How to email professors about finding undergraduate research

Looking for undergraduate research opportunities? Here’s a good Quora question about emailing professors. https://www.quora.com/How-do-professors-view-cold-emails-asking-for-research-opportunities
I’ll go over some of the top answers and analyze them. They all make different, meaningful points about this process.
The answer from Shaad M. Ahmad, Assistant Professor at Indiana State University is one you should especially pay attention to:
 
I cannot speak for all professors, but I will tell you how I view cold emails. I tend to receive two types of cold emails asking for research opportunities and have a very distinct response to each:
 
Emails that are obvious cut-and-paste generic messages sent out to a large number of professors on the slim hope that someone may express an interest: These, I utterly ignore. I am not interested in students or postdocs who are not interested and passionate about the research questions that my lab is investigating.
Emails sent by individuals that demonstrate that they have looked into my research interests, read my previous publications, and are actually interested in my lab’s research program: I am likely to actually respond to the senders of these emails. That is no guarantee of my necessarily accepting them into my research program, but at the very least, we will have begun a dialogue.
 
This answer is very truthful and shows how important it is to email each professor one at a time. NEVER email more than one professor at a time, whether through different emails or BCC. If they see another professor is emailed, they’ll be insulted.



 
Then there is an answer from William Beeman, Professor and Chair, University of Minnesota, which I will make comments on.
 
These emails generally are ignored. They are often bulk emails sent out to hundreds of people without regard to any individual’s personal research interests or their ongoing research.
 
Even if you do everything right, you might be ignored, for reasons such as: lab is full, you’re not suited for the lab, etc. I just talked about how you should never send a research interest email to more than one professor, so the above scenario should not apply. Below is a very good example for a PhD candidate on how to join a professor’s lab. In your case, saying that you are an undergraduate student majoring in XYZ and attaching a resume is good enough. It is best to mention the professor’s prior research and show how you can use your skills in their lab, as this demonstrates interest in their lab specifically and not others’ labs.
 
Here is a much better approach in the sample inquiry below:
 
______________________________
 
Dear Professor X (name the professor)
 
I am completing my undergraduate studies and have read your work on (X subject). It has inspired my interest in a research career in your field, particularly in the (X specialty area—named specifically). I was especially inspired by your article(s) (books) (NAME THEM SPECIFICALLY). I plan to apply for the Ph.D. program at your university, and am writing to ask about the possibility of working with you if I am admitted.
 
(Then list your research experience, your credentials, etc. and attach a curriculum vitae)
 
We then have a nicer professor who understands the struggle of finding research.
 
Jason M Pittman, Professor of Computer Security & Computer Science
 
A2A:
I’m open to cold emails as long as I can tell that the message is an honest attempt to connect and begin a dialogue.
 
I think a semi-closed door policy on cold engagements is dangerous insofar as new researchers (especially undergrads) do not always have the means to engage otherwise.
 
But some professors aren’t as nice. We then have this professor from Germany that has some pretty high standards. To be honest, professors’ personalities are also important. You two have to have a professional synergy. Personally, I would never want to work with this professor because I might accidentally offend her by breathing. That being said, she makes some good points among her contempt. I’ll comment on how you can deal with difficult professors using her answers.
 
Brigitte Mathiak
It is very hard to slip through the Spam barrier.
 
Wow, rude much? If you use your school email you should have no troubles with your emails being marked as spam. Look to fellow students for comfort and rejection support if a professor calls you a “spammer” and you were making a good-faith effort in the appropriate way.
 
Rule 1: Be very specific
 
Looking for an adviser on my Master thesis on XYZ
 
Tell them you’re an undergrad and what you’re majoring in.
 
Rule 2: Be very short
 
I will scan the subject and maybe first line of the email. Others have other email settings.
 
Yes, be concise and straight to the point. Professors don’t have much time to waste.
 
Rule 3: Tell me what you want and how much it will cost me.
 
Looking for a research project… I would assume that you are asking to be hired in some way. If I do not happen to have money, I immediately stop reading.
 
