Category Archives: career and life

How much is enough? Truth about accomplishment

By Nikea Ulrich ’17

“Overachiever” is a label I get constantly. The connotation of the term in high school was one of mild disdain, but it has since then, in some respects, morphed into astonishment and appreciation. Truth be told, I don’t know which response I favor. No matter what way you look at it, “overachiever” sets an intrinsic expectation: an expectation for continued success and accomplishment.

This expectation is something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. Of course, there are different types of expectations: those I place on myself and those that come from others within academia and society as a whole.  I am fortunate that others see high potential in me and have so much faith in me; my gratitude goes beyond words. But that is just it: I am uncomfortable shedding light on my inner struggles because I feel like I should always be grateful for the experiences and recognition I have gotten. No one seems to mention the added stress and expectation that comes with notable accolades. Granted, a lot of it comes from my own personal issue of comparing myself to others, of fearing disappointment and failure. I have worried in the past that I wanted to achieve because I felt like I had to achieve. So, how do you get out of the cycle of comparing your success to others when you are one such person to whom others seem to compare themselves?

Take high school, for example. The teacher is handing out the graded tests, the classroom atmosphere is filled equally with relief and dismay, and the first question most students ask their neighbor is: “What did you get?” It’s a simple question, but in my own experience, it’s a loaded one. It didn’t matter how vaguely I answered the question. If someone found out they scored higher than I did, they had somehow “truly succeeded.” Conversely, if I had scored higher, I heard “of course you did” as a retort. Maybe this is commonplace for every valedictorian in high school, but the expectation for always being exceptional has affected and continues to affect me.

Fast forward to college. The resume says Goldwater Scholar, DAAD Undergraduate Scholar and Young Ambassador, Fulbright Fellow, and first author on a research publication, among other things. I have worked my butt off, and I have been fortunate to have the amazing opportunities I have had.

However, it doesn’t mean that they came easy for me. The label “overachiever” makes me cringe inside because in my view, such perception diminishes the work involved during the process. It is as if those accomplishments were going to happen anyway, regardless of what I did, or that they were somehow effortless. This is not true.

Image result for trophyI think that sometimes the inherent struggles associated with accomplishment are overlooked and those that have found what people may deem as “great success” don’t share them for fear of showing weakness. Another possibility is that I represent a minority of those who feel this way. But, that doesn’t mean I am weak! In fact, I have started to view things a little differently: is something a true accomplishment if there is no struggle involved? Challenge is an integral part of success! For example, during my study abroad experience in Germany spring of 2016, I took a master’s course through the Max Planck Institute of Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg. It was a completely new level of academic rigor for me, and I struggled so much that I honestly didn’t think I would make it through the course. But I did, and wow did I learn a lot! I felt so accomplished upon the course’s completion and so proud. In retrospect, the struggle was definitely worth it.

Personally, I love challenges. I love being academically pushed and tested. I seem to thrive off busy schedules and coffee-filled mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Of course, a daily dose of chocolate and a nice run outside are also needed.  Work doesn’t always come easy to me, and I don’t always accomplish what I set out to do. I struggle too, and thank goodness for that!

So when does the bar stop rising, when do the expectations plateau? I hope never, so long as the expectations are from within myself and not dictated by others. How much is enough? Well, for me, I know that I will always feel the need to do more and to be more. Imposter syndrome is a common companion, but if anything, I am starting to feel pride in my accomplishments. It comes down to feeling pride in my work rather than in my reputation. Lastly, I have begun to appreciate and understand the advice from Daniell Koepke: “Let go of the judgement you have about what you should be or could be doing, and today, allow yourself to simply be…Quiet the voice telling you to do more and be more, and trust that in this moment, who you are, where you are at, and what you are doing is enough.”1

1Koepke, Daniell. Internal Acceptance Movement. Tumblr, 23 June 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.



