Interviewee: Mark Hove
Interviewer: Sarah Ainsworth
Date: March 17, 2004
A: This is Sarah Ainsworth interviewing Mark Hove about his experiences as a non-
traditional student on Wednesday, March 17, 2004, in the oral history office. To
start off, tell me when and where you were born.
H: I was born in Minnesota in Rochester in 1962. My parents owned a farm outside
of a small town called Chatfield, which was about twenty-five miles south of
Rochester. Chatfield was small enough it didn't have any medical facilities.
A: And did you have to help out on the farm?
H: Yes, very much so. From bailing hay to assisting when they were chopping corn
for silage, I was out there. Milking cows, I did a lot of that, feeding cattle. It was
not something you got out of, at all.
A: What about your early education, or how about, first start out with your parents.
What kind of education did they receive? They were farmers I take it.
H: I'll start out with my father. My father went to the same school system I did in
Chatfield. He finished high school and went into the army for a couple of years in
the mid-fifties, and then came back and did a semester, I think, at the University
of Minnesota, and then he dropped out of college. My mother graduated from
high school in a nearby town, LeRoy, and she went to work right afterwards, so
she didn't go on to college at all.
A: What kind of work did she do right then?
H: She was a telephone operator. She talks about how in the fifties there weren't a
lot of opportunities for women. You could be a teacher, you could be a nurse, or
a few other jobs, but there wasn't a lot of opportunities for women, at least at the
time. So she had become a telephone operator. Then she eventually met my
father and they got married. There was a pretty good educational system. I think
in many ways I was lucky because going through public school in Minnesota in
the late 1960s and early 1970s. There was a lot of funding for it, at least a lot of
public funding for it, [and] there was a lot of good schools [and] good teachers.
You know, [they] kind of really trained you a lot in basic grammar and they were
more strict and they cared a lot about how you did and they were very
encouraging. So I can't complain, I was very lucky.
A: And how did this influence you decision about what to do after high school, all
H: How did this influence what to do after high school? I'm not sure. (Laughing) I
think it did in a way. I really was one of these people that came out of high school
not knowing what they wanted to do. I did well in school-I generally got A's in all
my classes-but I really had a hard time. I think part of it was [that] my parents
were supportive of me going to school, but there wasn't a lot of pressure [from
family and teachers] like say[ing], you need to go to college or you need to go to
community college or something. I didn't get a lot of push to go in a particular
direction, and really, when I was seventeen and eighteen, I really floundered a
lot. I didn't know what to do. A couple friends of mine were applying to this
technical college called DeVry Institute, and were getting involved in electronics
engineering in the late 1970s [and] early 1980s. That's where I thought, well, I'll
apply. I knew them kind of well and I thought, well, we'll see. I applied to a good
liberal arts school, but like I said, I just didn't have a lot of pressure to go to
college. Yet at the same instance, my parents wanted me to do something. [For
my family] college was sort of, go to college, get a degree, and get a job. For
much of my family that was the case, they went to college: for my aunt, she went
to nursing school [and] became a nurse, my other aunt went to dental school and
became a dental [hygienist]. There was a lot of that, going to school to became
an accountant, like my uncle. You went to school to get a particular skill to
eventually get a job, and when you don't know what you want to do, it is really
hard to find something you want.
A: Did you have some vague sense of what you wanted to eventually do?
H: No, not really. Maybe if I took one of those tests they give career counseling
later, you know, oh, you'd be good at being a doctor or something. I never really
had a great call to do anything in particular. There were things I liked to do, I
mean, I was interested in other places in the world and I did enjoy reading
history, but I never thought of that as something I could pursue. I literally had
absolutely no idea, and had I not received the scholarship from DeVry Institute, I
don't know where I would have ended up. That was really kind of the deciding
[factor]. When you applied for that school, this is really strange, the person came
to your house and interviewed your parents and you and talked about the school.
To me, it was like he was selling life insurance or something. He kind of sold my
parents on it. And while you were filling out the application, you also applied for
the scholarship. If you could get one of these full tuition, free-ride scholarships
[would last] throughout your entire career at this school, which would have been
four years if I remember correctly. So I applied, and then you had to write an
essay for it at some point, and I wrote this pretty much nonsensical essay. I got
the scholarship, and that was probably the biggest deciding factor in what do to
after high school. I literally was without any sort of rudder or guidance of what to
do, and that just blew me into going there.
A: So after you started at DeVry, then what happened?
H: What happened? Well, I should have known. I got there, I thought I would be
really interested in electronics engineering. This was the fall of 1981. Computers
really hadn't much started as far as personal computers. I thought I would
eventually get interested in it. I went through the first semester and nothing really
grasped me as far as doing it. I actually was quite bored with it. I found I just
didn't enjoy any of the classes. It became very tedious to go to school. I didn't
find any of the homework edifying in the least bit. Maybe I was burnt out coming
out of high school. I don't know. I don't know what it was, but after the first
semester it just wasn't working. I was working part time. I took a part time job, of
all places, working at McDonald's, and I really enjoyed that. For whatever reason,
I really enjoyed it. I think it was a great group of people that worked there. I
started working there more and more-taking more hours-and as it got to the end
of the first semester or quarter or whatever they had there, it was Christmas
season. The store I was working at was on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas
City, which was kind of the big area people in Kansas City went. There were a lot
of stores and shops, and they had just built a Saks Fifth Avenue down there.
They were trying to draw a lot of people and it was a very busy place. At one
point-I had only worked there for like a month or maybe two months- the
manager told me that if I was ever interested in becoming a manager I could let
him know. I think that always kind of sat with me. So when school started up
[after Christmas]. After about the first four weeks, I was more interested working
at McDonald's than I was going to school, and I left school. I literally left school to
go work as a manager for McDonald's and going through that whole thing.
A: This is at the beginning of your third semester?
H: This is the beginning of my second semester. I wasn't even in school the first
year. It was literally right in January/February of 1982 that I left school. I left
school right off; I didn't make it five/six months.