Doesn’t really apply; you don’t need to do a cost-benefit analysis because you’re not a PhD student.
 
Can I visit your lab?… Sounds fishy. What do you want?
 
As a general rule of thumb, just don’t ask for things you’re not entitled to. Visiting a lab will be a burden for some professors so just don’t. Let the suspense of what your future lab looks like arouse your passion for research.
 
Can we do research together?… You clearly don’t know how high-quality research works, so nope.
 
Some professors are elitist and don’t want lowly undergraduates in their labs. In that case just forget about them, Cee-Lo Green style. (jk don’t cuss at or insult them)
 
Do you offer research opportunities?… Nope. Actually, I am not clear on what that means exactly. Do you mean research job opportunities? Opportunities to do research? Topics for a thesis? Would I want to be adviser on a thesis? This is not me being confused, this is students seeming to think that this means whatever they happen to think it means.
 
Just be clear you want to join their lab. Assume they offer research opportunities and don’t ask indirect questions.
 
Rule 4: Don’t insult me. (Happens more often than you think)
 
Good example:
 
Sub: Looking for primary adviser on Master thesis
 
Dear Prof. Mathiak,
 
I am looking for a Master topic with regards Usability. I have read your paper “…” and would like to do something similar, but I am also open to other suggestions. Could we make an appointment? I am available …
 
Sincerely, …
 
Bad example:
 
Sub: REsearch oppurtunity
 
Dear Mr. Mathiak,
 
I have read all of your papers and I am very impressed with your academic prowess. I was wondering, if you could do research with me. I am sending you my c.v. I hope you can read OpenOffice, but I don’t believe in proprietary standards. If you can’t just send me an email and I will send you whatever format you prefer.
 
Many regards, …
 
attachment: cv.zip
 
Basically just don’t make it a pain in the @$$ for the professor to facilitate looking over your credentials and making a decision. At the end of the day, your email is asking for a part of their day and you should be very appreciative of the time they spend for you. So make it easy for them to accept you.

At the end of the day, you will get rejected by some professors, even if you do everything right. And it’s okay. Just keep on trying. They might not respond, or they might not have space in their lab, or they might need someone more qualified. In any case, don’t sweat it! You’ll fit in somewhere. Just keep trying.
 
Anyway, hope this commentary helps. Good luck with finding research!

What I’ve learned from SwiftScore 2017

Although I did not take any AP exams this year (because I am taking college classes instead), the previous two years of AP score release were nerve-wracking and I could empathize with those who could not bear to wait a second further without spasming and relapsing into full-blown bleach chugging.

Okay, I’m kidding about the bleach. But the nervousness/anxiety is certainly relatable and I just couldn’t stand others being left in the dark due to their physical location.

So here is what I did. I used EarlyScores’ source code (written in PHP) and starting a “mirror” with a different name. This helps to reduce traffic on other score checkers (which is good, considering they get so overloaded), allowing everyone to check their scores as efficiently as possible.

On the days preceding AP Score Release 2017, I spinned up a 512MB DigitalOcean droplet and used a $15 credit I found online to reduce the costs down to nothing. The cost was only $0.007/hr, so I ended up spending less than $1.50 for a server than ran for like a week or less. I figured this would be fine. Then, I posted the details on Twitter and asked people to share. Retweets did occur before the day of score release, but there were especially a lot on score release day. A good chunk of traffic came from Twitter, followed by Reddit (advertising on r/APStudents). Direct sources were word-of-mouth spreading, which was surprisingly popular. I talked with someone from China, who said they were referred by their WeChat group.

All was ready.

On the morning of, I woke up at 6am CDT (all times from here on out will be in Central Daylight Time) to see if CollegeBoard had released the scores early. Nope. I was getting worried that they had blacklisted our IP addresses. Thankfully, that was not the case. Even though I had no news to expect, I was hoping for the best. Hopefully this would work.

Around 8am, the floodgates were opened by CollegeBoard and score checking began.

Our website immediately began timing out. For an hour, I was frantically scrambling around, trying to get it to work. The website kept timing out. I thought perhaps the code got screwed up somehow? No, that wasn’t the issue.

