Saturday, June 02, 2007


What follows is the Conclusion/Reflection Section of my 2006-2007 annual report -- the last annual report I will write for St. Cloud State University's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. I am leaving the University to accept a post in the English Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Like all transitions, this one comes with emotional consequences; I feel a sense of sorrow, of impending loss and also great anticipation, thrill, eagerness, and wonderment at my good fortune. I'm not sure just now what will happen with this blog. Perhaps I'll take it with me and transform its purposes just a bit (or clarify them at least). Or maybe the new director will want to take it over. I guess we'll figure that out as we go...

In any case, below please find my concluding reflections on my tenure as the CETL director at St. Cloud State University.


At the culmination of my third year as the Director of St. Cloud State University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and my final year as a faculty member at SCSU, I am struck by the exceptional quality of my University’s faculty. I have learned over the last three years that my colleagues across the University are experimenting, innovating, reflecting, and engaging critically and responsively in their classrooms and in their individual encounters with students. At the same time, many of my colleagues are making extraordinary contributions to knowledge in their disciplines. There is a tremendous amount of individual collective experience and wisdom that has formed the most vibrant, rigorous, and inspirational resource for me as a faculty developer. I have learned that much of faculty development leadership depends so much more on recognizing, cultivating, and tapping the expertise of one’s colleagues and encouraging them to make that knowledge public than on becoming an expert on pedagogy and praxis in every discipline oneself. I’ve learned that successful promotion of faculty development opportunities depends first and foremost on reaching out to colleagues with respect and recognition of their commitment, integrity, and prior knowledge. The greatest mistakes I’ve made as a faculty development leader have occurred as a result of not studying what my colleagues already know before I tell them what I think they ought to know.

At the same time (and I write this lovingly and with great respect), I have noted with increasing frequency as my own exposure to research on student learning and teaching effectiveness deepens that my colleagues seem at some critical junctures not to recognize their own self-interest as they make decisions or refuse to make decisions about policies, practices, and curricula whether locally or at the statewide level (see for example the refusal of the university faculty to participate in the Board of Trustees Awards for faculty excellence). Further, I have noted that my colleagues seem at other critical junctures to rehearse old and largely discredited notions about student learning, early adult development, and teaching effectiveness in ways that do disservice to students and, perhaps, to faculty as well (for example the SCSU Faculty Association’s refusal to endorse a mandatory attendance policy – a decision hinging on the claim that students are already fully formed adults and should enjoy the freedom to fail; or reactionary discussions of assessment that fall well short of a meaningful and informed critique of mainstream assessment theory and practice). Often, I think, it is those very colleagues who are most publicly and frequently inclined to proclaim with great certainty positions that are fundamentally indefensible from a informed, researched perspective, who would be least likely to ever espouse a theory or scholarly perspective in their discipline that they had not fully researched and about which they were unfamiliar with the arguments both of its proponents and its detractors such that they could stake out a clear and reasoned position for themselves.

Similarly, having survived an early indoctrination into the evils of MnSCU and the seamless and impenetrable incompetence of SCSU Administrators writ large, I have learned that there is great intelligence, deep commitment, and extraordinary ability abounding among the administration and staff of both the University and the Chancellor’s Office. I know of few administrators who could legitimately claim never to have erred or failed, but then I know of few administrators who would actually be inclined to make that sort of claim. On the other hand, I have noted with frequent alarm and occasional despair, the tendency of some administrators, often in collaboration with some faculty, to orchestrate or participate in mobbings against their peers or against other faculty, to control and direct rather than to facilitate and lead, to obfuscate and dissemble rather than practicing transparency and honesty, and to practice the exploitation rather than the stewardship of human resources, in particular. I know that, as with faculty, the actions of a few continue to undermine the credibility and integrity of the many. I watch as some of my faculty colleagues construct reactionary positions based on the presumption that tarring all administrators with the same brush is somehow appropriate just as I watch some of my administrative colleagues construct repressive and unjust policies and, worse, unwritten practices, to silence dissent within the faculty.

