Monday, August 24, 2015

Dr. Faulkner: Fish Out of Water

From 1962 to 1971 one of the most popular television programs was The Beverley Hillbillies.  For the young and unenlightened the 30 minute weekly program was about a family of hillbillies who became over-night millionaires because oil was discovered on their mountain land.  (Bubblin’ crude, black gold, Texas tea.)  They moved from a one room mountain cabin to a mansion in Beverley Hills.  (Swimmin’ pools, movie stars.)  Most episodes can be viewed on You Tube.  The plot of each episode generally revolved around their discovery of this new and different world.  The program is widely regarded as the first of the “fish out of water” genre of TV programs.  They never did find the ghost that played chimes in the mansion but they did come to realize that each time it happened someone would shortly knock on the front door.

Other programs of this genre followed with more or less of the theme included.  The 1979 to 1981 program Buck Rogers in the 25th Century capitalized on the idea.  Even today’s hit series The Big Bang widely uses the inability of Sheldon Cooper to understand the world around him as a comic device and plot topic.

What got me thinking about this is an article in UB Magazine (March, 2015)  (  that offers 20 recommendations for how we can better serve first generation students.  We have always had a high number of students that are first in their family to attend college.  I really enjoy asking first in their family students to stand at graduation and so appreciate the applause they receive.  With the TnPromise, we believe the number of these students will increase dramatically.
Many of these first generation students will feel like fish out of water.  One of my favorite stories is of a TnAchieves student who arrived on campus on the first day of the semester.  He called his mentor in a bit of a panic because he couldn’t find the MWF building. 

I thought back on personal occasions when I felt out of place and tried to remember what helped me to get through.  In most instances it was some person that took time to guide me along.  These mentors:
·         gave me a heads-up on what to expect.
·         explained things in a clear way without acronyms or jargon.
·         anticipated where the rough spots may be.
·         answered my questions.
·         stayed close by to bolster my confidence.
·         never made me feel embarrassed because of what I didn’t know.

You may not have signed up to be a TnPromise mentor, but all of us can help these new students that will be arriving on our campus feeling like fish out of water.

-Dr. Jerry Faulkner

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