 

Around 9am (too late unfortunately), I deployed a secondary server and that helped get people flowing. Next time, I will be sure to deploy several servers, or better yet, use a Node.js-based solution instead to handle traffic much better and so we can have a message queue system instead of a everybody-try-at-once-and-everyone-fail-at-once system.

At 11am, I deleted the secondary server and reverted back to the first server.

Believe it or not, traffic actually peaked around 11am that day; the server had began to operate very smoothly beginning around 9:30am. This means that the primary issue with scalability does not lie in people accessing SwiftScore, but rather SwiftScore accessing CollegeBoard’s AP score checking website. Since the same server handling people’s requests also handled the score checking, this didn’t go too well in the beginning. However, as overall CollegeBoard AP score demands slowed down, SwiftScore began to function better. Hence, Node.js would’ve been better. Note that there is not much we can do about the CollegeBoard website crashing; at the end of the day, score retrieval uses a scraper and there’s simply no more efficient way to gather data.


A major issue with EarlyScores’ underlying scraping mechanism is that it doesn’t support “Can’t find your AP scores” issues, “Fill out your AP Profile” prompts, and “Accept the CollegeBoard Terms and Conditions” dialogs, the latter being the most common reason someone emailed me asking for manual score checking. I ended up implementing a T&C acceptance dialog in SwiftScore’s codebase and committed the code to EarlyScores’ codebase out of courtesy and gratitude.

Oh yes, and nobody cared about SwiftScore until actual score checking day. But this image below might change your mind.
Ah yes, that’s money. Holy crap, this earned a bunch of profits. I innocently ran an AdSense ad on the website, hoping for it to earn a few bucks. I didn’t imagine it’d actually generate this much money. And I didn’t spend a cent on server costs. And yes, I used the cheapest possible DigitalOcean droplet there is.

This has taught me an important lesson: monetizing the first hour requires a much more complex system (cough cough Node.js and message queuing), but after that, such a small-scale system is actually enough to process 50,000 requests spread out over a few days.

Out of gratitude for the amount of support shown to me by people from my former high school, I am pledging most of this AdSense payout to worthy causes in my former high school (except for the Living Roof Project—I’m sorry but this would only be a drop in a bucket), so if you’re from Boyd (GO BRONCOS!!!) and you have a good reason to use $50, and $50 would be significant, I’m donating this money to you. The rest is reserved for future SwiftScore costs of operation, including possible ad-free servers.

And a thank you to EarlyScores.com and my friends who have supported my efforts. I hope to help again next year!

 

SwiftScore 2017

Every year, around the beginning of July, CollegeBoard releases millions of students’ AP scores. Since there are so many scores to process, they have no choice but to segment the country into pieces and allow certain parts of the country to check scores before others. On odd-numbered years, it starts in the Northeast and ends in the Pacific states. On even-numbered years, this pattern is reversed. However, this becomes a huge annoyance and burden for those who want to check their scores as soon as possible.

During freshman year, I used a VPN. In sophomore year, I had a server hosted in California, so I just established an SSH tunnel to there and I could see my scores. Last year, I found EarlyScores.com, which was a service that allowed users to check their scores early. Since it was open source, I quickly set up another version on my California server and voilà, it worked as well. This was a great way to allow others who didn’t want to divulge their AP password but wanted to know their AP scores quickly.

However, these services can become quite inundated very quickly, preventing effective usage of them. That’s why this year, I’ve set up SwiftScore, which is free to use. Basically, I use a cloud hosting service that charges by the hour, so I only needed to set this up a couple of days in advance and I’ll cancel it immediately after everybody can start seeing their 2017 AP scores. This allows costs to be very low; so low that I’ll absorb them and provide these services for free. So far, I’ve set up one SwiftScore instance; I cannot publicly divulge its hosting information at this time.

