Building multicultural competency

Malcolm X sat across the desk from Mr. Ostrowski, his teacher and advisor. Despite being one of his top eighth grade students, Mr. Ostrowski told Malcolm he should be realistic and become a carpenter–not a lawyer–because he was Black. Little did either of the two know at that moment in time what greater vocation lay ahead for Malcolm X. As educators and student development staff in higher education we would like to think that this type of racist interaction is a thing of the past; however, unconscious and conscious biases shape our interactions with students. Building multicultural competency is not an easy task and is a life-long journey and yet taking on this charge is critical if we are to ethically serve all of our students.

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Why go to college?

Why do young people go to college? In a short piece in Inside HigherEd this week entitled “A Not-So-Tidy Narrative,” Michael Horn and Bob Moesta share some of their findings, which were published this past fall in Choosing College: How to Make Better Learning Decisions Throughout Your Life (Jossey-Bass, 2019). The book explores the constellation (and complexity) of reasons that prospective students choose the college they do, and serves as a good reminder that it is about much more than “getting a job.”

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Re-thinking Leadership

Do you have a teetering stack of books on your bedside table? Mine looks like this: On the bottom, playing a support function, are usually classic texts that I know I should read but never really get around to (apologies to George Eliot). On top of that are books purchased in a temporary bout of self-improvement (currently: Fit at Mid-Life: a Feminist Fitness Journey, written by two philosophers and which I recommend even though I am only half-way through – ha ha!). Then, a friend’s brilliant yet difficult memoir about her mother’s suicide that I really should finish (The Art of Misdiagnosis) and a collection of poetry by a local poet (A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes). Closer to the top is Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion, the focus of a recently formed book-group of interesting people with whom I enjoy spending time; our conversations have thankfully been more reflective than the book itself. 

On top of the pile are books given to me in recent months by two different friends, who said some version of “you should read this” as they pressed the book into my hands. Both books are about leadership, and each one challenges our traditional understandings. 

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Office Hours and Fear of the Unknown

Faculty Office Hours, or FOH: May become addicting!

A story that aired on NPR back in October about college students and office hours never quite gained the traction I thought it would. The highlight of the story for me was the discussion of a satirical video, produced by Arizona State University, warning students of the dangers of FMOOWMP: Fear of Meeting One on One with my Professor.  “Finally!” I thought, a lighthearted way to break the ice with my students and encourage them to take advantage of those big blue blocks labelled “Office Hours” on my posted schedule.

The story aired on a Wednesday and I decided that the FMOOWMP video was going to be my opening for both of my classes the following morning. As funny as the video is, it certainly needs some qualifiers if the joyful ending it envisions is ever going to be realized. Yes, office hours are good and can make all the difference in the world. But, after giving this a little more thought, I think the whole concept of office hours can benefit from a little unpacking.

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Lessons from Humanism: Mentoring that Fosters Vocational Discernment

Any relationship can be therapeutic, according to Carl Rogers (1902-1987). In psychology there are many theoretical approaches to counseling and various clinical techniques. The common factor among all effective therapies is the working relationship between the two parties. In higher education there are numerous opportunities for building rewarding relationships with students and colleagues. Humanism’s approach of emphasizing relationship, strengths, and human potential make it a particularly useful framework for undergraduate mentoring relationships that foster vocational discernment. 

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Aligning Passion and Profession

A career-oriented seminar program at Le Moyne College helped Alex Cimino Jr. (left) decide that he wanted to work at coordinating large-scale disaster-response efforts. (Photo courtesy of Le Moyne College, for the Chronicle.)

I was on vacation in early September, and wouldn’t you know it—that’s exactly when the Chronicle of Higher Education would decide to publish a brief article about two NetVUE institutions and their highly successful vocational exploration programs. I missed it at the time, but it’s certainly not too late to read about the Manresa program at Le Moyne and the Messina program at Loyola University of Maryland. (And if the words Manresa and Messina are obscure to you, the clue is that these are both Jesuit institutions; search on Ignatius of Loyola for more information.) The article is titled At 2 Jesuit Colleges, Aligning Passion and Profession. It’s behind a firewall, but many libraries have a site license, so check with them if you can’t access it. Shout-outs to the visionary leaders at these NetVUE campuses who added their comments to the article: At Loyola, president Brian Linnane, and at Le Moyne, Deborah Cady Melzer, VP for student development, and Steven Affeldt of the philosophy faculty, who is also our NetVUE campus contact.

 

Confucian Metaphors for Discerning Meaning

For those of us who care about guiding students along the path to finding meaning in their lives and work, it seems obvious why a person would want to find such a path. Unfortunately, a big part of that guidance is just convincing students that striving for “meaning” is worthwhile in the first place. That’s because to discern a more meaningful way of life, you must be willing to admit that some ways of life are not as meaningful, and thus not worth pursuing. Even more complicated yet, the ones most worth pursuing will almost certainly require accepting unpleasantness and constraint. Job number one in vocational discernment is identifying why you should even care to “aim higher.” Some metaphors from the early Confucian thinker Mencius (or Mengzi. who would have understood himself as a Ruist rather than as a Confucian) are helpful in working through this problem with students.

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