Tag Archive: Inclusion


Innovation, Adaptation, and Change

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Our students maneuver the world in ways that are astonishing.  Rapid innovation that allows them to access, share, store, and manipulate information with increasing speed has been almost dizzying for digital immigrants who must be intentional about adapting these changes to the learning environment.  Electronic modes of communication have evolved from the time of Samuel Morse and Alexander Graham Bell to now with individual and group texting for students who prefer to text rather than talk; Morse would probably be happier about this than Bell.  Further, increased bandwidth has allowed the evolution of video conversations to multiple people participating from a distance with near-in-person communication; imagine what Bell would have thought about this!

In education, we organize educational material in course management systems with increasing bells and whistles and even adapt the learning environment by engaging students in classes with thoughtful use of the technology they carry to access the world.  Increasing access to information and the cost of higher education have resulted in many of our students coming to SUNY Plattsburgh with a significant number of college credits they earned through dual enrollment programs; some of the courses were taken online.

We are challenged with the need to innovate, adapt, and change as many students come to us with increasing technological skills and with curricular needs that may fit into a three-year model rather than a four-year model.  We must remain intentional about adapting ways students access the world into our pedagogy.  We also must be aware of gaps that result from overuse of technology and help our students develop good interpersonal skills that occur face-to-face, especially when it comes to managing conflict.

All of this provides context for a few questions that can be framed in our shared values:

Excellence in Teaching

  • Given our commitment to academic quality, what ways must we innovate, adapt and change to meet the educational needs of our current students?
  • As more students come to college with greater numbers of general education credits, how do we adapt our traditional curricular models to ensure students leave with what we value in a college education given our commitment to liberal arts?
  • What are the best approaches for supporting students who have not had the privilege of AP courses, especially those who need some remedial support, graduate from college in four years?

Professionalism

  • How do we build stronger bridges between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs to collaborate in a whole-person approach to students’ development?
  • What are the best approaches to strengthening face-to-face communication skills across the curriculum?

Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • With increasing numbers of racially diverse students who enrich the academic learning environment, how do we as individuals and members of a complex system need to adapt to improve communication, pedagogy, and an overall supportive campus culture/climate/community?
  • With appreciation for cultural differences in family involvement, what are the best ways to improve communication with families of our students?

Our ability to innovate, adapt, and change will chart a successful course for our future and the future for our students.  Exploring creative approaches together is exciting and focuses our energies in the right places.

Bonus:

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First image (September 27, 2016). Retrieved on April 23, 2017 from: https://m.yourstory.com/2016/09/book-review-innovation-is-a-state-of-mind-innovation-is-good-business-but-it-can-also-be-good-life-new-book-gives-creative-tips/

Second image (March 11, 2009). Retrieved on April 23, 2017 from: https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/hblowers/innovation-quotes

Light on a Darkened Path

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Maya Angelou spoke of the tenacious human spirit in her poem And Still I Rise. Viktor Frankl wrote about a choice of attitude in stories about his experience in a concentration camp. Malala Yousafzai speaks about the importance of our voices when others attempt to silence them. Mother Theresa’s actions spoke louder than her words. There are multiple examples, historical and current, that bring light in times when you perceive a gathering darkness.

imageDouglas Abrams’ book, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, contains dialogues between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The wisdom shared in the dialogues from one man who lost his country when exiled from Tibet and the other who was the chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, is sagacious, healing, and empowering. Here are ten quotes from the book:

“As one of the seven billion human beings, I believe everyone has the responsibility to develop a happier world. We need, ultimately, to have a greater concern for others’ well-being. In other words, kindness or compassion, which is lacking now. We must pay more attention to our inner values. We must look inside.” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

“Too much self-centered thinking is the source of suffering. A compassionate concern for others’ well-being is the source of happiness.” Dalai Lama

“Then after 1959, when I left Tibet, I started thinking, These people are just like me, same human being. If we think we are something special or not special enough, then fear, nervousness, stress, and anxiety arise. We are the same.” Dalai Lama

“Too much fear brings frustration. Too much frustration brings anger. So that’s the psychology, the system of mind, of emotion, which creates a chain reaction. With a self-centered attitude, you become distanced from others, then distrust, then feel insecure, then fear, then anxiety, then frustration, then anger, then violence.” Dalai Lama

“If you really feel a sense of concern for the well-being of others, then trust will come. That’s the basis of friendship.” Dali Lama