SwiftScore is ready to be expanded and should be very versatile to replicate if needed. If demand necessitates more servers, I will create them on the fly and they will be available when needed. In fact, we will also have manual score-checking services that check scores upon release (like literally at 7am) and send them to users, all for free. VIPs will also be able to access a special, congestion-free server if needed. In case CollegeBoard blacklists our server’s IP addresses (since this service uses a web scraper to retrieve scores), we will either make new servers or switch providers to avoid any IP range blacklisting. The entire SwiftScore system is designed to be resilient, secure, and reliable.

Interesting old history about UNT

So I found a UNT faculty member who is listed as having their office in Kendall Hall. I was like “huh?” I’ve never heard of such a hall. So I did some digging. The open space east of the BLB was the site of Kendall Hall before it was demolished to make way for the BLB, or the new home of the College of Business.

Before that, the COB was based in Sage Hall, which was called the Business Administration Building. And before TAMS was in Sage Hall, it was in Marquis Hall. Marquis Hall is now home to UNT’s International Students division, which was previously based in Kendall Hall. Interesting how the BLB displaced all of these departments.

Furthermore, I found out that Mac Park/Mac Field used to be the location of the Health Clinic before the new Chestnut Hall was built. There used to be another, older Chestnut Hall where the Rec Center now stands. Life Sciences Complex B was the former home of Masters Hall, where the Department of Chemistry was based until they got their own Chemistry Building.

Also, the Department of Computer Sciences used to be part of the College of Arts and Sciences and was based in the GAB.

Anyway, there’s a ton of interesting info that might interest history geeks like me. Check it out below!

This information was gathered from this map of UNT in 1997-1998.

Map: http://catalogarchive.unt.edu/97-98/map.pdf

UNT Map 1997-1998

Map guide: http://catalogarchive.unt.edu/97-98/mapguide.html

Pictures: http://cascampus.cas.unt.edu/


 

Buildings and Major Offices Located Within:

Administration Building

  • Board of Regents
  • Chancellor and President
  • Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
  • Vice President for Administrative Affairs
  • Controller
  • Vice President for External Affairs
  • Vice President for Finance and Business Affairs
  • General Counsel/Attorney
  • Equal Opportunity
  • Prospective Students
  • Research and Academic Grants
  • University Marketing and Communication
  • University Planning and Institutional Research
  • Graduate Dean

Advancement Center

  • Vice President for Development
  • Alumni Association
  • UNT Foundation

Art Building

  • School of Visual Arts
  • University Art Gallery

Astronomy Observatory

  • Former Missile Base
  • North of Denton on FM 2164
  • (Locust Street)

Athletic Office Building

  • Athletic administration
  • Athletic Media Services
  • Athletic Ticket Office

Auditorium Building

  • Department of English
  • Studies in the Novel
  • Student Use of English
  • University Writing Center
  • Multipurpose auditorium

Bain Hall

Named after Dr. Wilfred C. Bain, the first head of the Music Department, 1938, and first dean of the School of Music, 1946. Dr. Bain also organized the institution’s first A Cappella choir.

  • Percussion rehearsals

Biology Building

  • Department of Biological Sciences

Bruce Hall

Completed in 1948 and named after Dr. William Herschel Bruce, who served as president of the North Texas State Normal College from 1906 to 1923.

  • Residence hall

Business Administration Building

  • College of Business Administration
  • Department of Accounting
  • Department of Business Computer Information Systems
  • Center for Information Systems Research
  • Department of Finance, Insurance, Real Estate and Law
  • Department of Management
  • Department of Marketing
  • General Access Computer Labs

Chestnut Hall (named for street)

  • Environmental Ethics
  • Survey Research Center
  • UNT Institute for Behavioral and Learning Differences
  • University of North Texas Press

Chilton Hall

Named for Joshua Crittenden Chilton, who negotiated the contract with the City of Denton that established Texas Normal College and Teacher Training Institute on May 8, 1890. Served as president until 1893.

