Brandman and Beyond

"Not all who wonder are lost" (image from independent.ie & wowwiki.fandom.com respectively)

A Critical Reflection on my academic experience at Brandman University

Introduction

George Washington said, “Discipline is the soul of an army.  It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.” When I was younger, I must admit I didn’t have much discipline to continue anything, whether it was a job, school, or meaningful relationships.  Then I joined the United States Air Force.  During my active duty, I managed a long military career and met my future wife, who would bear my future child.  However, I was unable to accomplish my academic goals.  Then I registered for classes at Brandman University.  But while I finally got that elusive Baccalaureate degree that I always wanted, I was profoundly amazed at what else I received apart from a college education.  Over the course of my undergraduate studies, I’ve made many personal and professional connections, giving me the ability to expand my career network.  Also, I’ve vastly augmented my verbal and written communication skills, further enhancing my value in today’s service-driven workplace.  And finally, I’ve developed an extensive knowledge base through a multi-disciplinary approach towards the arts and humanities, which only increases my problem-solving capabilities.

Ability to Expand Career Network

The origin of the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” is unclear. Nevertheless, a 2011 article in Business Insider asserts that it is fundamental for any successful individual to take this message to heart.  I’m no stranger to meeting men and women from all walks of life. Still, as Airmen fully engaged in Air Force culture, we inherited a sense of familiarity that transcended those differences.  As veterans being released back into the civilian world, it isn’t easy to make that transition.  However, in a military-friendly educational institution such as Brandman, we associate with civilian councilors, learn from civilian instructors and study with other students who catch us up with the day-to-day dealings of the civilian world.  As a result, I now have professors who can write me letters of recommendation and colleagues whom I can count on to inform and connect me to employment opportunities.  With reliable academic and business contacts established, I could focus on honing my communication skills and market myself as a valuable team member.

Verbal and Written Communication Skills

            Robert McKee in Story wrote, “How a person chooses to act under pressure is who he is-the greater the pressure, the truer and deeper the choice to character.” I am also no stranger to working in a high-tempo, high-stress work environment.  Unfortunately, I’m more resistant to change than I’d like to admit.  So, when I discussed with my counselor what electives I should take, I chose Writing in the 20th Century, which I thought was a standard history class.  I was sorely mistaken.  In those grueling eight weeks, I did not expect to write a poem, a ten-minute play, a short story, a short skit screenplay, storyboards, a story treatment, and a video presentation analyzing a movie of my choice.  There were honest times where I wanted to quit, but I decided to plug through anyway.  As a result, I now have my portfolio containing all those aforementioned literary works, and I wouldn’t have done them if I wasn’t inadvertently forced to do so.  Courses like this opened my mind to different ways to express myself and discover various ways of thinking, cultivating a wealth of knowledge that pairs harmoniously with my communication skills.

Extensive Knowledge Base

Before I enrolled in Brandman, and even before I enlisted in the military, I went to community college. Having a decent number of classes transferred to Brandman boosted me to junior status.  Coupled with my professional military education, I thought there wouldn’t be much else that I needed to learn. But, again, I was sorely mistaken.  The lessons I learned about cultural communication and professional ethics were just a few that broadened my mind and provided me with several theoretical paradigms to understand the modern world. For example, Hofstede’s cultural dimensions taught me that individualistic cultures like the U.S. might have issues dealing with collectivistic cultures like China or Japan.  I also learned that utilitarianism is a moral doctrine that aims to achieve the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people instead of deontology. Finally, morality is a personal duty or rule that ought to be followed.  While I had some understanding of these concepts, I was finally able to define them accurately, which allows me to define better problems I may come across in the future, which is the first step to any organized approach to solving problems.

Conclusion

Noted Roman historian and politician Sallus once said, “the splendid achievements of the intellect, like the soul, are everlasting.” (Bartlett & O’Brien, 2012, p. 92) I am eternally grateful for the gifts Brandman University has bestowed me.  Not only has knowledge given me more tools to solve problems, but it also widens my worldview.  I gained verbal and written communication skills and research and information analysis methods that clarified and validated my messages that much more.  And while I was granted the avenue to network with a diverse group of people, I also received that element of teamwork needed to enter and build a friendly office culture in the public and private sector.  This critical reflection allowed me to reinforce those qualities I’ve developed as a serviceman and a student, and I intend to use these gifts to grow into my next career.

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