“…the more we heal our own pain, the more we can turn to the pain of others. But in a surprising way, what the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama were saying is that the way we heal our own pain is actually by turning to the pain of others. It is a virtuous cycle. The more we turn toward others, the more joy we experience, and the more joy we experience, the more we can bring joy to others.” Douglas Abrams

“But this being on earth is a time for us to learn to be good, to learn to be more loving, to learn to be more compassionate. And you learn, not theoretically, you learn when something happens that tests you.” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

“If we can have compassion for ourselves, and acknowledge how we feel afraid, hurt, or threatened, we can have compassion for others—possibly even for those who have evoked our anger.” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

“The way through the sadness and grief that comes from great loss is to use it as motivation and to generate a deeper sense of purpose.” Dalai Lama

“You show your humanity by how you see yourself not as apart from others but from your connection to others.” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Our collaborative purpose at SUNY Plattsburgh is focused on the success of our students. Doing this well during rancorous times in our country will take a mindful approach to modeling in words and actions. I wish each of you peace, purpose, and joy as we continue to create a caring community and world together.

 

Bonus: Maya Angelou shares the importance of words we speak in this 1 minute 27 second video.

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted
• Respect and Empathy
• Lifelong Learning/Growth
• Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
• Social Justice
• Broad Minded

References:

Abrams, D.C. (2016). The book of joy: Lasting happiness in a changing world. New York: Avery.

Light image (n.d.) Retrieved November 13, 2016 from: http://www.rabbisacks.org/the-road-less-travelled-published-in-the-islamic-monthly/

Book of Joy image(n.d.) Retrieved October 30, 2016 from: https://www.amazon.com/Book-Joy-Lasting-Happiness-Changing/dp/0399185046/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477839575&sr=8-1&keywords=The+book+of+joy

A Dean’s Road Less Traveled

 

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SUNY Plattsburgh: Delta Sigma Phi fall 2015

Early in the fall of 2015, amid the tsunami of daily emails, I read a subject line from a student that said, “Delta Sigma Phi Advisor Search.” The email was not a widely-cast net, it was to me. The fraternity’s President, Jacob Pasa, wrote about a “new fraternity” and was asking that I consider being their advisor. As Dean of Education, Health, and Human Services, this initially felt like it might be incongruent with my daily role at the college; it also was foreign to me because I had never been in a fraternity and knew little about them. Regardless, I always keep an open mind when venturing into new territory, so I decided to investigate. Complementing this investigation was a statement I made to other administrators within the last year about the need for a stronger connection between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. I responded to the email with questions and received answers that piqued my curiosity. As a leader, I wondered what I might contribute and responded by saying I would meet with the Executive Board.

The Executive Board meeting revealed a collection of bright, diverse members and someone from the national organization who professed a values-based organization. The unchartered fraternity was in its first semester of formation and felt like a yet-to-be-driven new car with a manual that had been cracked open a few times. I took the “manual,” The Gordian Knot, home and read it from start to finish. I also read all of the information on the National organization’s web site. Based on my experience at the Executive Board meeting, on my reading, and on discovering that the fraternity was founded in 1899 on the principles of diversity and inclusion, I started envisioning the possibility of being an advisor. Maybe this was yet another opportunity to get back on ground level with students, a must for administrators who are making decisions that affect students’ daily lives.

As a Dean, however, I still had many questions that centered on time commitment, expected roles, strategic planning, organizational structure and goals related to becoming chartered. These questions were answered in face-to-face meetings with the fraternity’s president and a representative from the national organization, whereupon, I committed to be an advisor.

I began attending Chapter and Executive Board Meetings once each month. Upon request, members sent me an introductory bio so I could know each of the 31 members. I established advisor goals focused on academics, leadership, and members. I met with the chapter’s president each week to discuss leadership.  I also met with other advisors of sororities and fraternities once each month and gained a deeper understanding of Greek life. Interaction with a new group of students and with more employees on campus provided additional times where collaboration and community felt important.

While I made my decision to be an advisor with 100% commitment, I still had concerns as an administrator due to others’ stereotypical perceptions of Greek organizations. What I learned about Delta Sigma Phi didn’t fit the stereotypes; however, I had lingering “what ifs.” There were several bumps in the road over the academic year that required additional attention, problem solving, support and nurturing, all of which are expected in the daily life of an administrator.