  • Adaptive Lab
  • Center for Continuing Education and Conference Management
  • Minicourse Office
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Center
  • Center for Instructional Services
  • Cooperative Education
  • School of Community Service
  • Center for Public Service
  • Institute of Anthropology
  • Department of Applied Gerontology
  • Department of Behavior Analysis
  • Department of Criminal Justice
  • Department of Rehabilitation, Social Work and Addictions
  • Department of Sociology
  • School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management
  • Media Library
  • General Access Computer Labs

Clark Hall

Named for Miss Edith L. Clark, the first dean of women, 1916-1944.

  • Residence hall

Coliseum

  • Basketball games
  • Commencements
  • Drivers Education
  • Handball courts
  • Multipurpose facility

College Inn

  • Residence hall
  • The Club at College Inn Restaurant

Crumley Hall

Named for John Jackson Crumley, president from 1893 to 1894. He is known for putting the “North” in North Texas Normal College.

  • Housing and Residence Life
  • Residence hall/Conference Center
  • Director of Business Services
  • Dining Services

Curry Hall

Named for Dr. O.J. Curry, first dean of the College of Business Administration, 1946-1974.

  • Classrooms
  • Team Labs and Tutor Labs (College of Business Administration)

Eagle Student Services Center

Named after the university’s official mascot chosen by the student body in 1922.

  • Admissions
  • Advanced Learning Center (Room 255)
  • ID Systems
  • Information Campus Operator
  • Registrar
  • Class schedules
  • Records
  • Transcripts
  • Bursar
  • Financial Aid
  • Scholarships
  • Undergraduate Admission
  • Toulouse School of Graduate Studies

Edwards Hall (named for street)

  • Emergency Administration and Planning Institute

Engineering Technology Building

  • Department of Engineering Technology

Fouts Field

Named after Theron J. Fouts who served as football coach, dean of men and director of athletics. Became football coach in 1920 and was athletic director at the time of his death in 1954.

  • Football games
  • Track meets
  • Multipurpose outdoor facility

General Academic Building

  • Academic Core Programs
  • Institute of Applied Science
  • Copy Center
  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • Department of Computer Sciences
  • Department of Geography
  • Department of Journalism
  • N.T. Daily
  • Department of Mathematics
  • Microcomputer Maintenance Shop
  • University Courses

Golf Course, Radisson Hotel Denton and Eagle Point Golf Club

Health Center

  • Clinic
  • Health Education
  • Pharmacy
  • Risk Management and Environmental Services
  • Telecommunications

Highland Hall (named for street)

  • Center for Development and Grant Support
  • TRIO Center for Student Development
  • Biofeedback Research and Training Lab
  • Center for Investigation of Talented Students

Information Sciences Building

  • Computing Center
  • Academic Computing
  • Administrative Computing
  • School of Library and Information Sciences
  • Science and Technology Library
  • General Access Computer Labs

Kendall Hall

Named for Dr. Joel Sutton Kendall who, in 1901, left the position of state superintendent of public instruction to become the principal [president] of the newly created state college, North Texas State Normal College, serving until his death in 1906.

  • Copy Center
  • Division of Aerospace Studies
  • International Studies and Programs
  • Studies Abroad Center
  • Intensive English Language Institute

Kerr Hall

For S. A. Kerr of Huntsville, vice-chairman of the Board of Regents, 1949-1967.

  • Residence hall

Language Building

  • Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures

Library Annex, 901 Precision

  • Technical Services

Lyceum, University Union

  • Multipurpose auditorium/classroom

Maple Hall (named for street)

  • Residence hall

Marquis Hall

Named for Dr. Robert Lincoln Marquis, who served as the president of North Texas State Teachers College, 1923-1934.

  • Human Resources Department
  • Institute of Petroleum Accounting
  • Internal Audit Department
  • Payroll
  • Texas Academic of Math and Science TAMS
  • NT Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts

Masters Hall

Named for W. N. Masters, long-time head of the Chemistry Department for North Texas State Teachers College.

  • Department of Chemistry

Matthews Hall

Named after Dr. James Carl Matthews, who served as the first dean of the School of Education, first vice president of the teachers college, and president of the university, 1951-1968.

