. However, I truly believe that all of our Howard experience would be grander if both segments of our community spent more time together. We would make awesome mentors and tutors for undergraduates and could provide incredible resources and contacts for student organizations. Many of my peers were active in the NAACP, NCNW, and religious life at their undergraduate institutions: why stop now?
Student life and activities provides a balanced atmosphere in the life of any college student. At Howard, our student life is extremely dynamic and robust. We have over 300 student organizations and have the opportunity to create more organizations if there is a void in one particular area. I wonder; though, how many organizations have at least one graduate or professional student member that is not its graduate assistant. Student organizations need to realize that they do not cater only to undergrads, but should reach out to the entire student body. The annual organizational fair should have been announced to graduate and professional school orientations and through their various listservs and we should have been encouraged to participate. Far too often we say “it’s for undergrads” when it’s not: it’s for Howard. At the end of the day undergraduates need to be more academic and graduate and professional students need to be more social. All populations would be better for it.