Today’s Hottest Job? Teaching!

Jim Amidon — What’s the hottest job for graduates of some of the nation’s best private colleges and universities these days?
Computer programmer? Nope.
Business analyst? Natta.
Graphic designer or marketing director? Not even close.
The answer is education.
So what are the hottest schools to which the top graduates of the top undergraduate schools are applying?
Harvard? Chicago? Georgetown?
No, not really, uh-uh.
At Wabash, at least three of our top senior students got word Friday that they have been admitted to the Teach for America program. The program, which has evolved into one of the most competitive, elite post-undergraduate job opportunities in the country, selects only about 10-12 percent of applicants.
Teach for America (TFA) has become one of –— if not THE — hottest programs for college graduates.
So what exactly is the job that’s become such an exciting, new trend for top students?
TFA asks participants to spend two years working as teachers in the nation’s toughest, least-performing public schools. The goal is to eliminate educational inequality by enlisting our nation’s most promising future leaders to work in schools in low-income communities.
Let me repeat that: Teach for America recruits elite college graduates and places them in gritty neighborhood schools, many with dropout rates far higher than graduation rates.
I heard that three of our guys on Friday received acceptance letters. A fourth, a kid who by every possible measure is an exceptional student, didn’t make it, which is stunning given his excellent record.
Gary James was accepted and will be teaching in a public school in the District of Columbia.
That’s the same Gary James who has served as editor-in-chief of Wabash’s newspaper, The Bachelor; who led the Obama campaign effort here in Montgomery County; who makes the Dean’s List every semester; who landed a prestigious internship at National Public Radio in Washington last summer; and who was a finalist for Indiana Collegiate Journalist of the Year.
I know the job market is tough, but believe me when I say that Gary James could have had about any job he wanted coming out of Wabash.
At the top of the list was Teach for America. And I suspect he’ll be a terrific teacher.
So will Patrick McAlister, who finished his Wabash coursework in December – in just seven semesters – and who was also an award-winning student journalist and Bachelor editor.
Patrick has had internships with congressmen and senators; had a standing offer to return for continued work at State Farm Insurance; and is also an excellent student.
Patrick will be stationed at an underserved school in Raleigh-Durham.
It’s odd, too, since if you ever met Patrick, you’d imagine him in public service, politics, or even law. He’s the consummate talker who has big opinions and views on matters of great importance.
With Teach for America, I suspect he’ll provide tremendous motivation for his students.
Brandon McKinney, another talented Wabash senior, was also accepted into the program.
The Texas native has been a leader at the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies and all across the Wabash campus. He earns the respect of his fellow students because of his intellect and strong beliefs.
And while I’m not sure where Brandon will begin his TFA career, I am sure that he’ll be an amazing teacher.
Times sure have changed since the era in which I graduated. Back then, everybody in my class wanted to work for IBM or go directly to an elite graduate school.
Today, our top students are willing to put the rest of their lives on hold to serve in tough inner-city schools in the Teach for America program. After a couple of years, many of them will move on to become businessmen, doctors, or lawyers. But the difference they can make in those two years is immeasurable.
The desire to serve runs deep within today’s college students. And it shouldn’t be surprising that guys like Brandon, Gary, and Patrick have chosen to give back in the form of teaching young people and giving them a living example of the benefits of education.
I would wager that those three Wabash seniors were influenced by an English teacher, coach, or guidance counselor along the way — someone who lit a spark and ignited their desire to be eager, participatory, lifelong learners.
I also think it’s pretty cool to tell people that these days Wabash’s top graduates are leaving Crawfordsville to become teachers with hopes of closing the academic achievement gap in impoverished areas.
That’s a pretty noble thing to say, don’t you think? And a pretty neat job, too.

Did You Know? 4.0 – The Revolution Continues

Howard Hewitt – We’ve written and said a lot this school year about social networking and social media. We’ve added Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and other steps to jump into the communications revolution.

Back in early September I wrote about Wabash’s efforts in social media and included a video we’ve played for a lot of people. You can see that original post and video  here.

If you go to YouTube you can find a number of these videos about the communications revolution. There are videos tailored to a number of different audiences. There are videos making fun of the videos.

But there is no question the message is powerful. I found an updated version Friday and thought I’d share it for those interested in communications. Check it out:


What’s That One Comps Question You’ll Never Forget?

Steve Charles—In the Allen Center locker room today I heard Steve Hoffman ’85 and professors David Polley and Tobey Herzog talking about oral comps [the oral comprehensive exams required of all Wabash seniors].

“I can’t believe that was 25 years ago,” Steve said recalling his own experience, noting that Professor Polley had been one of the three professors on his comps board.

“I was nervous, I don’t remember who was in it besides Professor Polley, and it was difficult while I was there,” Steve said. “But I wouldn’t change it for anything. From today’s seniors to alumni from the classes of the 40s and 50s, it’s a common thread. A common bond.”