  • Academy for Research and Professional Development
  • Child Development Laboratory
  • College of Education
  • Department of Teacher Education and Administration
  • Department of Technology and Cognition
  • Center for Higher Education
  • Center for Parent Education
  • National Center for School-to-Work Transition
  • Center for Study of Educational Reform
  • Texas Center for Educational Technology
  • General Access Computer Labs

Matthews Annex

Named after Dr. James Carl Matthews, who served as the first dean of the School of Education, first vice president of the teachers college, and president of the university, 1951-1968.

  • Child and Family Resource Clinic
  • Maturational Assessment Clinic

McConnell Hall

For Dr. W. Joseph McConnell, president of the teachers college and the state college, 1934-1951.

  • Residence hall/Texas Academy of Math and Science (TAMS)

Men’s Gymnasium

  • Weight room
  • Intramural basketball and volleyball
  • Women’s volleyball
  • Indoor soccer

Missile Base

  • Astronomy Observatory

Music Annex

  • Opera Rehearsal Hall
  • Recording Technology

Music Building

  • College of Music

Music Practice North

Music Practice South

Oak Street Hall (named for street)

  • Stafford Art Gallery
  • School of Visual Arts ceramics and photography program

Opera Hall

  • Faculty/Staff Fitness Program aerobics
  • Print Research Institute of North Texas

Physical Education Building

  • Faculty/Staff Fitness Program
  • Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation
  • Recreational Sports

Physical Plant Complex

  • Main Office
  • Key Control
  • Recycle Services

Physics Building

  • Department of Physics
  • Radiation Safety Office

Power Plant

Quad 2

  • Storage facility

Radisson Hotel Denton and Eagle Point Golf Club

  • Professional Development Institute PDI
  • Conference facility
  • Golf course

Science Research Building

  • Biochemistry
  • Department of Materials Science

Scoular Hall

For Dr. Florence I. Scoular, first dean of the School of Home Economics, 1946.

  • Texas Fashion Collection
  • School of Visual Arts fashion design and fibers programs

Smith Hall

Home of Station KNTU, located in the family home of J. W. Smith, business manager of the normal college and teachers college.

  • KNTU Radio

Speech/Drama Building

  • Department of Dance and Theatre Arts
  • Theatre Arts Office
  • Ticket Box Office
  • Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences
  • Speech and Hearing Clinic
  • Department of Radio, Television and Film
  • NTTV

Sports Medicine/Fitness Facility

  • Varsity sports training
  • Weight training

Stovall Hall

For Dr. Floyd Stovall, who served as director of the English Department and first dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1946.

  • Department of Dance and Theatre Arts
  • Dance Office
  • Department of Counseling, Development and Higher Education
  • Counseling and Human Development Center
  • Faculty/Staff Fitness Program – weight room
  • Center for Play Therapy

Sullivant Visitor Center

For Carroll Sullivant of Gainesville, member of the Board of Regents, 1961-1978. (open 24 hours)

  • General university information
  • Police Department
  • Parking Office

Tennis Courts, East

Tennis Courts, West

Terrill Hall

Named for Menter B. Terrill, president of the private North Texas Normal College from 1894 until it became a state normal college in 1901.

  • Center for Study of Work Teams
  • Department of Communication Studies
  • Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies
  • Department of Psychology
  • Psychology Clinic

University Services Building

  • Central Receiving
  • Claims Accounting
  • Travel
  • Payroll
  • Printing Services
  • Property and Inventory Control
  • Purchasing
  • Office Supply

University Union

  • Center for Cultural Diversity
  • Counseling and Testing
  • Information, tickets, check cashing
  • Lyceum
  • Mail Room (Intercampus mail)
  • Placement
  • Post Office Substation
  • Student Activities and Organizations
  • Student Association
  • Vice President for Student Affairs
  • Dean of Students
  • Disability Accommodation
  • Student Employment
  • Syndicate
  • Union Arts Center/Graphics
  • UNT Bookstore
  • University Program Council

West Hall

  • Residence hall

Willis Library

For A. M. Willis of Longview, member of the Board of Regents, 1965-1983, serving as its chairman from 1969 to 1983.