At SCSU, the Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning occupies a strange and conflicted organizational space on a kind of bridge between faculty and administration – some of each and wholly neither. At the same time, I have seen my role quite clearly as being one of advocacy on behalf of faculty. I have felt myself tasked with making some intellectual, some pedagogical sense of institutional directives and initiatives that seem both invested with tremendous educational potential and emptied of that potential by their fad-appeal. I have felt myself tasked with providing faculty with opportunities to engage in intellectually rigorous, critical, and creative ways with the best that is known about such matters as assessment, general education curriculum design, civic engagement and service-learning, international education and globalization, anti-racist education and feminist pedagogies, engaged pedagogy and instructional technologies, student learning and learning-centered pedagogies, critical thinking and critical pedagogy, and so on. At least some of these ideas as topics for the attention of CETL came originally from individual administrators or from groups of administrators – just as many of the ideas came from faculty colleagues counseling me, answering my questions (born both of curiosity and of need), advising me, or asking me for information. In any case, in the strange-in-between-ness of the CETL directorship, I have occasionally been struck by the absurdity of monolithic representations of the Other forthcoming from both sides (administration and faculty) and by the tragedy of unrecognized and unacknowledged shared interests, commitments, convictions, and a shared love of and respect for students.

To be in-between is to find oneself, I think, in a intellectually, creatively, and organizationally challenging place – it is a site of great risk and also and necessarily of great potential. In many ways, I am quite convinced, it is not only what I’ve accomplished as a writing center scholar, but also and perhaps more so what I have learned as the Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and how I have learned, that has enabled me to move from St. Cloud State University to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I think I’ve learned to listen much more deeply and more rhetorically as it were. I think I’ve learned to organize strategically and to practice sustainable advocacy. I think I’ve learned to write with greater persuasive power and a stronger awareness of audience. And I think I’ve learned that wise counsel and powerful mentoring come at moments of great need from the most surprising and wondrous people, if only one is ready and open.

I hope that I have left the CETL situated such that a new director may step into the position with certainty about the institutional security of the office and its work, with a sense of the Office being well resourced and supported enthusiastically by both faculty and administration at SCSU. I believe I have accomplished that much. I also hope that I have left space and opportunity for new vision, for new and alternative ways of moving, and for greater and even more progressive experimentation with teaching and learning.

Respectfully Submitted By Dr. Frankie Condon
June 1, 2007

Monday, October 30, 2006

Stone Soup: A Faculty Fable

I wrote this funny little fable not so long ago. I was being given an award for a faculty program called "Stone Soup." One each Friday of the academic year, faculty gather for informal talk about teaching in our campus' restaurant. Nobody tells anyone what to talk about; we just talk. Anyway, I was asked to describe "Stone Soup" to an audience of teaching and learning leaders on campuses across Minnesota. So this is what I wrote:

Once upon a time, there was a very wise, very talented, very competent professor named Grace. She taught at Riverside University, a moderately-sized institution, in a medium sized town, in a state in the middle of the U.S. Grace had been teaching for 10 years. For the longest time, she loved her students, loved her courses, was a productive scholar, was active on numerous committees in her Department as well as on university-wide committees. Grace was tenured and promoted and generally recognized by her colleagues as a valued member of their community.

In the fullness of time, however, Grace got tired. She was less able to think of new ways to approach her teaching and to help her students learn better and deeper. Her scholarship seemed to dry up – she couldn’t think of research questions that seemed valuable and she couldn’t seem to gather the energy to do research. Conflicts in her department or across the university – even minor ones – made her want to hide. And the more she hid, the more hiding became a habit. She kept her head down. Prepared for her classes. Graded her papers. Went to her meetings. Went home tired. Woke up tired. Seldom talked to colleagues about anything that didn’t seem mundane. And so Grace began to feel lonely. Grace had ennui.

But she was disinclined to give up on the work that she had loved for so long and in which she invested so much of her time and care. So Grace went to her colleagues and friends across the University. She described her struggle for professional renewal. She asked for their help. “Can you look at my course materials or observe me teach and give me feedback?” Can you read a draft of my article?” “Oh yes,” said her friend Bob when he heard her story. “I feel that way too. I’ve got nothing left to give. Just do my work, go home, and go to bed.” “Oh yes,” said her friend Kiesha when she heard Grace’s story. “I feel that way too. I’ve got nothing left to give. Terrible, isn’t it?” All over campus, Grace got the same response. “Feel that way too. So Sorry. No time. I’m so burned out.” “Workload issues.” “Damn administrators!” Eventually, word went out that Grace was coming. Faculty closed their doors, screened their calls, and muttered to themselves as they hurried away from her when they saw her across campus. Her Dean called and informed her that she needed to work harder on being collegial. Her Provost called and told her he’d assigned her an overload for the spring semester.

