Thursday, April 18, 2013

Go Blue! And NLU!

I'm a proud graduate of the University of Michigan and I'm even prouder now that my son Nick is a freshman there and swims for their #1 ranked Men's Swimming & Diving team - Go Blue! It has meant so much to me to spend time back in Ann Arbor, hang out on campus, and have a front row view of the outstanding Michigan sports program.

College at Michigan was a thrill. I loved my dorm, my sorority, the town, the football games, the school spirit. My business degree helped me land a great first job at a prestigious corporation and I was prepared for life in the real world. It was all good.

Me, circa 2008
Image courtesy of National-Louis
Then, in my early 40s, I went to back to graduate school. In many ways, my education in the Written Communication Program at National Louis University was better than my undergraduate experience. Here are ten reasons why.

1.  The program offered exactly what I wanted to study. 
In my twenties I had no idea what I wanted to do. In my 40s, I knew I wanted to become a writer. NLU offered a program that covered all the disciplines of professional writing - fiction, screenplays, feature writing, journalism - as well as fundamentals such as expository writing and editing.

2. The school was close and convenient and I could go at my own pace.
I had two small children and a husband who traveled. I relished the fact I could take evening classes  once a week in a nearby location and take a semester off if I needed to.

3. The classes were small, personal, and hands on.
At Michigan, some of my lectures had hundreds of students. No one knew or cared if I attended. At NLU my classes ranged from 6 -18 people. We all knew the professor and one another, and a good portion of the class time was participative. We shared and discussed our work in class.

4. The instructors weren't just professors - they were professionals.
All of my professors were working successfully in their chosen fields. For example, my Young Adult Fiction class was taught by Laurie Lawlor, who has published dozens of young adult fiction books. My instructors were doing the work I wanted to do, not just teaching it.

5. My coursework focused on real world application rather than theory or research. 
We didn't learn the theory or history of writing; we studied the craft. We learned how to write so we could sell our work and earn money.

6. I formed connections with fellow students.
Soon after I earned my degree, I joined a group of NLU alums to collaborate on a self-published anthology of pet stories. Check me out on Amazon! Two of the stories in our book Heavy Petting are mine.

7. The faculty was personally committed to my success and remains so.
I cannot say enough about Dr. Joanne Koch, the head of the Written Communication department and my advisor. She spent countless hours helping me develop and refine this blog, which began as my thesis project. She remains a valued resource to this day, as does Patty Tennison, who runs the simply amazing Paris Cafe Writing program I attended in December. I feel badly that can't even remember the names of my former U-M profs.

8. My thesis project got me the work I wanted.
I'd never have got my True/Slant writing job or become a columnist at Make it Better if it hadn't been for Forty Fabulous!

9. NLU put me in one of their print ads.
See above. I was featured in a calendar too. How fun is that?

10. I grew up.
I gave more of myself to my graduate classes because I was a mature student and eager to learn. Plus I was paying my own tuition. Making a personal investment made me more committed to my education and I was surrounded by students doing the same.

The University of Michigan is a fantastic place with many opportunities I wish I'd been savvy enough to take advantage of back in the day. (You better go to class, Nick Killeen!) And trust me, my heart will always beat true blue. But a big-time university isn't the only choice when it comes to getting the education you want. National Louis was the school with the perfect program at the right time of life for me.

Go Blue! And Go NLU!

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