A: The first semester, what kind of classes did you take? Did you take general ed,
H: There was some mathematics involved, some sort of general circuitry, I think a
certain amount of physics, [and] there was a lab. That is about all I can
remember off the top of my head. The lab part was cool, I figured out how to fix
old televisions, but other than that [it just wasn't enjoyable]. Maybe, I hadn't
really thought about it, but those were not the courses that I enjoyed that much in
high school either. I had a hard time with physics in high school-mostly because
I think the teacher wasn't very good-but I just didn't conceptualize physics very
well. And mathematics was more, you just do a formula and you get the answer.
So I liked algebra, but I just really had struggled [at DeVry]. So in some ways that
was a really bad choice. It was just a terrible choice. The courses I liked were the
liberal arts courses-English, history-and why I chose that [DeVry] [I have no
A: So how long did you work at McDonald's?
H: Well, let's see. At that time almost two years. I started in the management
training program right away [and] I was working as a manager probably by May
or June. I was working as a manager for McDonald's May or June of 1982-at
least manager in training, and I loved it. I just really enjoyed working there. It was
a lot of fun, the people were fun to work with. In fact, we often associated with
each other after hours and after shifts in doing stuff, so that was lot of fun. The
boss was great, Jim Garnett; he was wonderful. Here was a young kid off the
farm and left school to become a manager for McDonald's, and he did not
hesitate in giving me responsibility, and giving me enough rope to hang myself
and get in trouble. And that was all right. I really appreciate what he did, because
he really kind of helped me grow as a person-as far as working with people. I
was very shy in high school and really reluctant to talk with strangers and talk
with people. If I saw people I knew from school, I was one of these people who
would sort of duck into a store to avoid talking to classmates outside of school. It
really kind of helped bring me out being less shy, but it really taught me a lot of
lessons of working with people, and dealing with people, and in a sense giving
me certain management skills and responsibilities that I think [for] a long time I
was looking for. He was very encouraging, and I think to some degree I hadn't
had a lot of that. You know people said you did well, and I saw I did well as far
as on the [school] report cards, but he [Jim] was really encouraging in a sense of
a kindly father figure sort of way that I really responded to. So that was very
At one point, he was introducing me to various people he knew around the
Country Club Plaza, and I started getting to know different managers in some of
the other restaurants. And as I got to know some of them, one of them was a
manager of Swenson's. He was the one that said, you know if you really want to
make it in this business, you have to go back to college and [get a degree]. He
really got me thinking about, how I could go back to college? Eventually what I
decided was that McDonald's was great, but I really took [seriously] what he said
of going back to college. To a certain degree Jim kind of said something similar, I
think, and he got me thinking about how am I going to pay for college, because I
knew my parents never had the money to put me though school. I have a brother
and two sisters that are all younger than I am, and my sisters are significantly
younger than I am. My parents couldn't afford to pay for a college tuition. It really
got me thinking about, well, how am I going to afford college? I eventually came
to the conclusion, I think [like] my father kind of did, was my father went in the
military for a period of time. As I got kind of looking around, that's what I decided
to do. I thought, well, I can go in the Coast Guard and get more skills and save
up some money for college, and that's what I eventually did. Jim was very sorry
to see me go though. He was really trying to get me to move to another store and
to take a higher level management position. If fact, a couple of jobs were offered
to me as far as moving up and making a lot more money. I think I wanted to go
back to college. That sort of really helped me get a lot of guidance of more of
what I wanted to do at a time when I needed it.
S: Before we go on to your time in the Coast Guard, let's backtrack a little. What
was your family and friend's reaction to your decision to leave school?
H: Oh, what was their reaction, wow. I never asked. I never asked what it was. In
fact, I'm not even sure I told them. I don't think I told them for a couple, three
months. Did I? You know that has been a long time [ago]. What was their
reaction? I don't think they were happy. We never really talked about it. I think
later they told me that they were not happy about it, but they also said it was my
decision too. They kind of left it at that, but I don't think they were really all that
happy about it, at least not at first, when it just looked like I was working only at
McDonald's. I think they were much happier after I decided to go into the Coast
Guard. They were a little more relieved at that point, but I don't think they were
S: How long were you in the Coast Guard, and how did this influence your visions
and goals for the future?
H: I was in for four years. I would say it was probably the most formative period of
my life. In ways that, in more ways than I could possibly count. It was influential
and informative. Well, [for] one, I sort of, as the phrase goes, "got my act
together." It really helped [me in] doing so. It helped me focus in a way that I
probably would not have done before. Being in the Coast Guard was more
rigorous; there was a lot of individual initiative involved if you wanted to move up
the ladder. That was probably more beneficial for me in doing that, and it gave
me a certain way of organizing myself and applying myself to particular tasks and
doing it. It made me aware of working through a bureaucracy, so to speak. In a
sense, the university is very easy compared to the Coast Guard as far as getting
you this form, and you need to talk to so and so, and who do I need to talk to. It
did that, but it did that in a more [professional, systematic way]]. It helped me in
another form, in the sense in that it helped me discipline myself. [The Coast
Guard] came at a time when I needed it. In the Coast Guard the phrase is
Semper Paratus, which is always prepared. It got me to really think ahead about
what I wanted to do. When I was in the Coast Guard, I was a cook. I became a
cook because that was the closest [thing] to restaurant management, which I still
wanted to pursue. So it gave me a lot of experience in preparation of food
[because] my instructors were graduates of the Culinary Institute of America,
which is one of the top flight culinary schools in the country. So it wasn't military
chow in the worst sense. They really taught us how to-not be a gourmet cook,
but-started [teaching] us basic skills in cooking, of which I have been fortunate
enough to subsequently develop. But it also gave me a sense of planning meals,
planning budgets, and back to managing people.
Eventually, I became [a manager] doing a lot of purchasing and managing of
inventory and a lot of things like that, so it was formative in that sense. It gave me
a real [taste] of how to operate a department. [The Coast Guard] was formative in
another sense for my career. When I first got into the Coast Guard, that in boot
camp you earned points for everything you did from physical exercise to drills to
training in various [areas, tasks, drills, skills], whether it be in arms, or various
ship skills, even classes that you had, you were constantly earning points. One of
the things [that occurred] when you came out of boot camp in the Coast Guard
was those who had the most points got to choose first where they wanted to go.