But Grace was wise and talented and competent. And she was a little bit stubborn too. So she thought and she thought and she thought. Then she went to lunch at the school’s cafeteria. As she suspected, Bob and Keisha, Annette and Luke and Ali were all having lunch together at a table. Grace filled her tray and pulled up a seat at their table. Nobody would look at her. She entered their conversation where she could and never said a word about feeling deadened as a teacher. Slowly her colleagues turned toward her again. The following week on the same day and at the same time, Grace went to lunch again and joined the same colleagues. After some initial chatting, Grace said, “the most interesting thing happened in my class today.” And Grace described asking a series of questions to her students to which no one had responded. “Has this ever happened to you?” she asked. Keisha nodded happily. “You know, that happened to me all last semester. And I finally realized that every question I asked had either a yes/no answer or was one that my students could tell I already had an answer for. So I started asking different kinds of questions and getting them in small groups to talk and now I can’t get them to shut up half the time.”

Before long Bob, Luke, Annette, and Ali were talking about the kinds of questions they had tried in classes to engage students. Soon the lunch hour was finished. “We should do this again,” Ali said. “You know,” said Grace, “we could have even more conversation if next week each of us brings one dilemma and one success story and we start sharing them.” “Too busy,” said Bob. “How bout if we take turns? I’ll come prepared next week and we’ll go from there.” They did. And as the months went by their conversations deepened and grew rich. They began to like one another more. They started brainstorming ways of working together more closely in learning communities with students or in learning circles with one another. Each of them brought what they had and took what they needed.

Soon word got around campus that a group of faculty were having fun talking together about teaching. The group grew. Sometimes they talked about other things…like families and partners, water quality and whether there is life on Mars. Nobody minded. They let the conversation wander and they came back to teaching and learning without having to work to hard at it. The group grew more. Each person brought what they had and took what they needed. And they all lived happily ever after. The End.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

On Shunning in the Academy

On October 17, 1981 my Dad committed suicide by placing a revolver in his mouth, pointing it upward toward his brain, and pulling the trigger. Not surprisingly, this event constituted a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions in the lives of his wife and children. I was eighteen years old at the time and in my second year of university (my first year at York University in Toronto). I thought for the longest time that I had also died.

I think it is not possible to trace with any degree of precision the exact causes of complex human choices like the decision to take one’s own life. It is possible, however, to consider the array of conditions that might make such a choice seem necessary. And for my Dad, certainly, one such condition (not the only condition, but one among many) was the state of his relationships with the college in which he had spent the most of his working life as a faculty member, a department chair, a musician, a teacher, and a scholar.

The year was 1981. At that time, the State of Pennsylvania had a mandatory retirement age of sixty-five for all state employees. And so my Dad had received a letter from the State informing him that he would have to retire at the close of the 1981-1982 academic year. To say this letter was brusque would be to understate the matter to the point of absurdity. There was nothing in the letter that would have signified the quality of his contributions to his institution, department, or to his students. There was no gesture of thanks for his years of service nor was there any indication that he had left a legacy of learning that would ever be acknowledged or appreciated by the institution or by his colleagues.

In the two years preceding my Father’s death, his Department was in a state of conflict – a bitter feud the magnitude of which might be unthinkable outside the academy. Inside the academy, I suspect, most of us know what this kind of battle looks like, feels like, and how it insinuates into even the most mundane activities of academic life. Within his department, my Dad was systematically isolated, vilified, and actively shunned. There were rumors after his death that members of his department had actively solicited students to harass my Dad (hot-gluing his office door lock, for example). It is not rumor, but fact that my Dad received anonymous hate mail attacking his teaching, his credentials as a musician, the quality of his performances, and – just to make very sure he understood how deeply he was hated – his ability to make love to his wife. It is not clear who sent those letters. To me the maliciousness of the letters seems self-evident. Whatever my Dad had done as Chair, as a teacher, as a musician nothing, it seems to me, could have merited such treatment.

Often in our University (and at colleges and universities across the country, I am convinced) our battles are waged at a pitch of intensity that the issues hardly seem to merit. And at times, we battle over matters that do seem tremendously important, but our tactics seem to me to be aimed not so much toward facilitating transformation as at destroying one another. When this is the case, I suggest that we are no longer struggling in service of principles and practices, philosophies, or equitable working conditions, but for domination and control. These battles take on a pornographic quality in which explicit submission becomes the object of desire.