Confessions of a Book Hoarder

By Maddie Caso ’17

Reblogged from

My name is Maddie, and I am a book addict. I have about 300 babies. They are all meticulously organized on my bookshelf and around my room. On the shelf, they’re alphabetically by author’s last name. To the left of my bed, there’s the VIP section, consisting of my beloved Harry Potter collection and Game of Thrones books and a vinyl Drogon, still in the box. To the left of the VIP is my historical fiction section, in chronological order, starting with Eleanor of Aquitaine and ending with Elizabeth I. Finally, we move into the classics section, once again arranged alphabetically by author’s last name. And we’ve come full circle.

Image result for book hoarderExcept, I forgot to mention there’s a stack of books right next to my bookshelf, waiting patiently to be read. I can’t help but feel bad at how long they sit there. Every time I make my way to my To Be Read pile, I imagine that they sit there and silently scream, “Pick me, please! I’ve been sitting here unread for 6 months! When will it be my turn?”

Alright, I have a bit of a problem. I love to read, and I always have, but over time, I’ve started to buy books just to have them in my collection. Yes, I will get around to reading them…eventually, but my budget does not agree with my addiction. And neither does my mom.

It’s gotten so bad that I’ve had to hide all of my Barnes & Noble giftcards so that I don’t buy more books. I manage, for the most part, during the school year, but when I come home, it becomes harder and harder to resist the lure that bookstores have over me. Don’t tell my mom, but I’ve been in San Diego for three weeks and have already bought 5 books, and read 3 of them.

So what do you do when you hoard your books? Set yourself a goal. Read X number of books from the TBR pile, then buy ONE book. Repeat until your TBR pile is manageable. Read books from your local library. You don’t have to buy them, but you still get the immense satisfaction of reading a book.

If you are a book addict, fear not. There are ways you can curb your addiction, and the first step is admitting that you have a problem.

See Maddie’s other advice in her post “How to Read the Books You’ve Already Bought.”

Fire Station and Campus

by Claire DeLaval ’17

Claire DeLaval was a finalist in the 2017 Bailey Oratorical competition. This year’s prompt was: “At the heart of the liberal arts is civic engagement: How can we use the values of our liberal arts education to heal divides in our nation and world?”

I love my life. This semester I’m taking all politics and economics courses, like Human Rights and International Political Economy. Once I’m finished with my day on campus, I head down to the fire station next to Johnny’s, Huntingdon Regional District 5. Three nights a week I have to be there by six o’clock to do my fire classes: four hours of classroom or practical skills all about how to lay fire hose in the bed of a truck so that you can pull it out quickly and smoothly; how to rescue a person from a vehicle; how to fightImage result for fire hose fire in its various forms. Being a volunteer firefighter in Huntingdon is just as important to me as being a student of the liberal arts at Juniata, but sometimes I feel like, in my daily life, I have to cross a divide between these two spaces I care about. I’m sure I’m not the only person here who’s experienced that–the feeling of belonging, somehow, in multiple places that are divided from each other. And on a societal level, it’s clear that we’re struggling with how to live in a divided America. Hillbilly Elegy, the memoir by J.D. Vance, was chosen by the New York Times as one of the “six books to help understand Trump’s win.”

For me, living in both these worlds has been a test of my values. I have learned that the values of one person’s reality will not always be a road map to understanding another person’s reality. I have had to suspend my reflex for quick judgment, practice open-mindedness, and most of all, confront my assumptions. Let’s confront the assumptions in tonight’s question.

“How can we use the values of our liberal arts education to heal divides in our nation and world?” I think we cannot put our liberal arts education to real use if we don’t start by seeing and second-guessing our assumptions. Historically, and even in the writing of this prompt, the liberal arts seem arrogant. Are we assuming too much? Until we confront our assumptions–examine each and decide whether or not it can stand–we are not ready to engage in civic action.