So the [better] you did, the higher you got to choose. They'd give you this [long]
list of billets open, and you could choose which billet you wanted to go as far as
service. There was one billet that I was informed [of] beforehand that was [going
to be offered], and they were offering a billet to serve on an icebreaker that was
going to Antarctica. I really wanted to get on that [ship] to go to Antarctica. Why, I
have no idea, but the trip was more than going to Antarctica: it was going to
South America, Australia and New Zealand, Fiji, and I can't remember all the
places that I was told the ship was going to go. And I was like, wow, what a way
to do this to get a trip. I actually worked in boot camp to [get that billet], and when
it came to decision [time], I got the number three choice out of about eighty
people. We got to know each other and I knew the other two were going to take
something else, so I knew I could get that billet [the icebreaker] when the day of
selection came around, and I was really excited.
What it did mean though, when I did get it, I learned, one, the trip did not go
where they said it was going, to Antarctica, but it meant going to South America,
and [then] we were supposed to stop in Africa and the Barbados and a couple of
other places in the Carribean. But [the voyage] introduced me to South America,
which is now my minor field, and my dissertation is on U.S. relations with Chile. I
saw a lot of Chile on that trip. In fact, when I was in Chile, the guide who was
showing me around Santiago asked me at one point, and it was rather blunt, this
was under the Pinochet regime [Led by Army General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte,
this regime overthrew President Salvador Allende in 1973. During the regime,
thousands of Chileans and foreign citizens were murdered and tortured] in the
winter of 1983/1984, [the guide asked] why did you, the American people, allow
your government to overthrow our president? He was referring to Salvador
Allende [President of Chile from 1970-1973, when he was overthrown in a bloody
military coup during which he died]. Well, I was stupid, I didn't know who or what
he was referring to. Did our government overthrow some other [president]? I
didn't know very much and I had to say at the time [that] I was really ignorant as
far as why that had occurred and what was surrounding it. I vaguely remembered
something about the Church Committee [chaired by Frank Church, U.S. Senator,
Idaho] which investigated this in 1975, I remembered that as a teenager, but I
never really associated Chile or Allende to it. So in some ways, my dissertation is
a response to his question. So in that way, going into the Coast Guard gave me
my dissertation topic, and it really, in many ways, formed a lot of the interests I
had coming into history in the sense I am interested in U.S. foreign relations, I'm
interested in Latin America. So [the Coast Guard] formative in those ways as
well. It is pretty amazing. If I were to do it again, I suppose you've probably heard
this, but I think I would go back in again. I would do it.
A: So once you left the Coast Guard, did they pay for your school?
A: And what did you decide to study at that point after your experiences?
H: What did I decide to study? When I got out, I still wanted to do restaurant
management, and I had applied, as it got to the end of my four year stint, to the
University of Wisconsin-Stout. At the time it was one of the top three schools for
restaurant management in the country, and I thought that's what I wanted to do.
I got out and I started at UW-Stout and I literally started the restaurant
management program. I [had] become more interested in history at that point, so
I took a history class, partly because it was required-- many majors require a
history course of some sort. I took a history course my first semester [and] the
instructor was terrific. He was offering another course in Latin American history
the next semester, and I took that. Then by the third semester, I started taking
two history courses, and it just all of a sudden kind of snowballed. By the time of
my fourth semester, I had two restaurant management courses and three history
A: Which was the original history course that you took?
H: I think it was U.S. History, probably from 1492 to the Civil War, I think. I don't
remember. It was some sort of U.S. History. It's been so long since I looked at
those notes I don't remember, but I think that was it. I realized how little I knew at
the time, as far as U.S. history [goes], even though I had it in high school. I just
knew so little, and that was really cool. So it kind of started with one instructor.
He told a really good story and always kept the course interesting. I was literally,
in taking notes, attempting to write down his lecture word for word. I would
literally have pages of long hand of what he was saying. I was constructing it in
full sentences and almost writing it out, the lecture.
A: Did you decide to change your major at this point?
H: I hadn't decided to change my major. What made me decide to change my
major? I earned an internship, of all places in this restaurant management
program, with McDonald's again. I applied for it, and they were very excited
about me coming to work for them. This was going to work for the corporate
headquarters in Minneapolis and they were going to assign me to a brand new
store that had just been built less than a year ago, working with one of their top
managers. I went for the summer as an intern to go work for McDonald's, and
they were going to have me work there and then they were going to put me
through BOC, which is their Basic Operations Course. It is kind of the first level. I
did all that and I enjoyed it so much, [that] after finishing my internship, I asked if
I could work at that store part-time. I guess I still had the ketchup in my veins, as
they say in the business. So I did, but I also that summer was playing on a
softball team and I got to know some people. One of my friends was working as
[an] academic advisor for the University of Minnesota hockey team and some of
the others for the athletic department at the University of Minnesota, so I got to
know him and we were kind of talking. I think at that point. I sort of realized that I
was more interested in history than I was in restaurant management. I think
[that's] because the restaurant management courses were just not fulfilling. I
found them at times to be [very] easy, I found them at times to, as one person
put it, have the PPO level-propounding the perfectly obvious in class. It was just
not very satisfactory in that sense. I didn't feel like I was broadening myself in
any sense, at least not compared to some of the training that I had in the Coast
Guard. Maybe little things here and there, but much of the time when I was taking
those courses, I was repeating what I had learned in the Coast Guard or had
learned working as a manager of McDonald's. It was just simply rehearsing that
or repeating that in the courses, and that became very frustrating in some ways
in the sense that I felt like I had already learned it. It was just not very
satisfactory, whereas I was enjoying the history courses more.
