Oh Those Four Year Plans!

It’s Four Year Plan time.  Underclassmen who are transitioning to their new major advisors often come to their first meetings clutching sheets of paper laying out how they will spend their next two or three years.

These are good, up to a point. They reassure students that they can meet all requirements to graduate in four years. But the plans never pan out as indicated and that’s just fine.

Guess what? Things change including the courses your department requires and your own goals. Faculty members turn you on to new interests or you abandon a field after a shadowing experience or an internship.

Departments update their courses to reflect advances in science and technology in ways that your RSP advisor couldn’t possibly know about.

Major advisors know which courses balance each other in terms of content and time demands so they suggest packaging the mix of courses somewhat differently than your four-year plan  Required courses meet at conflicting times so you juggle things a bit.

The variables are almost endless and will become even more so as we phase in the Magis core next year. But don’t worry. Things will work out. Creighton is committed to helping students graduate in four years and faculty go to extraordinary lengths to make this possible.

So bring on the four-year plans but don’t be wedded to them.  You’ll miss the best of Creighton if you treat your plan as rigid road map through college rather than the start of your adventure.

Also have a blessed Easter. Use our mini-break to rest up for the killer weeks to the end of the semester.


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Re-thinking Your Major

By Dr. Eileen Wirth

You came to Creighton thinking you would be pre-med or something else but now you’re having second thoughts like a couple of students I met with last week.

Good for you!  It takes courage to re-think a cherished plan and now is the perfect time to do it, especially if you are a freshman or a sophomore.  As you start to plan your fall classes, ask your advisor to help you assess your prospects for success on your current path. If you think you should change it, here are some good steps to take.

•Think about what you enjoy doing and what careers or majors these activities suggest.  Go online, check out these majors and ask friends what they are like.

• Contact a faculty member in each department you are considering to learn more. Could you see yourself enjoying computer science or history or finance? What might these majors lead to after graduation?

•Ask the EDGE to arrange a job shadowing experience. I talked to one student who changed her major based on this. She could have spent three years preparing for something she would have hated but she’s dodged that bullet. Whew!

If you’re a freshman, rejoice that Creighton requires you to focus on Core because you haven’t wasted any time or courses this year.  You should end the year with at least 30 hours that meet requirements no matter what you major in or which college you choose.

Next fall, take at least one course in your possible new major, maybe two if you’re pretty confident you’ve found the right field. At worst you’ll have an elective or two; at best you’ll be happily en route to your major and declaring it during the year.

If you are torn between two fields, check out how happy friends are with their classes as well as research and internship opportunities. You might even (God forbid) sample what students say about the teachers in both departments on “Rate My Professor” to see which major you might prefer. We know you all do it anyhow!!!

Good luck!

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Salvaging Midterm Disasters

By Dr. Eileen Wirth

             Today I will meet with a very nice, hardworking student who badly blew a midterm. The student didn’t challenge the painfully low midterm grad but wants help doing better so we’ll develop a plan to salvage the rest of the course..


We’ll go over the exam and I’ll offer extra help. Extra credit opportunities should do the rest. I have every confidence that this student will end up okay in my course because people with this type of an attitude almost always do.

While it pains me to give a D or an F at midterm, I’m glad we are forced to give students like this a wake-up call while there is still time to salvage a course. It’s not unusual for students to raise their final grades one or two levels just by figuring out where they have been going wrong and focusing on improvement.

This student is not alone in my course. Several others also had terrible midterms. However I have yet to hear from them. While I am happy to help any student who requests it, students must ask for the extra help, not expect me to seek them out.  They’re in college not middle school.

There’s no disgrace in struggling in a course. Only a handful of students make it through college without suffering through a few such situations just as very few people make it through life without suffering setbacks. The trick is to learn from the problems and grow from the struggles as my student almost certainly will today.

Professors respect students who accept responsibility and seek help just as employers will later. They see such requests (if made without whining) as evidence of maturity and a desire to improve. On the flip side, never pout and suggest that a poor grade merely represents a teacher’s unfounded opinion. BAD MOVE.

