In 'Academic/Orientation Reboot' Speech,
Professor Encourages Students to Embrace the New

Gina MireaultBehavioral Sciences Professor Gina Mireault had some words of advice for returning Johnson State students at an "academic/orientation reboot" on Jan. 22.


She acknowledged that the students — many of them from the Class of 2017 and in their first year of college — are at a "point between," moving away from home and life as they once knew it and toward something entirely new: the independence of adulthood.


"Psychologists have found that early adulthood — the ages of about 18 to 35, right where you are now — is the most stressful part of life. There is so much pressure to know who you are, who you want to be and how to get there," Dr. Mireault told a full house gathered on a below-zero night in 207 Bentley Hall.


Her humorous and insightful talk, titled "Where Are You Now? and Other (Dis)orienting Questions," was aimed at students as they move into the second semester of the 2013-14 academic year. (Download a PDF of Dr. Mireault's speech.)


She encouraged them to "stay present" with who they are now — and not to become anxious about where they are going, even if a well-meaning relative wants to know their future plans.

 

"The future is yet to occur and cannot be known. You can only answer for who you are, what you like, and what you want right now," she said. "Being oriented has almost nothing to do with the future. It can only be accomplished in the present."


She also suggested students take a cue from the infants she studies as part of her psychological research. The way babies learn, she explained, is by observing how everything in the world might first appear the same, but is actually quite different. For instance, they see that birds fly, then, on a visit to an aquarium, they might observe a penguin, and they notice that it doesn't.


"They have their world view blown apart all the time, over and over again," she said. "They are in a constant state of disequilibrium and disorientation."


Dr. Mireault urged her student audience to do the same. "Expect to have your worldview — even your self-concept, your identity — challenged in disorienting ways. Embrace it. Work on it and with it until it starts to make sense."