I think eventually at that point I had asked, okay, I want to switch my major. I can
always work in restaurants. This is kind of an interesting idea in the sense that,
here I had gone into the Coast Guard because someone had advised me, you
need to go to college to go somewhere in this field, and now after being in the
[restaurant management] program for two years, here I was saying, I don't need
the degree in restaurant management to work in restaurants as a manager. I can
get a degree in whatever I like and still do that because my background is so
strong in restaurants and food service. And that's eventually what I did. I don't
know if I compromised or what, but I started doing what I wanted as far as
majoring in history, and thinking, well, yeah, when I get my degree, if I want to go
back into restaurants, I can. It was also part of [a larger change in my ideas
about restaurants], at the time, I was working part-time at McDonald's, where a
former employee-who was a great employee [and] I was sorry to see him go-
came back and he says, oh, I'm working delivering pizza for Domino's. I was like,
you're delivering pizza for Domino's? You left us to go deliver pizza for
Domino's? He said, yeah, I just made $100 tonight. I heard him say that and I
[think to myself], I don't make $100 working as a manager for this shift, how does
he make $100? So I started asking him about it, I was really intrigued by this, and
he was telling me how the [Domino's] system worked and all of that. I was like,
I'm in the wrong job, I'm not making enough money. He makes more in one
weekend than I make in two weeks. I was [thinking], there's something really
wrong here. That was really kind of the thing that I said, wait a minute, I'm
working really hard and I'm not getting the pay for it either. I think that contributed
to it [the change of majors from restaurant management to history] as well.
A: At that point when you changed your major, you carried that out and you got a
H: I got a degree in history. I started taking history courses a the University of
Minnesota. [University of Wisconsin in] Stout didn't offer a degree in history. It
was a little school, like a North Florida, but [it was] part of the University of
Wisconsin system. It didn't offer a degree in history, [but] you could minor in it.
There was one professor at Stout that I became very close to, and he
encouraged me to go study in history when I told him I was interested in doing it.
He encouraged me to go to the University of Minnesota, which was just [that] an
hour and a half to the west in Minneapolis. So I went, and I took courses. [The]
first quarter was really depressing. It was depressing because I had taken four
history courses and I got B's in all four. I was [a shock]. I had been used to
getting A's at Stout, and now it was like, okay. But I realized, well [the University
of Minnesota] is a different level than Stout, [and] I needed to do much better. It
took me until my third quarter to get an A in a [history] course, and it wasn't until,
I think, my fifth quarter at Minnesota that I started getting all A's. So it wasn't
initial success in history courses; it was a rude shock at first.
[The University of] Minnesota was more liberal arts based and it was much more
broad, so I had to start taking courses in other fields like political science, and I
had to do a foreign language. I was under these strange notions that an
educated person knew Latin, so my foreign language as an undergrad was Latin.
So I took Latin, and that got me interested in classical civilization, so my minor is
classical civilization. I also got very much interested in geography as a discipline
and I was pushing for a double major in history and geography and a minor in
classical civilization, but geography wanted you to do this two credit field
research-which was literally going out into the field and research-and I couldn't
do that. I needed to work to help get myself through school. My money, at least
from the Coast Guard, was starting to run out, so I couldn't do that [research]. So
except for the two credits, I couldn't get a major in geography; I had everything
else. I was definitely, by that point, really moving to the liberal arts as far as
majoring in history. But I hadn't thought about grad school.
A: Not yet?
H: Not yet.
A: Were you working at McDonald's at this point still, or where were you working?
H: No, I had left. Shortly after that guy came in, I think in less than a month, I had
checked out the job at Domino's Pizza that he suggested I go apply-which was
in a very nice suburb of Minneapolis, in Plymouth. I checked it out and got hired
right away, and I gave my notice to McDonald's and moved over to Domino's. So
really my last two years at Minnesota, I was delivering pizza probably thirty to
thirty-five hours a week for Domino's. I was making very good money.
A: That's how you put yourself through school?
H: That's how I put myself though school.
A: What about the Coast Guard money you said was running out?
H: What the Coast Guard did in the 1980s-they didn't have the GI Bill anymore, that
had really kind of ended after Vietnam-was that for every dollar that you put in,
they would put in two dollars. So I had been trying to put in as much as I could
while I was in the Coast Guard. In fact I was making out what I could do, and I
had maxed out what I could put in. That amount of money really only got you
through about three years of college, and that only covered tuition and fees. So if
you wanted some spending money, say you wanted to go out and have couple of
beers or you wanted go to out and have dinner, that money wasn't used for that,
you couldn't use it. So when I transferred to Minnesota, I [had] spent about two
and a half years at Stout, but then I had to turn around and spend about two and
half years at Minnesota because changing degrees [made me lose] a lot of
credits, so I had to go an extra year. My funding ran out probably that second
quarter at the University of Minnesota, if not the third. Probably the third now that
I think about it. So I really had to think about, one, borrowing money-student
loans-but also finding a way to put myself through school as well. That is what I
did. So Domino's Pizza helped me do it.
A: What else about your experience going through the admissions process? Was
that complicated at all for the University of Minnesota? And what about your
credits from DeVry, how did that work into when you went to Stout?
H: All DeVry counted for was that I didn't have to take math courses. I never had to
take a math course again. That's about all that my credits there were worth.
Many of my credits at UW-Stout-some of them transferred over. The ones that I
did in the liberal arts field-like Intro to Sociology and Intro to Psychology and
English Comp and English Literature-all the basic ones that a lot of students do
here-I had done a lot of those [at Stout], and a lot of my history courses
transferred. But as far as the restaurant management courses, those transferred
over to Minnesota as electives, so I lost a lot of those credits, and that really led
to going longer at the University of Minnesota. I think that is one of the
disadvantages if you change majors part way through undergrad. You might
have to go a semester, maybe two, maybe even three, depending on how
different your new major is versus your older one. Restaurant management to
history is a pretty significant shift. A lot of those credits just never transferred
over, and I think I had to just bite the bullet and say, oh well, that's the way it
A: When you entered college after going into the Coast Guard, you were a few
years older than most of the incoming freshmen. How did that play into your
experience? Did you feel like you were older, or did you just feel like you fit in
with the rest of everybody there?
