Strayer University: An Odd Coincidence

You may recall that I recently posted a bit of information about Strayer University’s efforts at getting my dog, Pete, to apply to one of their degree programs. You may also recall that in addition to being a dog, one other obstacle standing between Pete and his lifelong dream of earning a degree is that his life turned out not to be long enough to see his dream come true. Sadly, he passed away a little over a year ago.

But now the saga has another twist:

This weekend, my wife and I had the privilege of attending my cousin’s wedding. The bride (my cousin) was glowing, the groom was a charming gentleman, everyone had a lot of fun, and it was a great opportunity for two families who, for the most part, had never met to get to know each other. And get to know each other we did over the course of a lot of eating, drinking, and dancing (or something quite like it).

After the reception, the party continued at the hotel bar where I met the uncle of the groom. He mentioned that he worked at a university in the Washington DC area. As an educator myself, I was curious to hear more, so I asked which university.

The answer: Strayer.

On top of that, he said that he works in the Office of Admissions.

I paused for a moment, wondering if I should mention Pete.

I mentioned Pete.

“You know,” I said. “My dog got a letter from Strayer a few weeks ago asking him to apply.”

“That happens sometimes,” the man said.

“He died about a year ago,” I said.

The man nodded and said his office got a lot of phone calls from people with similar complaints — letters going to elderly relatives in nursing homes, for example, asking if they’d be interested in furthering their careers by going to Strayer.

I asked why that happened.

The problem, he said, was that Strayer works with an outside marketing firm to reach out to potential students. It was the firm, in other words, and not Strayer’s Office of Admissions who extended an invitation to Pete to apply to one of the university’s degree programs.

So it seems I owe the Strayer University Office of Admissions an apology.

Moreover, the gentleman I spoke to was a very nice guy, and it turned out that we have a lot of the same concerns when it comes to higher education. We’re both distressed by the decline in reading and writing skills we see among incoming freshmen, and we both worry a lot about retention rates among matriculating students. In other words, we really want to see students who apply and are accepted into degree programs carry through with their course of study all the way to graduation.

And there it was: two families coming together and two distinct approaches to education finding some degree of accord, both on the same day.

In the end, I suppose, we all have more in common than we tend to think.

An Odd Coincidence

A few days ago, I went to the library. My purpose in going to the library was not to see if my book was on the shelf, but since I was there, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to see if my book was on the shelf. As it turned out, my book was not on the shelf, but another book caught my eye, a book whose author’s name was sufficiently close to my own that it was on the very same shelf that my book would have been on had it been on the shelf: John Scalzi’s The Android’s Dream.

As an on-again-off-again Philip K. Dick fan, I couldn’t help noticing the sheep on the cover and making the implicit connection between Scalzi’s novel and Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? So I had to pick it up. And I did. Then I went back and forth for a bit about whether to bring it home. I can be very lazy when I want to be, and home is about a half-mile from the library, which meant that I would have to carry the book a whole half-mile home, and then I’d have to read it, which means I’d have to squeeze it in between marathon sessions of grading Freshman Composition papers and occasional attempts at procrastination like writing this blog post. In the end, though, I decided to go for it. I checked the book out of the library, walked it home, and, in a further attempt to avoid grading papers, went straight to Facebook to see what my friends were up to.

And here’s where the coincidence comes in: My friend Carla had posted a link to an article on writing that one of her students had forwarded to her. And the author of the link was none other than John Scalzi, the author of the book that had just caught my eye less than half-an-hour earlier.

So what can we learn from all of this (aside from the fact that my laziness and vanity know no bounds)? What does it all mean? What is the universe trying to tell me? Is a coincidence just a coincidence as Lily Tomlin’s character insists in I Heart Huckabees? Or is something bigger afoot? Perhaps the answer lies between the covers of Scalzi’s book. I will soon find out. As Dale Cooper once said in Twin Peaks, “Fellas, coincidence and fate figure largely in our lives.”