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Following the 15th Annual Fraternal Awards Ceremony on April 17th, 2016

By the end of the academic year, there were many collaborative efforts by this group of dedicated students that led to great successes.  Delta Sigma Phi established their shared values and defined what these looked like inside and outside of the fraternity (provided at the end of this article). They had the highest GPA of all fraternities for both semesters. Members installed hundreds of smoke detectors in local homes as part of their community service for the Red Cross. There was a true sense of brotherhood in this diverse/inclusive organization that was apparent in meetings and in study areas; they serve as a role model for our current, seemingly-fractured society. They received awards at a ceremony for all 22 fraternities and sororities that included: Emerging Leaders, Excellence in Diversity, Excellence in Brotherhood, as well as a Service Initiative Award. I humbly received the Advisor of Excellence Award. imageThat same week, the national organization for Delta Sigma Phi sent a representative to let the members know they met all requirements to receive their charter. This coming Saturday, there will be a formal ceremony and banquet for members and their families at the Valcour Inn and Boathouse celebrating the chartering of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Chapter of Delta Sigma Phi.

Being an advisor for Delta Sigma Phi at SUNY Plattsburgh has been rewarding. I was given the privilege to make a positive difference in the lives of students, one of the top priorities in my daily work. The bridge between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs was strengthened. Most importantly, I now see my advisement for Delta Sigma Phi as congruent with what I do on a daily basis to provide a positive model and a positive learning environment for developing current and future leaders. I am grateful for my fraternal journey on a road less traveled by deans and encourage others, regardless of their position at the college, to consider additional ways to strengthen the bridge between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs; I know a number of you are already doing this work.  Dedicating yourself to the service that strengthens this bridge will support our whole-student approach to education and our commitment to students’ success.

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Delta Sigma Phi’s Executive Board from left to right: N’Faly Kaba, Treasurer;  Jeffrey Perez, VP for Recruitment; Mikiyas Molla, VP for Membership Development; Mike Kayigize, Vice President; Pat Mancino, Sergeant at Arms; Eric Paige, Interfraternity Council; Will Hodge, Secretary; and Jacob Pasa, President 

Bonus: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”   Mahatma Gandhi

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted:
*  Helping Students Achieve Goals
*  Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
*  Service

______________________________________________________________

Delta Sigma Phi
SUNY Plattsburgh Chapter
Shared Values

Brotherhood
• Communication
–  Lending an ear to a brother in need
–  Able to speak openly/freely with each other
• “Staying hungry” and never becoming complacent as individuals or as a fraternity
• Consistently challenging one another (course attendance, study habits, grades)
• Treating all members with the same respect
• Genuine friendship
• Helping each other
• Having each other’s back and looking out for each other
• Maintaining confidentiality
• Deepening unity through shared values
• Attending social/academic events
• Meeting outside of formal events
• Being Reliable

Respect
• Inside Delta Sig
–  Understanding each other and treating all members with the same respect
–  Demonstrating openness for different perspectives
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Helping and taking advice from members of other organization’s
–  Socializing with members of other organization’s and making friends

Accountability
• Inside Delta Sig
–  Adhering to bylaws and respecting standards board
–  Holding each other to a higher standard using a brotherly approach rather than an
authoritative approach
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Responding quickly to situations involving our brothers
–  Seeing the betterment of our brothers as their time progresses as members of
Delta Sig

Diversity
• Inside Delta Sig
–  Valuing diversity and inclusion
–  Life-long learning about diversity
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Having events that focus on diversity
–  Being an example to the community

Service
• As seen inside Delta Sig
–  Being committed to community service
–  Showing that we do care
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Showing we care and investing our free time
–  Raising awareness and supporting the Red Cross

Open-Mindedness
• As seen inside Delta Sig
–  Always being open to new ideas and growth
–  Learning from each other
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Modeling diversity and inclusion as a student-leadership organization
–  Attending events and demonstrating we are not an isolated organization

Growth
• As seen inside Delta Sig
–  Pushing each other and ourselves to be Better Men
–  Deepening our collective sense of purpose
• As seen by others outside of Delta Sig
–  Setting high standards and striving for success
–  Striving for growth in all of our shared values

 

Equity and Grit: Our Responsibilities

Goals

Two years ago, I wrote about “grit” in a blog entitled, A Critical Key to Students’ Success that included the above graphic.  I encouraged instructors to find ways to have discussions with advisees by exploring challenges and supporting growth.  Grit is a perfectly fine concept and we each apply different levels of it in our lives to achieve goals.  Some of us have to work harder than others in certain areas due to not winning a genetic lottery that would allow ease with learning a skill or body of knowledge.  There are additional barriers to consider beyond innate ability, which would result in a third frame in the above graphic where the person does not have a bike.