My Father’s case is an extreme one – demonstrating the logics of academic conflict extended to their most horrific conclusions. The end is, perhaps, unusual, but the ways of thinking and being, the convictions about the legitimacy of causes, the degrees of certainty not only about the effects of one another’s practices but about the interiority of others – these prevail. These logics I see in operation all around me. And there is a kind of amnesiac quality to the waging of conflict between faculty, between faculty and administration, and between faculty and students. As we fight for that which we believe to be right – whether that is a conviction about who should be department chair, or how a course should be taught and what its content should be, or the core values of a curriculum, or whether the Left or the Right or the Center prevail in the academy – we slide inexorably, it sometimes seems, toward murderous intent. We wish for the absence of the other and frame arguments designed to exterminate the other or at least other-thinking in our midst. And we forget quite quickly once the battle has been won what the issues were.

What we don’t forget is who we hate.

Years after conflicts have concluded, we remember to turn away from one another, to refuse to speak to one another, to dismiss any and all needs or claims of the one who offended or from whom we took offense.

I’m using “we” here not as a rhetorical conceit, but with the recognition that I too begin to hate. I begin to imagine conspiracies designed to humiliate and isolate me. I begin to fear even those whom I most admire and desire to emulate. I forget the days when I might have seen as others see, practiced as others practice, believed as others believe. I skip past the days of learning and the discomfort that attends not knowing and behave as if I have always thought so, done so, been so. And I temporarily or permanently misplace the possibility that I might be wrong or might not have an utterly complete grasp of the truth.

In principle, I love my work. I am sometimes astonished at how much I care for my colleagues, my students, and the web of ideas and knowledge-making practices with which I regularly engage. I feel embarrassed to write that I also have come to love the institution at which I work (loving your school is not terribly cool, I think). The question I am grappling with, though, is how recovery might be possible when those feelings of care and satisfaction with one’s work and respect for one’s colleagues are lost. For colleges and universities to realize to any meaningful extent their potential to critically and productively engage in meaning-making, knowledge production, and the enablement of student learning, we will have to, I think, address this problem. We are limited in our ability to sustain intellectual communities by our inability to understand, value, and nurture the relational.

And the answer is not, I am convinced, that we simply need to be more civil or more collegial. Making nice with one another will never be a substitute for rigorous critical engagement with epistemologies, pedagogies, with knowledge-production and the conditions that attend the production of knowledge. Toni Morrison in her Nobel prize acceptance speech writes, “Be it grand or slender, burrowing, blasting or refusing to sanctify; whether it laughs out loud or is a cry without and alphabet, the choice word or the chosen silence, unmolested language surges toward knowledge not its destruction.” It is the ineffable, I yearn for, I think -- that there be some recognition among and between us of our interdependence and mutual contingency, not that we must always like one another, but that we need one another and we come to know through one another. I would like some sense of wonderment to infuse our conflicts such that we might recognize the degree to which we are and our students and our institutions are impoverished by the absence, the silencing, and the destruction of the other in our midst.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Me and My Friend Bill

Me and my friend Bill have a lot in common. When Bill was a kid, he wanted to be a professional baseball player – until he got to be a teenager and figured out that he was never going to break the 5’5 barrier. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional jockey – until I got to be a teenager and figured out that I was going to come within a few hairs of hitting the 6’ mark.

Bill and I both love to talk about ideas. We talk about teaching – a lot. We talk about far-flung things like whether there might be life somewhere else in the Universe and whether Bill O’Reilly is stupid or evil. We talk about close up things like campus politics. Mostly we agree in our conclusions although we arrive at them via different routes.

Bill and I are both interested in the fact that apparently contradictory claims can be simultaneously true. Bill and I have almost nothing in common.

Bill likes to teach and he’s good at it, but what he really wants to do is to sit in his office and think about complex mathematical problems. And what Bill needs is time to do what he wants to do. I would rather take out my intestines and play with them than sit in my office thinking about complex mathematical problems (or any other kind of mathematical problems, for that matter). After Bill has thought for a long time, he wants time to write down what he thinks of; he wants to be paid for his hard thinking and he wants to publish cool articles about the things he thinks of.

I like teaching best of all. And I like to write too, but I like to write about teaching. I like to be alone to reflect and write and reflect some more. But almost everything I write has to do with teaching.

The work Bill loves to do the most has nothing to do with teaching and teaching gets in the way of the work Bill most loves to do. I want to be really clear: it isn’t that Bill doesn’t like teaching and it isn’t that he doesn’t care about doing it well – he does like it and he does care about the quality of his teaching. But, teaching is not the professional activity from which he derives the greatest sense of satisfaction.

