How can we listen, learn and respond to health crises, financial crises, and racial injustice? What resources and models are available to guide us through these as teaching moments? As faculty and staff begin to build programs and assignments that prompt courageous conversations, texts and pedagogical strategies that model courageous teaching and learning can help. On Tuesday, July 28, NetVUE hosted a webinar with three speakers who offered specific texts and assignments that prompt conversation and address the challenges of contemporary life.Continue reading
George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch was published nearly 150 years ago, in 8 installments from December 1871 to December 1872. Victorian readers would have had plenty of time to speculate on the characters’ decisions and lives as they awaited the next chapters to be published. Waiting, you see, was part of serialized reading.
Taking a year to read a novel is an elusive experience for contemporary life centered on binge watching serial television or listening to episodic podcasts. Immersion has its place, certainly, in a world that is fragmented and demanding, but reading over a period of time affords insight and transformation that compressed immersion does not.
“What is the quality of your waiting?” I once heard a spiritual leader ask. Academic calendars don’t encourage waiting but our vocational discernment clocks, which should be set for a longer, more deliberate reflection, can. The quality of our waiting can allow us to respond with purpose.
Middlemarch is a novel about vocation—some might even argue, the novel about vocation. It portrays life slowly unfolding before us. Many have seen the novel as a guide to deliberating a professional path, to navigating adulthood, to choosing a marriage partner, to surviving small-town life. More broadly, a recent BBC poll ranked Middlemarch as the greatest British novel. Continue reading
Recently, in my perusal of the Sunday New York Times, I saw the headline “Vocations: Tasting chocolate every day, for pay.” Vocations and chocolate? I had to read on.
What I found on the second page of the business section was an extensive interview with Brad Kintzer who is the chief chocolate maker for Tcho Chocolate in Berkeley, California. There were many moments of vocational reflection in the interview, including Kintzer’s review of his academic path: “I’d been interested in plant life as an environmental studies major at the University of Vermont with a focus on botany…. The cacao bean fascinated me from the first time I saw its tree in a greenhouse at the Montreal Botanical Gardens.” He also commented on his general curiosity and wide learning, describing the botanical aspects of cacao, the cultural uses of the bean, and its historical and spiritual significance.
The Vocations column is full of these sorts of stories—tracing people’s professional paths which inevitably involve other aspects of their lives. Though the Times’ writers describe the column as “people from all walks of life talk about their jobs” the column really does much more than that. The title “vocations” is obviously meant in a more narrow sense from the newspaper’s perspective, but I think we can see it in a broader, more nuanced way which speaks to the important work of vocational discernment, of finding individual purpose in communities and relationships throughout one’s life. Continue reading
Cartographers try to render clear a patchwork of people and place, land and history. As the poet Ciaran Carson suggests, “With so many foldings and unfoldings, whole segments of the/ map have fallen off” (“Queen’s Gambit”). Maps embody, in pieces, cultural thought and human experience.
The map is an oft invoked image for discussing life’s purpose—indeed, upon my arrival at NetVUE’s Teaching Vocational Exploration summer seminar we spent time both drawing our own vocational maps and explaining them. This exercise proved disorienting (I prefer to think in words, not images) and also expanding, in that I started to think of my vocational journey as a sort of constellation map. On it, I noted bright spots in my past—my undergraduate mentor, reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch for the first time, studying abroad, professional achievements—and I also saw how the darkness of other aspects of experience offered direction. Continue reading
It’s fair to say that most faculty are honors students. We climbed the hill of academic success, garnered several complicated degrees and certificates, sat through terrifying and difficult exams, and embarked on various research projects.
Our identities as scholars and teachers are often still conflicted, responding to the demands of a product oriented higher education landscape and the liberal arts education many of us cherish. So, too, do our students who seek academic achievement find themselves conflicted when they arrive in an honors program.
Honors programs vary in nature and scope—some emphasizing an enriched liberal arts curriculum, some prizing individual research projects and some asking students to apply research in their communities and through civic engagement. The programs attempt to add depth or breadth to student experience, as well as platforms for innovative teaching and learning. Continue reading