My understanding of grit has deepened by looking through the lens of equity.  Aisha Sultan, in her article, The Limitations of Teaching ‘Grit’ in the Classroom stated, “The transformative potential in growth mindsets and social-emotional skills such as grit may be more applicable to students whose basic needs are already met.”  The author quoted Tyrone Howard, Associate Dean for equality and inclusion at UCLA, who stated, “The conversation about growth mindsets has to happen in a social and cultural context, because cultural, institutional, and historical forces have an effect on individuals.”  He also said, “We are asking students to change a belief system without changing the situation around them.”

Equity-vs-Equality-300x168

There are mindsets and belief systems so deeply ingrained in systems that the dominant culture is often blinded to their presence; Robin DiAngelo’s article and video  have helped us bring this into focus.  As professors, we see grit and determination as essential tools to success in college and often help our student discover deeper levels of these personal qualities to be successful.  We are invited by cultural shifts, however, to step back and examine this belief system through the lens of equity and to develop approaches that increase students’ success.  We have the opportunity to use our privilege by giving a hand to those who are reaching for it.  I am proud of the ability and professional development I have observed in many EHHS faculty at SUNY Plattsburgh over the last academic year to support students’ success.

We understand there are students who have not had the advantages of others.  Reflection on this deepens our understanding about how inequity affects the learning environment.  If there were equity, students would enter your classrooms with potential reserves of grit you could tap and develop equally to improve learning.  This is not a current reality in our society and results in several questions when considering an increasingly diverse student population.

  1. Does our academic system have the right supports in place to bring as much equity as possible to the academic learning environment?
  2. Whose responsibility is it to help us recognize our “blind spots” related to equity?
  3. What is a professor’s responsibility in the classroom to both equity and equality?
  4. How do we best guide students who are not successful, even when there are supports for equity and when fairness in the classroom is evident?
  5. What responsibility does a professorate from the dominant culture have to reexamine and evolve teaching approaches to meet an increasingly diverse student population and society?

Society’s playing field is not level for many groups within our society, but supports across the college and within classrooms can help mitigate inequity and support success.  This is a collective responsibility that will afford students better access to and use of grit.  The closer we get to this higher standard, the closer we come to accessing the true potential of all professors and students.

Bonus:

Liberation

    EHHS Shared Values Highlighted

Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • Demonstrated awareness, knowledge, and skills
  • Culturally responsive teaching
  • Self-reflection
  • Caring attitude
  • Courage to discuss sensitive issues and “sit with discomfort”
  • Continued learning, challenging and changing of our attitudes

Social Justice

  • Recognize social justice issues
  • Advocate to enhance social change
  • Enhance community responsibility/social responsibility

References

DiAngelo, R. (2011). White fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3 (3) pp 54-70.

Sultan, A. (2015). The limitations of teaching ‘grit’ in the classroom. The Atlantic Journal. Retrieved  April 17, 2016 from: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/12/when-grit-isnt-enough/418269/

Goals Image (n.d.) Retrieved April 17, 2016 from:   https://www.pinterest.com/aalaa_xx/paths-to-success/

Equity image (Oct. 2015). Retrieved April 17, 2016 from:  http://groundswellcenter.org/october-from-the-director/

Liberation Image (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2016 from http://www.storybasedstrategy.org/uploads/4/5/4/4/45442925/1193727_orig.png?653

 

 

A House is Not a Home

SUNY Plattsburgh sign

At the end of life, and for those who are wise during life, material possessions have little meaning.  There is a wisdom that sees into the soul of the self and the souls of others where true meaning is found through relationships.  The title to this blog comes from an old song.  It struck me last week that it applies to some of the recent strife around the country at various colleges and universities about equality and how some students feel living on their campuses including our own.  While institutions of higher learning have many facilities to enhance the daily experience of students and faculty, what really matters is the depth of our relationships.  This is what brings true meaning, passion and purpose to life; it’s what makes our college a home for our students.