My question is this: is there room for someone like Bill at a regional comprehensive university with an emphasis on teaching.

Historically, Bill’s scholarship of discovery has been more highly valued (and rewarded) than the scholarship of teaching. There has been, I think, an understanding across the professoriate that scholars teach in order to pay for their research. The scholarship of discovery has led to remarkable strides in understanding across the disciplines. In the sciences, in economics, history, political science, philosophy, literary studies, the scholarship of discovery has transformed what we know about the world and why the world is the way it is.

At the same time, however, there is a significant body of research demonstrating that there is no apparent relationship between the scholarship of discovery (or any other scholarly tradition) and the quality of teaching. In the short term, the results of this kind of research typically do not change the content of undergraduate courses and this research has no demonstrable effect on pedagogy.

Earnest Boyer’s pivotal book, Scholarship Revisited, lays out a more expansive model for understanding faculty labor. Boyer names three scholarly traditions in addition to the scholarship of discovery (the scholarship of integration, the scholarship of application, and the scholarship of teaching) and argues that all four forms have their place in the academy and need to be accounted for in evaluating faculty labor. Boyer does not seek to overturn the hierarchy by putting the scholarship of teaching on top. Rather, he suggests that faculty might work in any one of these traditions and make significant contributions to their institutions and to knowledge in their disciplines.

Boyer’s model offers institutions and faculties a way of understanding and evaluating faculty labor that is more honest in the sense that we might use the model to more accurately describe what we do and evaluate what our colleagues are actually spending their time doing. Boyer’s model is also more egalitarian than historical academic evaluative practices have been. It does not excuse teaching faculty from doing research, writing, and publishing, but suggests to institutions the value of labor demanded by the scholarship of teaching, in particular. It is important to note here that the scholarship of teaching is distinct from excellence in teaching. I can see no evidence, for example, that I am a better teacher than Bill because I write about teaching.

For SCSU to take up the Boyer model in any meaningful way, we would have to see our faculty’s individual and collective strengths through new lenses. We would need, I think, to recognize that people like Bill make this teaching university a better, more interesting, more lively intellectual community. We would need also to stop behaving as if we are not a teaching university. When faculty are engaging in the scholarship of teaching, we would need to recognize the value of that work too. We would need to see the variety of scholarly practices in which our faculty engage as complimentary and overlapping rather than as competing practices in a zero sum game. And, finally, we would need to stop the institutional practice of seeing faculty labor (or any other labor for that matter) in simple binary terms. We would need to acknowledge in some rich way, the complexity of the everyday working lives of faculty and find ways to value and evaluate faculty labor that account for the complexity.

Finally, we should, I think, as a faculty and as an institution make a more deliberate and responsive effort to talk publicly about the value of all of the scholarly traditions to the quality of the University. Rather than subscribing implicitly if not explicitly to the popular notion that research has no value to students, communities, or the State and is not the proper work of the professoriate at a regional comprehensive university, we should begin to explain why and how all of these traditions do, in fact, have value. We would need to make the case that the value of a University education is derived not only from what happens in the classroom, but also from the intellectual liveliness of the institutional community, the quality of mentoring, of social, athletic, leadership opportunities, and a plethora of other factors.

My friend Bill tells me I have a tendency to go to the holier than thou place. He may be right. He says I fill too many screens on this Blog. He is certainly right about that. So I submit this entry with apologies both for my sermonizing and long-windedness.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

On Beloved Community

A week ago I co-facilitated a CETL book talk with my friend, Marla Kanengieter, on bell hooks’ Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope. Eighteen faculty attended and between us we had a pretty good conversation that wound among the matters of co-optation, anti-racism, and whether change can best be effected from outside or inside higher education. But hooks uses a term in the book we didn’t talk so much about and that I am intrigued by: “beloved community.” When the book talk was over and the participants had left, Marla and I stayed to talk a bit. She asked me what “beloved community” at St. Cloud State University would look like to me.

hooks writes of the need for honesty, clarity, love, and radical intellectualism (as distinct from public intellectualism which she thinks of as signifying that someone smart is arguing ideas that fail to engage meaningfully in critique of the status quo). For hooks, “beloved community” is not a facile notion. The distinguishing features of the terrain of “beloved community” are not a surface smoothness – civility or making nice for the sake of stability – but depth and reach, profound spiritual and rigorous intellectual engagement in the labor of the professoriate and in the struggle for democratic education and increasing social justice.