H: I really felt like I was older. In some ways I felt like I was older. I think school
meant something to me. I can remember this, and sometimes I think it effects
how I even design courses as an instructor now, that when I was an undergrad at
Minnesota I wanted to learn, I wanted to study that material. I wanted to know the
history or Spain, or I wanted know Latin. I wanted to know what Thucydides [460-
400 B.C.-Greek historian of Athens; one of the greatest of ancient historians] and
Herodotus [484-425 B.C.-often referred to as the 'father of history'; he wrote
Histories, an account about the Persian War that includes the history of the entire
Persian Empire] and all these ancient historians. I can honestly say that a lot of
my fellow students at the University of Minnesota were not interested in that. I
think that, in part, set me apart from the other students as far as instructors
knowing me and remembering who I was and talking with me. It set me apart [in]
that I actually did the reading, I actually did the assignments, and I showed up for
class. That was, I think, the discipline of the Coast Guard coming in-you always
showed up for class-and it did set me apart. A lot of the students who were
nineteen [and] twenty, I really didn't associate with all that much. I think at the
University of Minnesota that wasn't a big deal because Minnesota at the time
was not like [the University of] Florida today. At Florida there are a lot of students
who from the ages of say eighteen, or even seventeen, to twenty-three, and
Minnesota is a very urban campus. The University of Minnesota sits right on the
banks of the Mississippi, right next to downtown Minneapolis, and not far from
downtown St. Paul. Being a heavily urban campus, there are several non-
traditional students who go into the classes, and several of them who are older. I
knew students who had changed majors two and three times. There were
students who were older like I was in the classes already, so I think that sort of
helped. There was a certain diversity within the student body that altered it. I
would say among those who were true freshmen or true sophomores, I had very
little relationship with, and I think it did alter my experience. I was there to learn,
which was very different, I think, from a lot of students in the course.
[End of side A1]
A: You were just telling about your experiences, how you were a bit different than
the students fresh out of high school, so I wanted to ask you how important you
think maturity is for a student?
M: Boy, I think it's a requirement, I really do. I don't think I was that mature when I
attended DeVry, and that was part of my undoing. In some ways, when I see
students as an instructor-they're not coming to class, they're not doing some of
the assignments, [and] they sleep. I think that maturity is important because the
ground really shifts when you get to a university. One person told me that in high
school they teach you the answers-[how you] get to the correct answer, what's
the best way to get to the correct answer, [and] it's a lot of focus on getting to the
correct answer. College is almost the reverse-it's not the answers that are so
important, it's the process by which getting to the answer [that's important]. How
do you get there. What are the various things [involved]? I think that shift is a
major intellectual shift. I think as an eighteen or nineteen year old, I would not
have understood that quite as well because I [didn't have the] intellectual
maturity. Maybe I matured slower than other students, I don't know, but I would
say that students who do really well as undergrads have a certain maturity. If
they can go straight from high school to undergraduate to graduate school and
get their Ph.D., that's a pretty mature person that can do that. You have to have
a certain level of maturity to do that. So yeah, I think it's definitely needed. You
have to kind of know that you can't be playing around with your studies, and I
think that was me. I think as an undergraduate you have some flexibility. I think
they have to have a certain level of maturity and [be] willing to say, oh, this is
really different, I need to focus more.
A: What about motivation? Were you more motivated this time around?
H: Was I more motivated? Probably. But I think [I was more] motivated in the sense
of I had a clearer sense of who I was, a clearer sense of what I wanted to do, and
[knew the] things I liked and I didn't like. That's sort of the sense of six years
between the Coast Guard and McDonald's, [and] that's something I think really
helps out someone. I think that helps provide the motivation because you know
more of what you want and you know more of the things you like. I think
sometimes when you're young, when you're eighteen to twenty-two, you're still
trying to figure out what things you like and you still want to experience new
things. [You have this attitude of], oh wow, this looks really cool, maybe I'll try
this. So you have a very adventuresome spirit to yourself, or the aspect that
you're willing to try so many different things, and that really doesn't go away in
your twenties all that much. Even the later twenties, when I was at the University
of Minnesota, you're still willing to try a lot of things, but at that age you are ready
to get away from home and build your own self as a person, as separate from
being this child of your parents. Mixing that exploration with university, boy, that
can be a good mix and it can be a not-so-good mix. But I think that is one of the
things that will work out.
A: When you went back to school after the Coast Guard, how did you find that the
students changed, if any, since you were at DeVry?
H: That would be a hard question because students at DeVry were very focused.
[DeVry was] a technical school. Students were there to learn about electronics,
or they were there to learn about computer programing. It's such a focused
school; it's not a school in the sense of a four-year university like Florida, or
maybe, a North Florida or something. It would be hard to compare those two
groups of students because [at] the technical school many of those students
there, in part are there, because they maybe did not do so well in English, or
they're really interested in the technical aspects, or the mechanical aspects, as I
always called it. So [DeVry] is a very focused group of students. In the same
instance, they [DeVry students[ were students who liked to have a big beer bash
on Friday that usually lasted until Sunday morning-most of the students at
DeVry were male. So in the student housing, you had four guys to an apartment,
[and] that would really lead to a lot of drinking. I can about guess what fraternities
are like given that setup. They were similar in that sense, but it would be hard for
me to say. I don't know. I don't know how to answer that question.
A: I think you answered it. What about culture shock? Even though it was only six
years, was there anything that took getting adjusted to after returning from the
Coast Guard and the working world being in a college setting again.
H: Culture shock? Yes. The culture shock was [that] outside of the Coast Guard it
wasn't as regimented. I got used to being very regimented [and] I really enjoyed
that. I enjoyed the structure. What I've found is that I've really kept a lot of that. I
actually work to build structure to help myself get through. So that's one thing
that I've probably kept from the Coast Guard. Getting out, as far as culture shock,
that was really it. Also you didn't have to deal with some of the penalties like, oh,
you're ten minutes late for work, does that mean you're going to get... I can't
remember what the term was. It wasn't detention, but you had extra duty for like
eight hours because you were ten minutes late for your shift. Those sorts of
penalties had sort of faded, but I enjoyed the freedom more than anything. But I
also enjoyed the regimentation, so it's kind of a mixture of both.