Those of us who work at the college feel it is our academic home, often spending more “awake time” on campus than in our homes.  Our students make the college their home for long periods of time.  What kind of home do we want to create for all of our students?  What can we do to make our campus a home in the truest way, where people are comfortable with and celebrated for being themselves?  The answers to these questions will create a positive academic learning environment that will inspire maximal learning for all students and a positive work environment for all faculty.

Learning new information in multiple forums on diversity over the past few weeks was intellectually enlightening and often moved the heart, but unless the information is incorporated into our daily lives through deeper relationships, the heart will not experience long-lasting change.  This speaks to the importance of our relationships, to the importance of pushing beyond comfort zones and to the importance of creating opportunities for people to come together in new ways.  It also means taking advantage of many opportunities that already exist to enter into new groups and conversations.  Embracing new relationships with others who are not like you, colleagues and students, is a privilege afforded to everyone on campus.

Plaza

Gandhi said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” While it is important not to wait, the work of bringing diverse groups closer together is work we all must do as individuals and as a community.  How will our students be prepared to work in an increasingly diverse world if we don’t do this?  The sculpture of two people shaking hands in the Amity Plaza represents friendship between the US and Canada.  I like to think that the sculpture’s meaning can be expanded to symbolize a coming together, an amity of all people on campus from diverse cultural backgrounds.

While we must all come together as a community to improve equity and a sense of belonging, it is crucial to know that it is not the responsibility of those from underrepresented cultures to change the dominant culture.  Robin DiAngelo, author of the journal article entitled White Fragility that was shared in my last blog wrote, “Since all individuals who live within a racist system are enmeshed in its relations, this means that all are responsible for either perpetuating or transforming that system. However, although all individuals play a role in keeping the system active, the responsibility for change is not equally shared. White racism is ultimately a white problem and the burden for interrupting it belongs to white people (Derman-Sparks & Phillips, 1997; hooks, 1995; Wise, 2003)” (p. 66).  If you are part of the dominant culture, your privilege will not excuse you from doing this work, especially if you feel no responsibility to help. If you are part of a non-dominant culture, your help will be needed.  The opportunity exists for dominant and non-dominant allies to come together and develop approaches to lead the way.  As a community, we must create a psychological space where it is safe for all to grow together.  President Ettling believes SUNY Plattsburgh can be known as the model for doing this work well and I agree.

We all have a responsibility, if we are going to live and work well together in our academic home and the home of our students, to go deeper and do more.  After attending multiple diversity forums and Safe Space training over the past few weeks, this responsibility has taken on renewed meaning for me.  It is from my place of privilege that I did not know about the inequities and the depth of our underrepresented students’ feelings; this also is true in relation to our LBGTQ students.  It is reasonable to say that many did not know and some still may not believe, but it is true; defensiveness and denial cannot dispute the facts.  What is our responsibility to make our house a home?  What will you do today?

A few suggestions from your colleagues for things you can do:

  1. Complete a two week rotation (4 classes) in INT303 A or B Examining Diversity through Film
  2. Start a book reading group linking the messages in the book with current day occurrences. DuBois’ “Souls of Black Folks” is an example of classic literature that could garner some worthwhile discussion.
  3. Attend a CDPI Film Series film and WRAP Session
  4. Attend Safe Space training (Coming to EHHS faculty in the spring) or become a Safe Space trainer
  5. Form a group of professors who are used to having difficult discussions in class and develop a best practices document and some training through the Center for Teaching Excellence.
  6. Do a quick write in class where students share a few of their struggles and ways you can be supportive.

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted

Respect and Empathy

  • Seek to understand before being understood
  • Listening to each other
  • Communicate with the person, not about the person, when there is conflict
  • Enter into differences of opinion and conflict with respect
  • Demonstrate compassion to evoke potential in students and colleagues
  • Share our challenges as well as our successes
  • Trust
  • Open-mindedness,
  • Embrace diversity of opinions and perspectives

Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • Demonstrated awareness, knowledge, and skills
  • Culturally responsive teaching
  • Self-reflection
  • Caring attitude
  • Courage to discuss sensitive issues and “sit with discomfort”
  • Continued learning, challenging and changing of our attitudes

Social Justice

  • Recognize social justice issues
  • Advocate to enhance social change
  • Enhance community responsibility/social responsibility

Amity Plaza Image (n.d.) Retrieved November 11, 2015 from:  http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/suny-plattsburgh-2849/photos

DiAngelo, R. (2011). White fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3 (3) pp 54-70.