First, let’s examine the assumption that everyone wants these divides to be healed. There are clear divides between the fire station as it exists in the community and our college, up on the hill. But, since I started, my presence has created new divides in the firehouse itself. I’m the only one of us not from Pennsylvania. I’m the only woman. Not long after I started, the guys found out I was a politics student. I knew I was the only one in the station with my political views, but I value honesty, and so I was honest. We had arguments about Benghazi, and emails, and conspiracy theories. I told them I thought there was no way Trump would win. I heard a lot about that after the election.

Despite all our differences, the guys have let me in and we all get along. But we are firmly divided along political lines. We talk about politics in the station, but none of us is going to heal this divide and it seems no one really wants it to be healed, because we would each rather coexist with this divide than change our political beliefs. I find some of their views morally outrageous. They think I am an out-of-touch leftie. Sometimes, I wonder if I am. In electing Donald Trump, our country and our friends chose the candidate campaigning against intellectual elitism, against unity, and indirectly, against the values of the liberal arts. The changes people have experienced in the United States and the world have been a long time coming but the nationalism, racism, and separatism that define the world’s current divisions have been, in part, reactions against ideas that the liberal arts values, and against the condescending assumption of liberal elites that they know best. For us to assume that divides must be healed before different people can coexist is a critical mistake. If we demand that these divides be healed before we engage with people different from ourselves, we are walling ourselves in.

We have examined the first assumption of the question (that everyone wants the world’s divides to be healed), and it is up to each of us to decide whether or not that assumption can stand. The second assumption of the question is that we are owed a special ascendancy because we are students of the liberal arts. How can we–distinguished from others by our prestigious education, which we are lucky or talented or rich enough to receive–use our values to alleviate the disunion? It is dangerous to assume that if we only find the right strategy, stringing together the right parts of what we have been taught, we will be what is needed. If we allow this particular assumption to stand, we fail to live up to our liberal arts values by failing to face the world’s discrimination, exclusion, and inequality of opportunity. In the words of bell hooks, an academic and activist whose life’s work has been to challenge assumptions, “If we want a beloved community, we must stand for justice, have recognition for difference without attaching difference to privilege.” We students are in this room because, somewhere along the way, we were privileged enough to attain an expensive liberal arts college education. When we graduate our experiences here, in our classrooms, in our labs, on our sports fields–these will have shaped our educations and they will set us apart. We will be different from the 68 percent of Americans who did not have a bachelor’s degree in the 2014 census. Our educations may allow us to do things other people cannot do. But we must not ever forget that the differences between people–whether it is the degrees we have, the colors of our skin, or the bathrooms we wish to use–do not make us better than each other.

The third assumption in the question is that we are the only people with liberal arts values. Our fire station is full of misogyny. But at the same time, the guys are committed to making sure I succeed as a firefighter. They encourage me to take leadership roles. Last year, when I told our Chief that I was applying for a Forest Service training program in California to get certified in fighting wildfires, he did everything he could to help me train for the fitness test. The crew I trained with in California made the news, and for a few weeks Chief kept forwarding videos he found online of me training in California, because he was proud of me. The guys encourage me to be the best firefighter I can not because they have read bell hooks or even because they spend their free time thinking about workplace discrimination, but simply because they believe a woman can do the same physical job just as well. They believe this even though they laugh at rape jokes in my presence. The complicated thing about values is that other people can share your values without sharing all of your values; other people can share some of your values while also having values that are completely antithetical to other things that you value. People do not have to be us to be good people. People with liberal arts degrees are not the only people with good and useful values.

Civic engagement is indeed at the heart of the liberal arts. From its beginning in late Classical and Hellenistic Greece, the liberal arts education was formed around the subjects considered obligatory for a free person who would participate in civic life. I argue that before engaging in civic action, we must challenge our own assumptions, and that this is best done by getting an outside view of our world. If divides are going to be healed, anyone can lead the way. Let us be open-minded. Our liberal arts do not preordain us to heal the world, but they may be our best tool in civic action. Let us remember what we have been taught. We can take note of opposing views without compromising our own values. We can listen to what others think without forgetting or abandoning what we think. We will not necessarily be the people who heal our divided nation and world. Let us have faith, and remember that our values are strongest when tested by the challenge of reckoning with our assumptions.

