What were professors like as college students?

Photo Submitted by Mary Harris

Professors have led different lives before their careers at Cabrini. Photo submitted by Mary Harris

It is kind of strange to think that the very people who are giving us our education everyday were students too, once upon a time.

When a professor yells about student’s texting in class, did they used to sit in the back and not pay attention? What about enforcing lateness and skipping class? Were they repeat offenders?

It is both funny and odd to imagine our professors sitting in desks as college students.

However, professors and employees here at Cabrini are certainly not shy about sharing their own college experiences and what it was like for them.

Dr. Amy Perschetti is an assistant professor in the English department here at Cabrini.

Perschetti was an English major at Penn State University main campus and graduated in 1993.

Perschetti was very focused on school during her four years as a Nittany Lion, however she did have her share of good, clean fun.

“I used to write papers so last minute,” Perschetti said. “I would do it so much so that my friends called it ‘pulling an Amy Lee.’

Recognizing the sacrifice her parents were making in order for her to go to college helped Perschetti maintain her focus.

“I loved to party,” Perschetti said. “However, I was the first person on both sides of my family to have a residential college experience, so I was always careful to get only A’s and B’s out of respect for my parents’ sacrifice.”

Penn State is certainly a much larger campus than a Cabrini’s and there is a lot of emphasis on the Greek life community in State College.

“I wasn’t interested in that scene at all,” Perschetti said. “I always found it sexist and kind of disgusting, although I know that isn’t everyone’s experience with it.”

Dr. Mary Harris is the dean for academic affairs here at Cabrini. Harris had a completely different experience with greek life at Ursinus College, a campus not much bigger than Cabrini’s.

“I was in a sorority from my sophomore through senior years,” Harris said. “When I was in school 85% of all students were in Greek Life and it was where all the service and social activities took place.”

Harris was the President of the sorority in her senior year and was also involved in an inter-sorority/fraternity council with other presidents to work on policy issues with the administration.

“This was a great experience in leadership for me both within my sorority and throughout campus,” Harris said. “Since all of my friends were in my sorority, it was a great social experience as well.”

Harris earned a BA in economics with minors in finance and computer science from Ursinus in 1987. Before her days involved in greek life, Harris was also an athlete.

“I played lacrosse my freshman and sophomore year,” Harris said. “Unfortunately I was in a bad car accident in my junior year and could not play. That was of course the year we won the NCAA title!”

Harris had the opportunity to play again senior year, but opted not to due to being too busy with other obligations.

“I did love playing the sport,” Harris said. “I loved being part of a great team with all of my friends.”

Harris, like Perschetti, was very focused on school, but also made time for fun as well.

“I was a very good student and very rarely missed class,” Harris said. “I feel like I had a well balanced college experience.”

Although it was more than 30 years ago, Harris remembers the party scene quite well.

“We were allowed to have parties on campus and many times they were held in the gym with music and dancing,” Harris said. “Those were much more fun than the house parties.”

In addition to schoolwork and fun, both Perschetti and Harris worked on the side to make some extra cash.

“I worked three jobs during my college years,” Harris said. “I worked in the registrar, where we actually had to register students by hand for classes in notebooks.”

Harris also typed up financial statements for her accounting professor and typed papers, charging charged $1 per page.

“This was back when we had to use typewriters and not computers, at least for my first couple of years,” Harris said. “I was a very good typist.”

Perschetti also volunteered and worked during her years in State College.

“I did volunteer as a crisis counselor at the women’s resource center in town and I worked a lot of shifts at Ye Olde College Diner,” Perschetti said. “Those were some good times.”

Outside of Penn State and Ursinus, both typical college campus scenes, one Cabrini professor, Dr. Felicity Duncan, had an entirely different experience than what most of the Cabrini community knows.

“I attended University of Johnasseburg in South Africa,” Duncan said. “However, at the time is was called Rand Afrikaans University.”

Duncan is an assistant professor in the communication department, teaching social media courses here at the college.

After taking a year off between high school and college, Duncan studied strategic communication and graduated in 2003.

“I wasn’t involved in that much around campus,” Duncan said. “I was a commuter so and at one point I was working three part time jobs so I didn’t have a lot of time for extra curricular activities. However, I was involved in debates and public speaking on campus.”

Duncan, like many commuter students here at Cabrini, felt the stress of commuting everyday, often in a lot of traffic.

“Being a commuter was stressful because Johannesburg traffic is probably the equivalent to Los Angeles traffic,” Duncan said. “Although I did carpool with five other people, which made it fun.”

When comparing Cabrini to the University of Johnasseburg, the differences are clearly quite prominent.

Duncan now teaches at a college with about 1,300 undergraduates and 15 students in each of her classes. This comes after four years of undergrad at a university with 40,000 students and around 200 people in each class.

Additionally, the school year and how the classes are held are different as well.

“The year runs January to December, so the summer vacation is in December,” Duncan said. “There is also a lot more class time here with the model of an hour lecture everyday and four hours of homework on your own time. There, they have more of an all day class system, running the classes from nine to five.”

Despite loving their jobs and the students they interact with on a daily basis, none of them ever pictured themselves working on a college campus, at least during their undergraduate years.

“I never thought during my undergrad that I would come back to work on a college campus,” Duncan said. “I didn’t have a clear idea at all after I graduated high school of what I wanted to do, so that’s why I took a year in between.”

Perschetti had a different idea and always knew she wanted to teach. However, she never thought it would be on a college campus.

“I always felt that college teaching was well beyond me,” Perschetti said. “I am so glad I discovered I had what it took to be a college professor.”

Harris agreed adding she did not know college teaching was for her until she earned her PhD.

“Once I earned my PhD I knew that I wanted to teach in a small college, like Ursinus,” Harris said. “I knew I wanted to really get to know the students and Cabrini was a perfect choice.”

All three women look back on their four undergraduate years with a lot of positive memories.

“College was really great and I got a really good education” Duncan said. “The friendships I made are some of the strongest. My friends and I now all live in four different countries. We still manage to keep in touch and see each other once or twice a year.”

Harris agrees, adding that she made life long friends as well.

“My four years were transformational at both an intellectual level and also from a personal growth level,” Harris said. “It was definitely four of the funniest years that I spent making life long friends and creating memories that we still talk about.”

Perschetti adds that although she had a lot fun, she looks back on those four years as a time where she did a lot of soul searching.

“I spent a lot of time losing myself and even more trying to find myself,” Perschetti said. “At a large place like Penn State, there was not a lot of guidance from adults. Everyone was searching for themselves.”

Perschetti says her time at Penn State was an experience she is very happy to have had, but also one she is happy to have behind her.

“Growth is difficult and sometimes painful, but I do have wild memories,” Perschetti said. “I still have my best friend from college and we agree our forties are much more sane and productive.”

 

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