Plattsburgh Sign Image (Sept. 28, 2010). Retrieved November 11, 2015 from: https://vimeo.com/102794142

 

Mr. Wilson

“In 1889 the New York State Legislature established in Plattsburgh a school for the education of teachers, the New York State Normal and Training School.  Two years later the first three students graduated from the institution that would one day evolve into SUNY Plattsburgh”  (2007 Middle States PRR report).  The motto for the college is, “A Proud Past, A Strong Future.”  I thought about our past and this motto in the context of an open forum I sat in last week that addressed an offensive cartoon published by an independent, student-run newspaper (i.e., There was no editorial role by a faculty member before the paper was published due to first amendment rights).  The paper wounded and exposed deeper wounds, some of which are caused by institutional racism in our society, and, as a result, has served as a catalyst for understanding and a call to action.  The standing-room-only forum was held by the Black Student Union, AKEBA, to discuss what happened.  So many things crossed my mind and touched my heart at the forum and I will share a few.

I thought about:

  • James Augustus Wilson (pictured above), who began his studies in teacher education at our college in 1898 and was the first African American to attend and graduate from our college. He was an alum who went on to get a second bachelor’s degree in divinity at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and eventually worked with Booker T. Washington (Skopp, 1989);
  • LaVerne Baker, one of my mentors, who was one of two African American women to be the first to graduate with Ph.D.s from my alma mater, Wichita State University; if you have been in my office, you have seen her picture on my desk;
  • how Mr. Wilson and Dr. Baker would each define current events and what has and has not changed in the last 117 years;
  • my white privilege and the period of my younger life when I was naive to it, something that is the case for many young, white college students and on another level by others who are not so young in our community;
  • the voices from all underrepresented groups that need to be present to have a complete conversation about equality and social justice because there are differences in the struggles of each group (i.e., one group does not speak for all groups);
  • the young men of Delta Sigma Phi who I sat with at the forum as a faculty advisor, who have one of the more racially diverse groups on campus and a shared value of diversity –  I saw the pain in their eyes and felt it in their hearts;
  • how the members of AKEBA, the Black Student Union, modeled how to have difficult conversations that value the need to feel uncomfortable while maintaining everyone’s dignity; and
  • how I loved the gathering of diverse students at the forum, a sentiment that went beyond racial diversity, but hated the reason we were there.

That is a sampling of a few thoughts I had during the forum, but I also had another thought that night that centered on what I shared in our EHHS Community Gathering at the beginning of this semester.  It was during that gathering that I discussed the New Civil Rights Movement.  I highlighted words from Gyasi Ross, a Native American from the Blackfeet Nation who is an author, speaker, lawyer and storyteller.

Gyasi Ross

Here are the words I shared from Gyasi Ross (2015):

  • “If folks truly want to be allies then they’re going to have to get cool with uncomfortable conversations.”
  • “White folks don’t ever want to talk about race.  It will ALWAYS be jarring, it will ALWAYS be disruptive and it will ALWAYS be inconvenient. Yet, we have to do it.”
  • “If they truly wish to be an effective ally, then they should WANT to feel the discomfort that we feel when we’re constantly confronted with questions of race.”

There was a lot of discomfort felt over the past week, and this is a good thing.  Looking back, Gyasi Ross’ words were the most powerful words I shared at the beginning of the semester that have defined where we are now in the conversations taking place on campus.  I am pleased that the conversations have resulted in the actions detailed by our President that will enhance the caring environment we value at SUNY Plattsburgh.

I look forward to leaning into more discomfort and invite everyone else to lean with me because I know this is the place where we all grow.  We do have a proud past at SUNY Plattsburgh.  We also are engaged in conversations to know better and actions to do better that create a powerful present and a strong future.

Crucial Reading: This article from the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy is your opportunity to lean into the conversation with me: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Maya Do better 2

                                                EHHS Shared Values Highlighted

Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • Demonstrated awareness, knowledge, and skills
  • Culturally responsive teaching
  • Self-reflection
  • Caring attitude
  • Courage to discuss sensitive issues and “sit with discomfort”
  • Continued learning, challenging and changing of our attitudes

Social Justice

  • Recognize social justice issues
  • Advocate to enhance social change
  • Enhance community responsibility/social responsibility

References

DiAngelo, R. (2011). White fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3 (3) pp 54-70.

Maya Angelou Image (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2015 from http://www.azquotes.com/quote/394295

Middle States Commission on Higher Education Periodic Review Report (2007).