Professional Warnings

by Belle Tuten

After my independent study student left my office the other day, I realized that I had just done some serious gender-specific advising. She is going off to graduate school next year, and we’re working to get her prepared in terms of her research and language skills. Yesterday, though, our conversation turned to something else: “that talk” that I wish somebody had given to me back long ago.

I was 23, and newly married. I was at a major conference, for the first time in my graduate career. I went to an evening reception where I ran into some other grad students that I was acquainted with, and they introduced me to their senior professor. I liked him immediately: he was funny and charming.

This particular conference is known for its Saturday night dance, which goes until 1 or 2 in the morning. (You haven’t lived until you’ve seen around 600 medievalists letting their hair down on the dance floor.) As I left the reception to go back to my room, the professor I had met followed me. He asked if he could “escort me to the dance” (with a knowing look). Those who know me know that I would rather be dipped in battery acid than go to a dance, so it was easy to turn him down. Still, as I went back to my room, I was kind of rattled. He was at least 30 years my senior, and also married.  Had I imagined that knowing look? A few weeks later, I asked a friend. Sure enough — all his female grad students knew never to be alone in his office with him.

There’s one in every graduate program — at least there was, and I imagine there still is: one professor (usually white, male, middle aged) who thinks of the new female graduate students as his personal sexual smorgasbord. He might actually date them, as in ask one particular person out and see her consistently, then move on to another. He might also simply make suggestive comments, or quietly suggest to a student that she might wear nicer clothes or try to “look pretty.” Now that there is something called “sexual harassment,” he won’t often grope or proposition, but he’ll let women know that he’s on the prowl, whether he’s the charming or the creepy version. (Please note, he can also be she; the relationships may not be heterosexual. My observations are based on experiences I have observed, which were male-female.)

What do you say to a young woman who might encounter this kind of thing? First of all that she’s not imagining it, and if she feels uncomfortable, to listen to her feelings and stay away from him. If possible, don’t get him as an advisor. Don’t talk to him, unless in a professional setting and preferably with others present. And be straightforward: if you’re creeped out, speak up — to trusted faculty, to friends — and also to him. Take somebody with you if necessary. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Image result for male professor sexual harassmentI wish I could say that I saw some romantic relationships between professors and students turn out well. I know that they do turn out well sometimes. But the difference in power is so great, and the potential fallout so serious, that I can’t say that I could ever encourage such a relationship.  Now that we think of romantic relationships as partnerships, the attempt to partner with someone who is pretty much your boss can go terribly wrong.

Waiting to Have a Family

By Megan Neville, Educational Services Assistant for Humanities and Budget Officer for NSF & GCAT Grants at Juniata College.

Tick, tick, tick.  Can you hear that?  What is that? It grows louder and louder as my pulse increases.  Oh yes, the perpetual biological clock; constantly ticking away.  Growing louder in my ears, especially now as I recently hit the 40 mark.  Do I feel 40 years old?  No, no. That doesn’t seem possible. 27 was just a few years ago.  Oh wait.

Let’s face reality:  I am 40.  I put my career first before a family; just as several of my fellow female colleagues did as well.  I thought that was the right thing to do at the time. I had so much to do, to see.  I set goals for myself that I wished to accomplish.  Now I wonder… Did I make the right decision?  Will I pay the consequences for being an older wife or mother should that opportunity arise?  These are just a small sample of the millions of questions that float through my head throughout the day.  I now have quickly have come to recognize the “look” from my mother, my older friends and acquaintances that wonder why I’m not married and don’t have children yet.