The biggest culture shock though that I had was not going from the Coast Guard
to college-the bigger culture shock was going from spending a five month tour to
Antarctica and coming back to the United States. That was a greater culture
shock in being stationed aboard a ship-spending five months aboard a ship,
spending a lot of time in Latin America-and then coming back to the United
States and thinking, everything moves so fast, people are very demanding,
everybody has so much. I remember one of the first days back from that trip
going into a McDonald's, and I was literally overwhelmed of how fast things
operated in a McDonald's in the U.S. In some ways that was a greater culture
shock coming back. No, culture shock out of the Coast Guard [wasn't bad], not
near as much as one would anticipate.
A: What about getting back into the routine of studying and schooling? Was that a
challenge, or were you prepared by your regimentation?
H: I think I was probably prepared. My study skills were nothing to brag about. To be
perfectly honest, I don't think I ever had terrific study skills. I was one of these
people that I showed up for class everyday, I took notes, I read the books, and
then the night before the exam, all I did was kind of glance through the book and
read my notes and take the exam. Frankly, my experience would not be
someone who I could say, these are good study skills. I don't know if I could do
that. In high school I would literally study for exams on the bus ride to school and,
okay, I got an A. I'm not bragging, but I don't know if I necessarily had great
study skills. Maybe because I was interested in history and wanting to read those
books, maybe that was it. I mean the historians of Greece and Rome class I had,
oh my gosh, that was the hardest class I ever had, and I was reading constantly
for that class. But part of it was [that] I was just interested in reading the books. Is
that good study skills? I don't know. It's certainly motivation and doing something
you like. I think good study skills comes in a part of one, liking what you do, but
also I think it may be part of the preparation. [Saying to yourself], okay, I have
this coming up, I need to do this here, here, and here. Was I all that organized?
Probably not. I still do things at the last minute.
A: You mentioned earlier about your experience fitting in with younger students
there and how you basically didn't associate with the students who were younger
just because you were a lot different and more mature with different life
experiences. I wanted to know a little bit more about that, and maybe where you
found the other students who, like yourself, were non-traditional.
H: I knew some. I should say that it wasn't that I didn't associate with them, I did to
some degree at the level of being students in the course, but I think back, I didn't
see a lot of difference. But in the same instance, one, I didn't live on campus, so I
didn't know a lot of other students on campus. Also, a lot of my friends, the
softball team I spoke about earlier, those guys who I got to know, I played softball
with that team for five years, six years, and some of those members are still my
friends even now [when] it's been twelve [or] fifteen years since I've known them.
So they're still my friends. So in a sense what happened for me, being an older
student and playing on the softball team, was that I got to know people away
from the university, although a couple of them did work for the university. But I
got to see them as adults, so I had a set of adult friends, so to speak, and then
going to school was kind of my job, in that sense. That's how it played out.
And like I said, I didn't live on campus either, so I wasn't in a dorm where I could
develop relationships with other students as well. That was very much the case
at University of Minnesota. [At] Stout it was a little bit different. I got to know more
students, but that was the case that there were non-traditional students in that
program too. There were quite a few students who were not the traditional
eighteen to twenty-two. They were people who had maybe got an undergraduate
degree in something else and were coming back to Stout to get that restaurant
management degree. It always seemed that I ended up with other non-traditional
students for various reasons.
A: Let's skip ahead a little bit now. I want to know, after you graduated from the
University of Minnesota, what did you do? You said a while back that when you
started the University of Minnesota you had no idea that you would eventually be
pursuing a Ph.D. I want to know when that started also.
H: When did I think about pursing a Ph.D.? I didn't really think about it until after I
graduated from the University of Minnesota. I got done with my degree and I
applied for some jobs, and I got a job in food service again at an airline catering
company-literally putting together meals and drinks for planes and for flights. It
was alright. I was happy to get the job. I worked at that for about a year, I guess it
was about a year, and it quickly became a job of where you were doing seventy
hour weeks and not being paid a lot. I remember that I was making probably
about $20,000 and doing seventy hours a week as a manager, then coming in
one day they said, after the first six months we're going to give you a pay raise,
but times are really tough and we're only going to give you a one percent pay
raise. I'm sufficiently good enough in math to figure out [that] one percent is
diddly squat and almost an insult-no matter how rave of a performance review
they gave me. That just really frustrated me to no end. That became very much a
sore spot. And I really didn't enjoy it. As a new job you are interested in the new
job, but the newness of it wore off pretty fast, and that was sort of a realization
that in restaurants you're going to work a lot of hours and not get a lot of money.
That's where I kind of thought about [doing something else] I enjoyed studying
history and I enjoyed doing my senior thesis. I remember I was talking to one of
my colleagues at this company-it was called Caterair at the time; I don't even
know if it exists anymore. I was talking to him and he was asking me something
about my senior thesis. I said, well I wrote on U.S. relations with Brazil on some
topic, and I was telling him about the topic. He looked at me and he says, what
the hell are you doing in this job? He said, you should be in graduate school
studying history. At that point, when he said that, I had never really thought about
graduate school. When he said it, I was like, yeah, I would like to study more. Did
I think of it as a Ph.D.? I never thought of it as a Ph.D. even then, I just thought of
it as, I don't like this job and I want to study history some more and then kind of
see where this takes me.
Then I went thought the admissions process and I decided to go to the University
of Wyoming. I was accepted in a couple of different places, and I decided to go to
the University of Wyoming. It was really there that I gave more consideration to
getting a Ph.D., but I never thought of the Ph.D. in a sense of becoming a
professor and teaching at college. I don't know if I ever really thought about that
much when I applied to graduate school. Maybe I did in a vague sense, but not in
a sense of, that's the career I want. That developed as I was going through
graduate school, and I went, I'm getting to understand what this is about, okay, I
want to do this. That's where it kind of really came. Someone basically told me,
you should be in graduate school, [and I said], yeah, you're right.