Ross, G. (2015): http://www.thestranger.com/blogs/slog/2015/08/13/22694043/guest-editorial-i-support-bernie-sanders-for-president-and-i-also-support-the-black-lives-matter-takeover-in-seattle

Skopp, D. (1989). Bright with promise: From the normal and training school to SUNY Plattsburgh. Norfolk, Virginia: The Donning Company/Publishers.

 

 

MLK Jr.

There are a limited number of minutes in a semester, 158,400 as of today, and they seem to go faster this time of year.  It may feel like we have come “full circle” from the beginning of the semester where our aspirations were high and learning objectives were set, to the close of another semester where we race harder to fulfill the aspirations and objectives.  But, “full circle” does not really capture the reality of higher education, at least I hope not.

Each semester provides us with the opportunity for continuous improvement, a deepening spiral rather than a circle, that allows for exercising a growing expertise in developing our students into the citizens who will be responsible for our world.  Some may chose to go in circles, but the future depends on deepening spirals of continuous learning.  How can you set a trajectory that deepens this spiral for yourself and for your students?

If students know we truly care about them and are passionate about their learning, then they will remember more of what we model and say.  They also will be more engaged in their own learning process.  There are, of course, times when some tough love is needed and the ear of procrastination and laziness need a good twist, actions appreciated later by students who look back and attribute part of their success to you.

The spiral deepens on many pathways to the mind and a better future.  The heart’s path seems to be the widest and most direct.  It is on this path, best when traveled together, that critical elements of dignity are found.  I shared part of a TED Talk with you at the beginning of the semester by Donna Hicks that highlighted the essential elements of dignity.  I share these again, particularly in the context of the world for which we prepare our students.

  • Acceptance of Identity – when we honor someone’s dignity, we accept his/her identity.
  • Recognition – We give someone recognition of his or her unique qualities and way of life.
  • Acknowledgement – we make sure people feel seen, heard, listened to, and responded to.
  • Inclusion – The person feels a sense of belonging and a sense of community.
  • Independence – There is a feeling of freedom and a life filled with hope and possibility.
  • Safety – To honor someone’s dignity is to make sure s/he feels safe and secure. This includes psychological safety that prevents humiliation and feeling shamed or marginalized.
  • Fairness – Dignity requires fair and even-handed treatment [e.g., understanding dominance and privilege].
  • Understanding – We give someone the benefit of the doubt and seek understanding, especially from people we don’t naturally gravitate toward. We give someone space [i.e., suspend judgment] and time to explain his/her experiences.
  • Accountability – We are accountable for our behavior and must apologize when hurting someone’s dignity. Also, we all deserve an apology when someone does us harm.

Donna Hicks spoke to the power of dignity by saying, “Imagine for a moment if we honored these elements of dignity in our daily lives with the people with whom we come in contact.  Imagine what that would be like.  Imagine what our relationships would be like when everyone felt this way…seen, heard, identity was accepted, etc.  When we honor other people’s dignity, we strengthen our own.”

Collectively, the words of Martin Luther King Jr., the path to the mind through the heart, the need for occasional tough love, and the essential elements of dignity provide us with many tools to prepare ourselves and our students to make a positive difference in the world.  Recent headlines have highlighted racial tension across the country, loss of young lives due to hazing, and sexual assaults on college campuses; the list seemingly is inexhaustible.  It is more important than ever that we deepen our knowledge and strengthen the character of youth in ways that will result in a better world in which to live.  Characteristics that combat indignities, mindful dispositions if you will, are essential in addition to technical knowledge and skills needed to be successful in a profession.

The next two weeks will be filled with trying to fulfill aspirations envisioned at the beginning of the semester.  As you use your minutes wisely to engage students in deeper learning, make sure to touch the heart, maybe the ear, and the essential characteristics of dignity. Even in the remaining minutes of this semester, you can make a positive difference and touch the future through our students.

Bonus:

Mandela passion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shared Values Highlighted:

  • Respect and Empathy
  • Excellence in Teaching
  • Lifelong Learning/Growth
  • Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
  • Helping Students to Achieve Goals
  • Professionalism
  • Broad-minded

Hicks, D. (April 4, 2014). Declare Dignity. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPF7QspiLqM

Image (May 28, 2014). Retrieved November 29, 2014 from: http://www.baylor.edu/multicultural/index.php?id=92821

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