  • Main Library
  • Music Library
  • Archives
  • Oral History
  • Rare Book Room
  • Government Documents
  • General Access Computer Labs

Wooten Hall

For Benjamin Harrison Wooten of Dallas, chairman of the Board of Regents, 1949-1969.

  • Faculty Senate
  • Department of Political Science
  • Center for Economic Development and Research
  • Department of Economics
  • Department of History
  • Institute of Applied Economics
  • Department of Public Administration

Historical information about building names provided by James L. Rogers, Professor Emeritus of Journalism

School meal shaming

Every day, after a morning of learning, students are eager to relax, eat, and chat with their friends. The last thing that needs to happen is for their warm, comforting plate of food to be tossed in the trash because their accounts were depleted of money—at absolutely no fault of their own. For some students, this experience can be humiliating and traumatizing, especially because this wasn’t their fault and they’re being punished for it.

Once a student receives their meal in the serving line, they expect the food to be theirs after they get done paying for it. And rightfully so; who would expect their food to be thrown away every single day? Nobody. Yet, when one day, money inevitably runs out in an account, the nightmare becomes reality. What was supposed to be theirs is now yanked away and turned into food for swarms of buzzards. In other words, their food is effectively stolen from them in front of others, and there’s nothing kids can do about it. Even though they didn’t pay for their food yet, it was supposed to be theirs. If you snatched the last $50 4K TV at Walmart on Black Friday but then someone else took it before you paid for it, wouldn’t you be pissed? In fact, many people get into fights over this. Search it up on YouTube. Yet kids aren’t going to fight with the lunch servers because they’re weak and powerless to appeal. This leads to them being traumatized after receiving an “alternative meal.”

What a tragedy. Remember that the financial responsibility of a student’s food should be on the parent. Any parents who can’t pay for their child’s meals will usually put their kids on free/reduced cost meals. So, meal “shaming” really only happens for those kids who don’t qualify for free/reduced meals, meaning their parents CAN pay, but they probably forgot to. And it’s not the parents who are shamed for forgetting to pay for their child’s meal; it’s the child.

At the same time, schools try their best to remind the parents to pay. Schools usually handle food through a for-profit corporation, and it is their right to make their money back. If one of their customers can’t pay, the corporation can’t be expected to send them free food. Yet, this is kids who don’t even earn any money we’re talking about. What ends up happening is that the student is caught up between the school and the parent, leading their hot meal to be thrown away and being humiliated instead of their parents being reminded. And I bet if some parents saw their kid’s meal being thrown away, they’d kick the lunch servers’ asses. Clearly, if kids are being treated like crap just because their parents aren’t there, this establishes that humiliation is NOT an acceptable way to “remind” parents to refill their child’s bank account.

Not to mention that if these for-profit corporations are trying to earn as much money as possible, then how on earth is throwing away food economical? I know they can’t serve this food again due to health regulations, but it boggles my mind why they can’t let these kids keep their meals. Say a student doesn’t get their lunch account topped up for many consecutive days. Still more money is lost from throwing away the unbuyable meal and giving a replacement meal than simply allowing a child to keep their meal. Not to mention how environmentally unfriendly and wasteful this practice is. And guess what? Parents still have to back-pay for all the alternative meals. Why not just let them back-pay for a regular meal?

One proposed solution I heard from someone else: Let the kids find out if they’re getting a hot meal or not BEFORE they go into the lunch line, not knowing if they will have enough money or not. That way, their food will not be taken away from them and they will still be reminded to tell their parents to add money to their lunch account. Personally, I still don’t like the fact that an alternative meal is given. This alternative meal is one of the catalysts for shaming. It needs to go. Let the children keep their meal, for goodness sake. They’re children. I hope that’s enough said to end school meal shaming.

Why college isn’t for everyone

Today, college is promoted by high schools as the panacea to the deficiencies of recent high school graduates (or grad-to-be’s). Don’t know what to do? Go to college. However, this fallacious precedent has dangerously misled many students into doing something that does not develop the skills they will need in the workplace. In some cases, several years of one’s life and hundreds of thousands of dollars could be wasted if college does not turn out to be what that person needed to advance their career.