A: So your goals after you earn your Ph.D. are to become a full-time professor?
H: I would like to do that. I would like to publish at least a couple of books and do
that, and just see where it goes from here. I've given some papers at
conferences; I enjoy that. I enjoy doing my research on my dissertation. People
always say they get tired of their dissertation when they work on it, [but] I'm
probably more interested in my dissertation now than when I first started. I don't
even know how I'm going to get it all together just in the sense of there is so
much more I want to know. It has become a realization of, I can do this as a
career as an academic, becoming comfortable that I have something to say, and
[pointing out that] these historical accounts aren't all that good for these particular
reasons. I don't know, it's just really become something I really want to do, and I
think I would look forward to it. I like teaching; I've taught for three years now as
far as survey courses. It's a lot of fun.
A: What is the subject of your dissertation?
H: I'm looking at how Salvador Allende evolved as a threat to the United States. So
I'm back to the Allende thing, that guy's question did come back after all. It was
always striking to me, as I first read about Salvador Allende and the Nixon
administration, [that] this guy had been a politician for a number of years. He's
not a new face-certainly the United States knew about him-and he was a
prominent politician since the late 1930s and early 1940s, during World War II.
Why is he such a problem in 1970? What I'm doing is basically tracing how the
United States sees Allende, how do they perceive him? What do the perceive
going on in Chile during the Cold War? Basically what I'm finding is that the
United States saw Chile as a very important ally, in that, as a model democracy
outside of Europe and North America, that it needed to be preserved. Allende
really evolves [into a] threat because of [Chile being a] model democracy and the
Third World image that it has. And looking at [how] Allende threatens to upset
that. Yet at the same time, Allende himself has changed in the period. He has
moved more of being anti-US and supporting the [Fidel] Castro [Led armed
attacks against government of Fulgencio Batista, 1956-1959, and forced Batista
into exile; Cuba's Prime minister, 1959-76; Head of state, Council of State
president, Council of Ministers president, 1976-present]. So it's kind of tracing
how the U.S. and Allende both change and eventually end up in conflict with one
A: I can see that is a subject that you're passionate about.
H: Thank you.
A: I also want to know, you've been a life-long student, but I'm sure you're not just a
student, so what other roles do you have right now?
H: What other roles do I have right now, as far as not just being a student? Well
being a graduate student that just about absorbs it.
A: Are you teaching?
H: [I'm] teaching as a teacher; I teach survey courses. What other roles? My partner
and I have been together for ten years, so that has been a source of strength and
it as been a very enjoyable time. He and I met right before I went to graduate
school in Wyoming. He was thinking about going on to graduate school as well
and he was interested in doing literature. We essentially got lucky and he was
admitted to the program in Wyoming, and we both got money to come to Florida
as grad students, so we've been very lucky over the years. So I've had that. I still
do some cooking when I can for friends. I try to do a little. I wouldn't say I'm a
gourmet cook, but I certainly am not shy about trying to make things that are
certainly in that line. So I enjoy cooking. I have two dogs. As far as other roles,
I've worked within my church. I go to Westminster Presbyterian Church, and I've
served on some committees there and served some [other] roles there that I
enjoy as well. I don't think you can be just one thing, I think that's really hard, and
I think it's more important to do other things, even as a grad student, because
you can become so focused on what you're doing that that becomes the entirety
of who you are. I think that, as a person, people need to be broader in that
A: How do you juggle these roles and the stress that probably accompanies them
most of the time?
H: I just do. I tend to over-commit myself. You do it the best you can. I always hear
parents talk about when they get their child that suddenly the world changes, and
I think that is an indicator that when you assume multiple roles, you really kind of
have to juggle. If you like doing various things, you will juggle to do them as best
you can. As for myself, I set about twenty minutes to a half hour everyday [to]
walk my dogs around the neighborhood. Or my partner and I agree, at dinner-I
cook dinner-and actually sit down. I can blend my enjoyment of cooking, but also
spend time with him. I think, maybe it's being regimented again from the Coast
Guard, just in the sense that you have to put time in. If you don't, you'll just
become crazy. I've learned that. For example, when he's gone on trips and I'm
by myself alone, then I fall back into the, oh I don't have to do this and I don't
have to cook meals, [attitude]. I screw up my schedule. You really have to have
some sort of schedule to do it, and you'll find time to do things that you enjoy
A: Was this, your way of scheduling yourself and regimentation, solely learned from
the Coast Guard, or is that more of an intrinsic part of your personality?
H: I don't know. I wasn't really doing it when I was younger, I can say that. I think it's
partly from the Coast Guard, it's partly of growing older, and I think it's partly the
demands of graduate school. I want to do this, but I need to do X, X, and X. I
think both play into it, because I just like to do a lot of different things. Maybe
that's partly why I could never decide in high school what I wanted to do- I
enjoyed doing to many different things. To do all those you really have to
[schedule you time]. I just have come to appreciate that having a more focused
[approach], doing this at this time, it provides some guideposts through your day
and it provides a certain foundation that you're able to do a lot of different things
and allowed to do it much easier. I think it's important.
A: What kind of outside support have you received during you time at school other
than your own self-motivation and drive?
H: My partner, David, has done probably more than anyone of helping me through
grad school-through the stresses and the occasional panic attack. He's been just
a fantastic source of inspiration and support. My friends Rick and Jeffrey, who I
met from the softball team I played on, we're still friends, and they, very early on,
were very supportive of me going to graduate school. They were really on the
sidelines cheering me on, and I really think without them, it would have been
much harder for me to go to graduate school. My sisters have been very
encouraging as well, and they have become more encouraging the further I have
gotten along, so they've been really helpful. As I've gotten to know various
people over the years, they've been encouraging of wanting you to get done and
get your degree and making it through.
A: What about financially? How have you paid for graduate school?