So if you got a terrible midterm grade, contact your professor TODAY and turn that course around.  Redemption is still possible but only if you seek it. Good luck!

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Feeling Awful During Midterms

By Dr. Eileen Wirth

            There’s nasty stuff going around campus during midterms,  just when all of us can least afford to get sick. For the past couple of weeks I’ve gotten many emails like these:

Hi Dr. Wirth – Sorry I can’t make it to class because I feel awful…

Hi Dr. Wirth—I hate to miss class but I’ve got strep and I’m still contagious…

Dear Dr. Wirth—I threw up twice last night. I hope I’ll be better by Thursday …

            It’s obvious these students aren’t faking because they often look half dead when they return to class. Professors are not immune from illness either. A member of my department was hospitalized last week; now he’s trying to figure out how to cover everything he missed. 

            So what do you do if you get ill during midterms? There aren’t any good answers but start by contacting your professors to see if you can take a test later in the week or even after break if you are really sick. For something major, get a doctor’s note documenting your illness.

Since midterm exams typically count heavily, you are probably terrified of what illness could do to your course grade.

            Most Creighton professors are reasonably understanding but it’s tough to reschedule a midterm. Often this requires altering a test to ensure that the late exam taker hasn’t gotten feedback from classmates. However since we all know that lots of students are genuinely ill and we hate to penalize you for something that isn’t your fault, you should at least inquire about alternatives.

            If you are still healthy, try to stay that way. Wash your hands frequently, drink lots of liquids and don’t pull all nighters. Even during midterms, sleep is important. Being rested may not only make you less susceptible to the bugs going around but also help you recall all the information you’ve crammed.

            Good luck! Spring break is almost here and we’ve all earned it.


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A Year of Service Can Pay Off

By Dr. Eileen Wirth

A year ago senior Patrick Keaveny spent a lot of time in my office debating about how to best use his multi-faceted degree in news, computer graphics and programming. Today he’s volunteering for Jesuit Refugee Services in Johannesburg, South Africa programming its website.

Another spring grad, Christina Moore, a public relations-theology major, is volunteering for a church youth agency in Chicago. When she returned to campus last fall, she was glowing. She LOVED working with kids even though it was challenging. Furthermore the organization often hires former volunteers for promotional and fundraising jobs so she might find her next career step there.

Christina and Patrick are among the many recent Creighton alums spending a year or two after college serving others. They will reap lifelong rewards from doing so. Parents of seniors considering volunteering often are concerned that they are hurting their ability to compete for a good job. But I think the opposite is true.

Many seniors find their life calling through a year of volunteer service. For example one of our alums that went to Alaska with Jesuit Volunteer Corps is still there working with Native people. This summer she will welcome our Backpack Journalism team to Bethel.

Employers value such service and count it as experience. There are networks of former volunteers everyone who will assist you when you finish. Furthermore you will never be as free as you are now.

I always urge underclassmen to consider a year of service as a possibility. This means applying for programs in the fall of your senior year so do some research as a junior. Try sampling what a year of service might be like on a spring or fall break service trip. Talk to classmates who will be going all over the country in a couple of weeks and apply for trips next year.

Even if you didn’t come to Creighton concerned about service or social justice, hopefully we are spoiling you – for life.

And God bless all you seniors who accept those scary offers you might be weighing right now.

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Looking for the Clues to Your Life

By Dr. Eileen Wirth

Two delightful freshmen stopped in this week, both looking for clues to their paths in life.  It was like they had started a detective novel and wanted to cheat by finding out the ending but life doesn’t work like this.  It’s always a work in progress with surprises around the corner.

However to ease the pressure of NOT KNOWING what you should do during the next three years, start searching for clues about who you are, where certain paths might lead and how those fit together for YOU.

There’s no single answer for what’s right or wrong for most of us, just varying degrees of comfort with a variety of options.