So what would beloved community at SCSU look like to me? I offer the following as a provisional answer – as an early and perhaps stumbling attempt to articulate what it is that I hope for in a University community to which I find myself deeply attached even when I feel most discouraged and at odds with it.

On Beloved Community (at St. Cloud State University)

In a beloved community, there would be widespread and deeply felt respect for the labor of faculty, staff, students, and administrators. Rather than competition among constituencies for the honor of hardest working, most dedicated, and most necessary to the success of students, we would recognize the extent of our mutual contingency – the degree to which we are all necessary, responsible, and responsive to one another’s needs and the needs of the institution.

In a beloved community, the over-arching, organizing questions driving institutional, college, and departmental decisions would be something like this: what are the conditions necessary for students, faculty, staff, and the University’s administration to engage together in empowered and joyful learning and teaching? What can we (I) do to create, support, and sustain those conditions?

In a beloved community, we would acknowledge the hunger of many faculty, staff, and students for spiritual sustenance and honor the need for community-wide as well as intimate conversations about matters of the spirit.

In a beloved community, we would argue mightily about ideas and issues. We would critique openly and fully arguments, interpretations, lived conditions and material realities. And we would leave those vigorous debates still speaking to one another, still convinced of one another’s integrity even though we disagree. We would leave ready to come back again another day for more discussion.

In a beloved community, we would be filled with and express our sense of curiosity and wonderment about the complex relationship between what we teach, how we teach, and what students learn. We would strive without embarrassment, shame or defensiveness to transform our classrooms and our teaching practices. And in this beloved community, because of our commitment to and pleasure in teaching, past and current students would narrate profound learning experiences that happened for them inside our classrooms as well as outside of them.

In a beloved community, we would listen deeply to one another. We would be less inclined to disbelieve and/or discredit one another’s lived experiences and embodied histories and more inclined to honor one another. We would be more ready and more likely to join in struggles for more fully realized social, economic, and political justice even when those struggles might not directly or immediately serve our own self interests.

In a beloved community, we would be as concerned with the spirit of the law as we are with the letter of the law. We would think in covenant as well as contractual terms about our responsibilities to one another. We would recognize that injustice thrives where policies, procedures, and accepted institutional practices are “understood” rather than explicit. Concomitantly, we would recognize that mere adherence to the rule of law is not enough to transform a co-located group or groups into a beloved community. We would care for and attend to one another not because we’ll get in trouble if we don’t, but because we are deeply invested in the quality of one another’s lives.

In a beloved community, the actions of individuals and groups would be less driven by the logics that attend the conviction that power, influence, and resources are limited -- that we must, therefore, use any means necessary to acquire them for ourselves. Instead, we would take note of our self-interest in institutional decisions and decision-making processes, but act with integrity and care in service of our shared interests. And collectively we would be fearless in accounting for the needs of historically excluded and marginalized faculty, staff, students, and administrators because we would recognize the degree to which the University is enriched, enlivened, and transformed by diversity.

In her book, hooks also talks about prophetic imagination and suggests that what distinguishes the practice of prophetic imagination from more prosaic practices is the courage and willingness to live as if the world one can see in one’s mind’s eye is the world in which one actually lives. As I write, I play in the vision of people writing into, deepening, and extending a shared imagining of beloved community and of a growing community behaving as if that is the world in which we live. Now that would be interesting.

Monday, October 03, 2005

About Table Hearth and Commons

Greetings --

The categories of "Table," "Hearth," and "Commons" for which this blog is named are drawn from Sharon Daloz Parks’ book, Big Questions/Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith. Parks argues that our prevailing conceptions of maturity fail to account for the developmental stages of traditionally-aged college students, particularly with regard to the nexus of the heart, spirit, and intellectual growth. Parks suggests that young adults, in particular, and all adults in actuality need a variety of contexts in which to receive spiritual and intellectual sustenance, to develop spiritual and intellectual maturity, and to sustain ongoing growth.

For Parks, "Table" signifies time and community in contexts in which colleagues, teachers and students, friends and mentors talk as they break bread together. "Hearth" signifies time and community in intimate contexts such as one-one-one conversations with trusted elders, mentors, or guides. "Commons" signifies time and community in contexts in which issues can be deliberated, debated, and in which critical engagement is encouraged and supported.

As Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, my hope in organizing CETL mission, vision, and goals around the themes of Table, Hearth, and Commons is to provide those sustaining contexts for the SCSU faculty community and to model the ways in which faculty might provide and the University might support those sustaining contexts for SCSU students.