Senior Daniel King, who just finished his oral comps wrote about the experience on his blog. Here’s a quote: “I had a great experience. My oral comps board were friendly, and we had a great conversation for an hour. We talked about everything from my favorite psychology class to studying in Italy to C&T. It was honestly fun.”

Daniel said being finished was an “odd” feeling: “I’m relieved. But what do I now? I don’t have any papers to write. I dont have any tests to study for. I can just relax…. I guess I’m just not used to that.”

Steve is a major gifts officer for the College now and visits with a lot of alumni. He said that even if they don’t remember all the professors who were in the room, they always remember one question.

For Steve, who majored in biology but had also taken theater classes, that question was: “How do biology and theater complement one another?”

Apparently, comps questions jog professors’ memories, too, for as soon as Steve recalled that question, Dave Polley practically shouted out, “I remember that one!”

The exchange made me want to test Steve’s theory.

So, for all Wabash alumni out there: What’s that one question you remember from your oral comps? Any other memorable moments from the experience?

We’d love to hear them, either as a Comment below, or as an email to me at

In photo: Steve Hoffman ’85 (center) with fellow Sphinx Club members Nate Powell ’09 and Mike Raters ’85 judge another Wabash tradition that brings together the generations: Alumni Chapel Sing.


Blank Screen Blues

Jim Amidon — I sat down last Friday to write this blog and got a serious case of “blank screen blues.”
What I mean is that when I sat down, I didn’t have a topic in mind about which to write. I know this affliction snares a lot of regular newspaper columnists and bloggers, but in my job at Wabash College, I’m usually not short of material or ideas.
At first, I blamed it on the holidays. A quick back-and-forth trip to the northern Florida gulf coast to spend time with my parents and my brother’s family was nice, but it wasn’t restful. And after driving all the way back to Crawfordsville on New Year’s Day, well, I felt like I needed another vacation!
Then there was the email and voice mail mess. How can more than 400 email messages pile up in less than a week? Did 19 people really phone me between Christmas and New Year’s Day? As Charlie Brown would say, “Good grief!”
Maybe the blank screen at which I stared was the result of snow blindness. After all, I have two very large windows on either side of the desk in my office, and the light reflecting from the snow was blinding — even as I sat in near-complete darkness in front of the glowing monitor.
Maybe my stiff fingers triggered some synaptic thing that caused my brain to go blank last week. Taking advantage of the gorgeous snowfall and suddenly bright skies last Thursday afternoon, I decided to venture out across campus to take a couple hundred photographs of the College under its fluffy white blanket.
It was right after lunch and the sun was trying (in vain) to peer through the heavy clouds, so the light was nearly perfect. But that’s also when the wind picked up and the temperature dropped by a few degrees.
By the time I realized how cold I had gotten, I was at the far south end of campus. The tips of my ears were stinging, burning from the cold wind. The fingers on my exposed right hand (the better to click the camera shutter) felt like icicles. I hurriedly mushed through the arboretum and back to my office, but by then the tips of my fingers were white, which I gather is indication of frostbite.
So maybe I ought to blame my blank screen blues on the cold, winter weather.
But if I’m being honest, my mental screen went blank a week ago this morning when — in the midst of those 400 emails — my friend Steve Klein called to tell me the tragic news that Wabash sophomore Josh Linthicum had died during fairly routine surgery.
In that instant, that 30-second phone call, my mind’s hard drive was erased. I felt as though I had been sucker-punched in the gut and I literally struggled to take a calming breath. The word “shock” doesn’t come close. In fact, I don’t have words to describe last Monday and the days since — other than “blank screen” or “fried hard drive.”
What must Josh’s parents have thought when the surgeon emerged in the waiting room with news of such horror, such tragedy? I simply can’t imagine. And I pray for them.
I’ve tried going to my “back up drive” to restore my thoughts — you know, memories. The truth is that I have only a few memories of Josh. I fondly recall meeting him in the lobby of the Allen Center on his first campus visit as a high school senior football player. I remember thinking, “What a mountain of a man. We’ll need a bigger jersey for him!”
Josh was big, even by offensive lineman standards. We listed him at 6-3 and 315, but he was probably closer to 6-5 and 350 pounds. And yet he was not at all intimidating. He smiled a lot. I noticed how other students enjoyed being around him.
After victories at Little Giant Stadium when the team gathered to sing “Old Wabash” with fans, Josh was easy to pick out; he literally stood head and shoulders above most every other player. And he was always smiling.
Wabash has suffered its share of tragedies in recent years, but losing Josh Linthicum just doesn’t make any sense. He was a big, strong, and powerful young man, but kind and funny, too; a big teddy bear of a kid.
In the week that has passed since Josh died, I have continued to suffer from some odd sort of brain freeze or snow blindness. I am not alone, either. I’ve encountered a lot of Wabash people with similar blank looks, staring off at the snow-covered landscape.
So forgive all of us at Wabash if we seem to be walking around a little snow blind, pecking away on our keyboards, staring at blank screens and asking questions knowing the answers will never come.