H: Oh, boy. How have I paid for it? Well, partly borrowing money, to be honest. I
haven't borrowed as much as doctors going through, but it's no small amount. My
first year in graduate school I worked part-time, and at times I've worked during
summers to make up money. At other times I've luckily been funded, which has
helped out. It hasn't always been a lot of money, but it's been enough to get by. I
think, too, with David and I together, the combined incomes of us have really
helped us get through in the sense that it's easier [because a person is] not
paying for everything all by himself. I think that's probably helped more ways then
anything. There's been various things along the way. For a while, David had
some money from when his parents died, so he was getting that certain amount
each month at some point. I think the two of us doing it together [has been] the
biggest thing of getting us through.
A: I also want to know, now that you are on both end of the spectrum, teacher and
student, what kind of change have you observed in students? You can take it
from whichever vantage point you want: from now, from when you were at
DeVry, or at University of Minnesota. Just tell me about the differences from
being on one side of the classroom to the other.
H: I can answer that in a couple of ways. One, from my experience of being an
undergraduate to teaching undergraduates. I sometimes wonder if my
experience is not all that helpful because I was in such a different position. Being
older, I was there, literally, to learn. I was there to be at every class. I think in
someways that's not so very helpful, in some ways that makes it a little bit
difficult, because I expect students to take classes as seriously as I did when I
was an undergraduate, and that may be a problem. In other senses students are
very much the same-in the sense of it's Friday, we want to go out, we want to go
to this party, we want to have fun. There's that. So in those sorts of things, the
social life, that's pretty much the same in doing it.
I think one of the biggest changes that I've seen is how basic ideas, basic
assumptions that people have are different now than they were years ago. I think
when I first started in the 1980s, there was a stronger influence of the 1960s and
being more critical of federal government. There was more, in some ways, [a]
liberal attitude. Now it's shifted, and I think part of this is time and years, [but]
people have shifted [to] being more conservative. I think part of [my attitude] is
age, being older and seeing the next group of students, or a different generation.
That's very different, and it sort of affects how I present my material. But in the
same instance, students are very much alike in the sense [that] they do want to
know and they do want to learn the material, even though sometimes by their
actions or by their appearance [it may seem] they're not interested. They are
interested in a certain way [their own way].
A: To wrap up the interview I have two concluding questions. The first is: what are
some of the special challenges you have faced throughout your career of being a
non-traditional student that most traditional students probably don't face?
H: What are some of the challenges I face? Income; making sure you have enough
money. Definitely, that is probably, I think one. Not having your parents paying
for it or not having the Bright Futures [Scholarship] or something like that, I think
that is a big challenge. As younger students, parents are there more to
supplement them and assist them in many ways. That was something I didn't
have. I was much more aware of [the fact] I needed to work-more often than
not-as far as to help put myself through school. So that's one difference I would
say. I guess I'll have to ask you to read the question again. I've kind of half
forgotten the question.
A: What are some special challenges for non-traditional students?
H: I think in some ways, as an older student, you have to put in more time. You're
less flexible intellectually. Like recently, [for a] couple of years, I was studying
Spanish. I realized that students around me who were younger could just pick up
Spanish much easier and much quicker and put together forms when they began
talking. It was much harder for me as an older student because I had been
speaking for that much longer, and I had to work a lot more in getting it and that
sort of thing. I think you really have to do more hours. You have the advantage of
experience, so you think of things differently and you are able to ask good
questions, but you don't have that flexibility where you can just quickly change
and pick up [new ideas] like you would in a foreign language. So I think it is
mostly income challenges, and to some degree support. People anticipate you
being younger that you are going to be in college and they are supportive of you
and that's not a big deal. As you get older, that is more of a question as far as,
why are you still in school and that sort of thing. So that is another one.
A: Just out of curiosity, you learned Spanish so you could do research in Spanish?
H: Yeah, and being able to talk with people in Chile and South America. I've come
to believe that learning another language is sort of a door into another culture.
Things we says in English, some of the metaphors we use, really give an
indication of who we are. Like, "well he really bought the farm." What does that
mean? I'm trying to think of a better metaphor. [For example], "he cried a river of
tears," or something like that. There are different metaphors [in different cultures],
and it gives you a sense of how people think and some of the parameters [of
their culture]. I think language is something extremely useful in learning a foreign
language because it helps you to see another culture well, but it also helps you
understand your own better.
A: My final question is: what do you think the university system can do to better
meet the needs of students who aren't traditional?
H: That's a good question. I think the university system-and I'm being very general
here-at times, is premised on the assumptions that people are here out of high
school getting their degree and they're ready to go. In some sense I get the
[sense that the] university is premised on the idea that people are here to get
their degree, [to] get a skill, to get a job. I think that is forgetting what the
university is about; the university is about education. The older student is there
for the education and is there for the learning, and if you have an institution of
higher learning, then why would you charge people extra for going over four
years or having too many credits or not having them register because they
already have a degree? That to me is absolutely asinine. I think it gives an
indication of a university that is not interested in education and learning, but a
university that's interested in just cranking out degrees. If one wants to crank out
degrees, why doesn't one have Wal-Mart put out a printing press and sell
degrees for $1.29 or $.89 when they're on sale. I'm being very critical, but for
older students, you're there for the education, you're there for learning, and that
kind of system works against older students. We're not eighteen or nineteen year
olds here-that may be where most of your money is coming from-but if you're an
institution of higher learning-and I think there was a better understanding of this
in the 1980s and early 1990s-there has to be a lot more flexibility. People are
coming back to school because they don't like their careers, because they have
been phased out of their job, [or] laid-off for whatever reason and they need a
new career. I think there needs to be a much stronger sense of that's who these
people are and what they're wanting. I just sometimes don't see the university as
catering to that. I think other universities-like say the University of Michigan or
even to a degree the University of Minnesota-are much more used having non-
traditional students than I think sometimes Florida does. To some degree the
[University of] Wyoming was like that too. I think that there are a lot of non-
traditional students, and I think that's one thing that needs to be thought of, that
some people are here for learning and education.
[End of the interview.]