Perhaps two hundred years ago, only very few people—the brightest intellectuals—would attend college. This is the way it was meant to be. College is an academic environment devoted to studying and research. Today, however, this core mission is blurred by frat parties and various students attending college “just because.” This shift of focus from academia to spring break at Panama City Beach has caused students to waste several years of life somewhere they don’t want to be, accumulating large piles of student loans in the meantime.

While the encouragement for more students to pursue what they want to learn and go to college regardless of conditions seem beneficial, and they can be very beneficial to those who are truly interested in the experiences of academia, there are also many students who would be better served at a technical school.

Before I dive in to better serving technical careers, I do want to emphasize that certain people are better suited to a liberal arts education, such as one that includes the humanities, social sciences, natural/pure sciences, and applied sciences, than to a technical careers education.

But does an aspiring carpenter necessarily need to know how to analyze the Iliad? Not really. What they do need to know is how to work with wood, which isn’t something that colleges offer and perhaps something that most high schools don’t allow students to focus the majority of their time working on.

In fact, go into any high school today and try to find posters in the hallways on how to become a welder, or a carpenter, or a mechanic. A policeman, a fireman, a paramedic. You won’t find anything of the sort. Meanwhile, hallways will be plastered with SAT and ACT sign-up dates. This leads to many high school students knowing when the next SAT is and going to a typical local college somewhere, instead of knowing when to apply for culinary school or learning how to sautée a filet mignon perfectly.

In Germany, specialization starts before our high schools would even start. Students are sent to whichever school they are most well suited for. Some people are just going to become great mechanics. But teaching them high school biology isn’t going to help them. In fact, they shouldn’t even be going to college, because you won’t find a single mechanic class, let alone major, in any doctoral-granting four-year university, a place where many undecided adults end up if they decide to go to college. Mechanics need to focus on how to fix cars, and where better to learn that than a specialized technical school? Yet, these undecided adults default to going to college, which doesn’t offer anything relevant for them.

Unfortunately, most of our public high schools only allow for students to dip their feet in the water for these technical jobs. Even then, CTE classes are considered “electives,” meaning want-to-be chefs will have to gruel through The Great Gatsby and using the law of sines to calculate the distance between the top of a cell tower and two people standing next to them before they can concentrate on perfecting their filet mignons. These things are great to know… for other people. But for these people, it’s wrong!

We should start promoting and teaching technical education more prominently to those who want to go into skilled work instead of condemning them to find the area under a curve. In fact, I don’t even think most English majors do that.

And the most important thing that everybody should learn: life skills. Regardless of whether someone should go to college, a technical school, or simply find a job, they all need to learn how to manage money, how to raise a family, how to cook, how to maintain houses and cars, etc. Have I been taught this? Nope, because I didn’t have the time to take a family and consumer science class (formerly known as home economics).

We need to change our priorities in the educational system. Let’s stop sending everyone to college. I know it sounds good to educate everyone, but after high school, there’s no need to educate everyone with the same “core curriculum” anymore. To start, send more people to community college. Better yet, send them to specialty technical schools instead of community college. Let them learn what they need to know. Let college students learn family and consumer sciences so we aren’t stuck with cooking ramen in our dorms. And no, this doesn’t mean supporting Betsy DeVos’s “school choice,” because that’s the wrong kind of school choice that students should be able to make. Lead students to their personal path—let them take the road less travelled.

McKinney ISD Salary Records 2016-2017

Under the Texas Public Information Act, I requested McKinney Independent School District’s salary records of its employees. The data includes hire date, gender, annual salary, location, and job description.

I have uploaded an unmodified version of the file that McKinney ISD sent me, except for the file name. It is available as an Excel spreadsheet. Please let me know if you need it in another format by contacting me through my email address, i@jeffw.xyz.

https://clearcloud.mywikis.net/files/jeffrey//McKinney%20ISD%20Salary%20Records%202016-17.xlsx