So, what gives?  Why are women delaying their opportunity to have children until later?  Could it be that women as a whole, myself included, are opting to choose career over family?  Or is the family option still ever-present, just placed on the back-burner?  “There are so many factors involved.  First off, more young people are using effective contraceptives…that weren’t used in younger women initially.  More importantly, women are obtaining higher degrees and taking more time to achieve career goals, which means they are putting off having their first child until later,” (Kelly, 2016).

Women are finding that if they do wait to start a family, they potentially increase their own working class status through drive and diligence; working up the corporate ladder. Which in return, theoretically increases their economic situation for, not only themselves, but also in planning for their future.  Furthermore, by carving the path for others to follow, women who wait to begin their families are often in a higher position in which they may create “or set policies that they and their female employees would benefit from, like offering paid maternity and paternity leave or allowing flexible work schedules,” (Kincaid, 2015).  “Women want to accomplish specific goals, to have certain experiences, to be in a relationship with the right partner, to be financially and emotionally stable, or any combination of these factors,” (Gregory, 2007).

Looking back at my life, I’ve been very fortunate to have had incredible experiences where I’ve traveled all over the United States, traveled internationally, grown within the field of higher education by helping students and administrators, obtained an advanced degree (still weighing the options of pursuing my doctorate degree) and have made countless connections and friends all over the world that work within education.  I would never trade any of these experiences as they all have brought me to where I am now.  Yet, I question, am I missing out on the family factor?  A majority of my friends have had children and they are balancing being brilliant, working mothers.  They seem to have it together.  Would I as an older potential wife or mother be able to balance as easily as someone who might be younger?

As Gregory (2007) explains, women that begin families at a later age have several benefits; “There is a stronger family focus, as women greatly appreciate their children and the opportunity to have a family.  It is a desired factor.  Self-confidence is present as a result of accomplishments and self-confident women can be especially able advocates and models for kids.  Studies continue to show that older mothers could potentially have fewer health issues and add life longevity.  In addition, older mothers are often much more stable financially than their younger counterparts, which therefore reduces stress levels in both parenting as well as marriage.”

There are disadvantages that must be examined as well.  The most obvious reduced fertility rates.  It is a proven fact that women’s fertility rates begin to fall at the age of 32.  It decreases again between the ages of 35 to 37 and falls again sharply after the ages of 40 to 44.  However, fertility is not impossible.  In addition, alternative options such as adoption and in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be possible.  Kincaid (2015) writes, “Miscarriages and a number of complications due to pregnancy, including gestational diabetes and high blood pressure are more common for women over the age of 35.”  However, multiple doctors have stated that with monitored, frequent check-ups, healthy pregnancies may be achieved.  Gregory (2007) goes on to say that another disadvantage of being an older parent is having smaller families.  Due to the fact that women start later, they are limited in the number of children to which they may give birth.  Many couples often stop with just one.  Finally, there is another obvious factor that “older mothers could have lower energy levels.  However, many new parents respond by working harder to stay fit,” (Gregory, 2007).

We can clearly see there are pros and cons to both sides of the story.  Either way, women, as a whole, are having children at a later age.  This is largely due to the fact that career paths are chosen first and personal and professional goals are set to be accomplished.  Is this a bad thing?  In my humble opinion, not in the least.  Women are becoming more independent and self-sufficient, finding that they can live a fulfilled and successful life as a single.  However, for others, family life continues to be desired.  So, the pinnacle, personal question comes into play:  Would I be ready to be a wife or mother?  After conducting the research for this blog and with careful debate, I definitely would consider, with the right partner.  Keeping true to my stance since I was a young girl, I never give up hope and I never let anyone tell me that my dreams or goals cannot be achieved.  We shall see…



Gregory, Elizabeth, 2007, Ready: Why Women Are Embracing The New Later Motherhood, Basic Books, Pgs. 8-10, 12-26.

Kelly, Johnna, 2016, American women waiting longer to have kids,, accessed 1/27/17.

Kincaid, Ellie, 2015, Business Insider: Why having kids later is a really big deal, Accessed 1/27/17.