What are you good at? What are your passions, not just what courses do you do well in? You might be good at math but you LOVE making music. Could you combine the two? Allow yourself to dream. Just don’t do anything foolish that will eliminate options later and you’ll be fine.

Creighton has amazing faculty in just about every field that can give you insights into options and opportunities. They can suggest things that are developing that might create exciting careers in a couple of years. I’ve had seniors get jobs that didn’t exist when they were freshmen.

The EDGE is a great starting place for discussing your dreams and shadowing people in various careers.  Get acquainted with these fine people if you aren’t already connected with them.

Get involved in pre-professional student groups that expose you to possible careers. I KNEW journalism was for me when I stumbled into the student paper.

Above all don’t try to decide the outcome too soon. The detectives in my beloved mysteries never solve the crime when they rule out evidence too soon.

Your job is even more challenging because our world is changing so fast. If you try to lock in a plan NOW, you may relieve your anxiety but lose the opportunity to write a more exciting story for your life.

It’s tough but try to view this as an adventure. Good luck!

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Stash the Phone During Class

By Dr. Eileen Wirth

Before you head to class, stash your cell phone in your backpack or purse so you won’t be tempted to check it. Any messages can wait an hour.

Last week I was intensely engaged in a lecture when a student abruptly headed for the door, cell phone visibly in hand. She had done the same thing the class before.
This time I interrupted my lecture to stop her. “Excuse me, I don’t allow students to leave class. It says so in the syllabus.” Reluctantly she returned to her seat, cell phone out to address some presumably urgent text. “And you’ll have to put the phone away or give it to me.” The unhappy young woman complied and I tried to regain my train of thought.

The situation embarrassed me and I hope it embarrassed her but unfortunately something like this happens every semester; it drives me crazy.

People, including students, have become slaves to their digital devices. At movies, some people keep one eye on the screen, the other their phone. Why pay $7.50 to a theater if you’re going to do this?

Now apply this logic to the cost of attending Creighton classes. Aside from being extremely rude and disruptive to your professors and classmates, you are throwing away money.
Attending class is your job and your professors are your supervisors. Would you check your phone during a meeting at work then leave while your boss was talking in order to respond to a text or voice mail? Not if you plan to keep your job very long.

Most classes last an hour and 15 minutes and very few messages can’t wait that long. If you’re expecting an emergency message, tell your professor and sit by the door. Otherwise concentrate on class. You might learn something.

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By Dr. Eileen Wirth

Happy Founder’s Week when we celebrate our Jesuit identity and honor students and employees who exemplify such buzzwords as Cura Personalis and Magis – roughly caring for others and excellence.

To get the most out of this week, I hope you will join me in thanking some of the people who exemplify the best of Creighton. Lots of them wear hoodies and jeans instead of suits and will especially appreciate YOUR recognition since they aren’t likely to stand in front of any convocations to receive plaques.

So here’s a partial list of MY Founder’s Week honorees:

•To Carolyn Devers and Cora Straight, our Hitchcock Communication Arts Building custodians, who not only keep our building clean but brighten our early mornings, alert us to problems and keep an eye out for things students have lost. A shout out for all our unsung friends in Facilities Management! Pick your own favorites and let them know.

•To Danny – everyone’s favorite Skutt Student Center lunch area custodian.

•To our Public Safety officers who do a lot more for us than hand out parking tickets and to the grounds crews who clear our walks on the coldest and snowiest mornings.

•To our department A.A.’s (especially JM&C’s peerless Nichole Jelinek) who quietly solve so many problems for faculty and students.

•To RAL’s ever-helpful librarians.

•To our Jesuits, the heart and soul of Creighton, and the staff of St. John’s Church for their extra efforts during weeks like these.

My list could go on and on. But this week, PLEASE pick a few of the people who make Creighton a special place for YOU and let them know this. It might mean as much to them as a plaque at a luncheon. And you will be practicing Cura Personalis yourself when you do this.

