Graduation letters: Vickie Jensen


Illustration by Brandon Sarmiento

Vickie Jensen

Vickie Jensen, Ph.D., is the chair of the criminology and justice studies department at the college of social and behavioral sciences. You can learn more about her here.

There is so much I would want to tell my younger self getting ready for graduation 35 years ago (yes, it was 1988!) that I am not entirely sure where to begin. A place to start, though, is the fact that I can’t fathom the fact that I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts 35 years ago! Time goes by quickly, and nothing unpleasant or pleasant lasts forever exactly the way we picture it.

At that time, I was on my way to Ohio State University to study sociology, and after that, I wanted to become a professor at a research university studying cultural deviance. I didn’t know that my world would be shifted and that I would stay at Oklahoma, my undergrad institution, for my master’s degree as well before going to a different program.

Our paths are impacted by so many unforeseen things that we can’t anticipate. Our energy is best spent learning skills to deal with change and to strengthen confidence; worry and fear are energy drains that take valuable resources away from the same challenge we faced to begin with. A little general faith doesn’t hurt either. I am not talking about any particular religious or spiritual faith, but faith that we trust that things will work out. After all, nothing stays exactly the way we picture it.

I would tell myself that my path would be more amazing and multi-dimensional than I would ever have guessed. I came to a comprehensive, teaching university, CSUN, in 1997, and I am still here, but I am not in the place I imagined.

The path I planned – get a job as professor, get tenure, get promoted – was so two-dimensional. I couldn’t envision the deep and meaningful relationships I would form with students and colleagues, and I certainly didn’t see the opportunities along the path for new and exciting endeavors. I most definitely did not imagine that I would lead the newest and fastest-growing department on campus. I never thought I had the skills I needed. What I didn’t know was that the skills were embedded in all parts of my path.

In general, I’d tell myself that it does all work out, and the steps and leaps of faith that I took along the way brought me to new possibilities that give me a sense of pride and accomplishment, enriching my career and my life.

I’d end by saying that time will pass quickly, and the path doesn’t always lead to where we think it will at the outset. Keeping our hearts and minds open and focusing on how we deal with changes and opportunities, rather than fearing them, leads us in the direction we are supposed to go, even if it doesn’t look like we planned.

In my case, it turned out much better than I imagined!