Core competencies are fundamental criteria for learning outcomes, with specific performance thresholds demonstrating progressively more sophisticated levels of attainment. They represent a basic framework of expectations for all undergraduates. Core competencies are important because before graduating college, all students should possess certain skills so that they may contribute forcefully and productively to our global society. These are especially important today, as there are many issues in need of mitigation at this point in time. I have enhanced my understanding of many of these core competencies over the course of the last few years in relation to: integrating important learning experiences that helped in advancing me to higher levels of understanding, recognizing specific instances as evidence of intellectual growth, and realizing areas of competency I’m interested in advancing.
Critical thinking can be defined as the process of intellectually and carefully evaluating information as well as exploring ideas before forming an opinion. Many courses at CSUMB, as well as quite a few life experiences, have contributed to my critical thinking skills. The most influential contributor, was my case study on the Monterey Downs (which can be found under the “Policy Analysis” tab). Also, the experiences I had through my service learning course Social and Ecological Justice contributed to my critical thinking skills. I became involved in Citizens for Sustainable Monterey County: Sustainable Seaside. Sustainable Seaside indirectly addresses the structural injustice and cultural norm that is consumerism. They try to educate and influence others on how to live as more sustainable consumers.
My involvement included: volunteering at an Earth Day community event, trying to collect signatures for the initiative against Monterey Downs, assisting with coordinating the Fort Ord National Monument’s one year “birthday” celebration, attending Sustainable Seaside meetings as well as one Fort Ord Access Alliance (FOAA) meeting, and attempting to start my own project that would ensure all local businesses recycle. The experience that contributed most to my critical thinking skills was attempting to get all local businesses to recycle. I biked around town asking local businesses about their recycling habits, and if they’d be open to recycling (if they did not already). I found that some do recycle, and many aren’t interested for various reasons. One reason, at a grocery store, was that the manager did not want ants and assumed that recycling would attract them. However, there was another store owner that took her recyclables home with her.
While I was disappointed, after reflecting upon the experience I realized how difficult social change will be and what will be necessary in order to make an impact. This implicated to me that we need better policies in order to ensure even the smallest business has access to recycling.
Written communication, the development and expression of ideas in writing, is without a doubt the most important form of communication in my opinion. Without a doubt, my written communication skills have been influenced most by my Monterey Downs case study as well as numerous written reports completed for my Geomorphic Systems class and my Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity class. Due to the fact that I’m more of a creative and journalistic writer, scientific writing has always presented a challenge for me. However, because these two classes required purely academic and unbiased writing skills, I became more skilled at writing papers to be presented to the academic community. This primarily involved better demonstrating a thorough understanding of context, audience, and purpose that is responsive to the assigned task.
While I am now more confident in my written communication skills pertaining to scientific writing, I could always improve. While I am proficient at evaluating situational issues and decent at data evaluation, I form opinions (as most people do). This makes it difficult for me to write in an unbiased manner. However, my Monterey Downs case study was infinitely helpful with this personal obstacle. I immediately formed an opinion about the controversy, and became very passionate about it. After researching and interviewing, while I still held the same opinion I was able to see the other stakeholder’s position clearly; more importantly I was able to write about it in an unbiased tone.
A paper from my Geomorphic Systems class evaluating the erosional features of an area being considered for development can be read here: Coyote Gulch Erosional Features.
Through the service learning course Social and Ecological Justice, my civic communication skills greatly improved as well. Civic communication is essentially tailoring the way you communicate with others in order to adequately express, listen, and adapt to establish relationships for improved civic action. I learned how to better tailor what I say in order to more effectively express ideas so that my audience will find them attractive and in a way that’ll make them take me seriously. A great example is when I was speaking with Michael Salerno, spokesman of Keep Fort Ord Wild, and I used the term “code of ordinances” when speaking about regulations regarding cutting down Coast Live Oaks. It was a great feeling to see the realization that I knew what I was talking about register on his face. Also, my sense of civic identity and commitment has vastly improved. Rather than staying in the mindset of this place being temporary and engaging myself solely due to course requirements, I got involved and learned it’s alright to get attached to such a beautiful place and feel a true sense of civic identity. I learned that if you love where you live you should be involved, that way it’ll stay the place you love.