Enjoy the week. I hope it reminds you why our blood runs Blue!

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Stay Fit and Have Fun

By Dr. Eileen Wirth


It’s basketball season at Creighton – and not ONLY in the Big East. Intramurals are perfect for everyone from people who just like shooting hoops with their friends to those who miss competing like they did in high school.

If you act promptly, you might still be able to get involved in some pretty exciting action at KFC by joining a team that your friends have registered with Campus Recreation.

But even if you have missed basketball sign up, Campus Recreation offers a wide array of other intramural sports including some that don’t register until Feb. 27. Go to the Campus Recreation website for details. This could be one of the best things you do for yourself, even academically.

Sound odd?

Here’s what an expert, Dr. Tom Baechle, chair of Exercise Science says:
“Staying fit as a college student can be the difference in your day to day life while at college, and in the years to come. Why would I tell students to exercise? Because exercise can do all of these things (and much more): feel good, look good, feel productive – be productive, helps increase energy levels, makes your brain function better, boosts your immune system, helps you sleep better, can help boost academic performance and most importantly it can help decrease stress, decrease fat weight and increase muscle mass… improving the body’s efficiency.

We have two gyms on campus, with help from either the EXS Department and Campus Recreation to help learn how to use equipment, set up specific programs to your needs, there is really no excuse not to exercise. Try to establish routines, eat healthy, GET MOVING … take the stairs versus elevators, try to exercise with a friend, get people together and join an intramural team.”

Sometimes I chat with students who are tired and depressed and struggling in class. They never find time to stay fit or to take good care of themselves. I always suggest that they head to the gym.
You can’t afford NOT to work out because there’s a strong relationship between fitness and performance in all areas of life. A good workout boosts your energy while relieving stress. You’ll feel soooo much better when you leave the gym than when you came – ready to tackle even the toughest assignment.

Even if you hate team sports and have painful memories of being picked last in middle school, you can keep fit and have fun with individual activities. Better yet, find an exercise partner and chat while you do something aerobic. One of my best friends and I have been doing this twice a week for more than 20 years. We’re not sure how we would have survived raising our teens without it.

You might even want to give team sports another try since intramurals are mostly for fun and community building. In addition employers love evidence that you are a well-rounded team player. Simply being ON an intramural team can signal this. No one will ask how many points you scored!

So check out a wonderful way to shed the stress of philosophy papers and hours in Bio lab. An intense IM game of hoops might even improve your ability to score well on that next Chem quiz.

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Don’t Delay Schedule Changes

By Dr. Eileen Wirth
Welcome back!

OMG! You’ve been here less than a week and already your Online Advisor is reminding you that you are running out of time to change your schedule. Just look at how close we are to these key dates:

  • Tuesday: last day to add a class
  • Thursday: last day to drop a class
  • Feb. 13: last day to apply for Pass/No Pass status
  • March 24: last day to withdraw from a class with a grade of W (as opposed to a C or lower – we won’t go there)

Sadly many students try to make such changes after these deadlines and are frustrated when administrators turn them down. I’ve had students come into my office in tears but there’s not much we faculty can do to help if you’ve missed the deadline.
Since today is a critical day, take a few minutes to decide if you really WANT to change your schedule and if so, why. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Are you happy with your chosen path overall?
  • Are you thinking of switching to a new major?

Why are you thinking of dropping a course? If it’s the professor, how easy will it be to switch sections or wait a semester?  Can you afford to cut back those hours?

Before you make any decisions about a new major, try to talk to either your advisor or a faculty member who can help you sort out your concerns about your current major and information about your prospective field. If you aren’t ready to commit to a new path, try to take courses that will fulfill requirements for both your current and prospective majors.  This gets harder the more core you complete. Juniors just about have to select a major to graduate on time.

A final caution: Just note that tomorrow (Tuesday, the 21st) is the deadline for ADDING a class so if you need hours to replace something you plan to drop, do it NOW to avoid trauma and tears.

Good luck! No one said this would be easy.

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