I was thinking about the phrase “KEEP CALM and BE KIND” permeating the campus and I am totally down with this philosophy. It has been my philosophy for a long time; I am my mother’s daughter. I was also thinking about a recent interchange with an employee pursuing a degree. This woman works full-time at GCC while raising two young daughters and taking evening classes. When I asked if she is completing a bachelor’s degree, she responded with a hangdog “no, it’s just an associate’s degree”. This saddens me beyond belief. I used to be her, ashamed of getting JUST an associate’s degree. I am fortunate to have broken free of this attitude.
You see, I have an associate’s degree in medical laboratory science from Madison Area Technical College. The most important and fulfilling work I have ever done was working as a MLT in hospitals in the Midwest. I had direct impact on people’s health; I literally helped save lives. I did this with an AAS and earned far less than my colleagues with bachelor’s degrees. I always felt like a second-class citizen, ashamed of JUST having an associate’s degree, when I should have been proud of my accomplishment. It is no easy feat obtaining this degree.
I find a lot of stigma attached to degrees. It’s not that you are getting an associates, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. It is a question of the type of degree and the school you attend. There is a pecking order and boy, you better be going to the best school and getting the right degree or well, you are down there and I am up here, above you. I’m afraid I see this attitude quite often from where I sit. The fact is a lot of the brightest people I know do not have a degree.
I am not immune to this prejudice, no one is, but the fact that someone is striving to obtain more knowledge should be the most important thing we see. I personally don’t find value in racking up letters and acronyms after my name. I do find value in increasing my knowledge and working my brain, hence my going for a master’s degree. There will always be someone with higher degrees from places of greater esteem. I cannot hope to compete with them, nor should I. I can be kinder to everyone I meet, staff and students, and overlook the award (or lack) of a piece of paper attached to them. I can and will continue to admire the work they do to help others achieve their goals and dreams. I can give a huge high five to those who overcome a lot of obstacles to get an associate degree or higher.