Professor Faith Payne: Advice for a Generation
“…the Baby Boomers, Generation X, the Millennials, Generation Y… stop with the labels,” Professor Payne replied when I asked what her advice to the generation known as “Y” (those born throughout the 80s and early 90s) would be.
Professor Payne is an instructor for the Sociology Department of the University of West Georgia. I had the opportunity to interview her on the topics of service and learning, both of which she is deeply passionate. She has been actively involved in service since the beginning of her civic contribution as a member of the Girl Scouts and 4-H when she was a child. Since then she has gone on to volunteer in many capacities, from serving the community at local food pantries, to pushing for solutions in inequality, to reading to the classes at her son’s school.
She is adamant that we work together with Generation Y to ensure their success and should start by avoiding the use of labels. She states, “I have never been a fan of labels. Once we associate particular characteristics with a label, then those that are labeled internalize those characteristics. If they are negative, that can be detrimental to the group, which, in turn, can be detrimental to society. We must meet this generation half way and mentor them from a leadership position.” Because of her experience with high school students and incoming freshman, she realized that the idea that Generation Y is “lazy” and “has to have everything given to them” may not always be true. She continues, “I can see an alternative perspective on this group. If we are to help this generation be successful, then we must get past the labels and work together.”
While Professor Payne posits that it is a joint effort, she also acknowledges that those in Generation Y have a responsibility in their own success. “I cannot stress enough that it is important for this generation to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, to be committed to their success, and be willing to do the work to see their goals come to fruition. I truly care about my students and their success. In terms of their current situation, which I am presuming to be a student here at UWG, I would always encourage my students to make relationships with their professors. If you find a professor that you like, who you feel “gets you,” or with whom you feel a connection, go talk to them. Seek out the individuals who share your interests and build a relationship. Always ask for help when you need it, ask for guidance. Don’t think you have to be alone in this endeavor because you are not.
Professor Payne concludes her advice with a recommendation to read. “Read. I cannot stress enough how important it is to read. You will learn something every single time. Discover the bigger world of which you are a part. Don’t be so caught up in your own circle. You need to recognize that there is a bigger picture. That bigger picture affects you in one way or another. Ask tough questions, go for help when you need it, and commit yourself to the hard work it takes to be your best self.”