Reflection: Think Students Won’t Consider Opposite Political Views? Here’s How 2 Universities Got Them to Try

https://www-chronicle-com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/article/Think-Students-Won-t/241823

 

Something similar to this event was held here at Virginia Tech last spring. It was an attempt to get Hokies talking to one another about topics they disagreed upon but the only one I attended was a poorly planned fumble.  Attendees were first asked to identify themselves along a political spectrum- thus effectively “outing” the outliers on the ends for their extreme, in both directions, beliefs. This system was done quickly and without much dialogue- thus disallowing conversation about where others stood and whether or not you belonged on the figurative and literal right or left side of them.  Next the line was divided in half at the middle, and the two extreme ends were paired together, the penultimate extremes paired together, and so on all the way down the line so that the most moderate of the attendees were also paired with each other.   Once this ill-advised matching was complete, the pairs were given vague questions to discuss that they could either “take deep and personal” or keep light and noncommittal.

This whole event was a kerfuffle and, because it was the first in a series, was enough to dissuade me from attending subsequent events.

The events listed in the article seem better planned and more engaging of all viewpoints.  I also appreciate the small group dynamics rather than the one-on-one environment that we had here.  It is near impossible to agree with anyone 100% of the time, thus making a small group a “safer” environment to have a conversation- the more opionins and the more voices, the more opportunities to find common ground, or the variations therein.

What is our role as an institution of higher education, but to stretch students’ minds and abilities to present their own opinions.  But I do believe there are better and worse ways of going about it.

 

Administrators Texting Students:

https://www-chronicle-com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/article/Brb-Gotta-Go-Text-Teens/241805

This article fascinates me! While I do belong to GroupMe groups with my students (they also have their own private ones, no faculty allowed!) and they can PM me through the App, I do no text with students who are in my classes.

Once I am no longer teaching them, I do text with some students- namely my RAs, my student leadership team, and my Peer Mentors.    I always ask if students prefer email or text and only offer it to students that I am in regular communication with.

 

This decision by some Admissions Officers, however, to let students know about upcoming events and admissions decisions, is, in my opinion going a bit too far.  These students are not “ours” yet and what checks and balances are in place to protect the privacy/connectivity of these students…especially students that are typically under 18?

Critical Race Theory in Education

This semester I took a course in Critical Race Theory in Education.  This course, of any that I’ve ever taken, is one that I would not only recommend to any graduate student or current faculty or administrator, but is also one that I would strongly recommend to the graduate school as a required course in the PFP Certificate.  It is essentially a survey course that covers CRT as well as other critical theories such as LatCrit, AsianCrit, TribalCrit, DisCrit, QueerCrit, Critical Race Feminism, and Critical Whiteness.  This incredibly influential course was a difficult one to process each week but the experience has made me a stronger educator, administrator, student, and citizen.

As a current and future educator, it is important for me to understand my Whiteness and the misled “colorblind” society that raised me. As someone working not with K12 students but with university students, it is imperative that we recognize who are students are, how they succeeded in getting to Virginia Tech, and how we are supporting their successful completion of their degrees.

I’d be more than happy to speak with any of my classmates about these topics, I have nothing but good things to say about the importance of this course!

Preparing Future Professoriate

Preparing Future Professoriate
I recently did a Google search for “Preparing Future Professoriate” to see what would come up, most of the hits were from Virginia Tech, which, I suppose, is because I was using a university computer and Google’s algorithms. One site that came up was from Ohio State University’s Preparing for the Professoriate Retreat hosted by their Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Preparing for the Professoriate Retreat works to create a sense of community and connectedness for its attendees, particularly underrepresented graduate students. The retreat also provides a scholarly atmosphere of support where doctoral students can share and receive ongoing feedback on their research and professional interests, and assists students with goal setting and outlining a professional plan. Students were also given instruction on how to maintain a balanced life as they matriculate through their graduate program, how to structure their curriculum vita, find finding for their research, the best strategies to publish their work, useful teaching approaches, and tips for navigating the job market.

A student who attended the retreat had this to say: “I learned a great deal from the sessions on how to be aware of and navigate the politics in the academy and make the best out of my graduate studies. In addition, the informal conversation on Sunday morning about surviving academia was enlightening. Retreats like these rejuvenate me and enhance my focus on productivity goals.”  https://odi.osu.edu/for-students/graduate-professional/preparing-for-the-professoriate-retreat.html

This concept really piqued my interest, especially this week as today, in my Critical Race Theory in Education course, one of my classmates discussed the importance of supporting underrepresented students through extracurricular learning experiences.

Her presentation focused on Yosso’s 6 forms of cultural capital:

  • Aspirational: hope and dreams despite obstacles
  • Linguistic: bilingual and other forms of communication
  • Familial: extended family, living or not
  • Social: networks, resources, contacts
  • Navigational: navigating systems and structures
  • Resistant: continual resistance to the negativity and oppression within a racist system

Her presentation discussed how the pre-college institutes here at VT supported underrepresented and minoritized students’ aspirations for admission into Virginia Tech.  I am interested in how graduate students from these populations at Tech are supported in their intentions to work within higher ed and whether or not this sort of retreat or cohort based system, like the Diversity Scholars, may be utilized to increase diverse recruitment and retention efforts.

Unconventional Academic Freedom

 

There has been a lot of discussion over the past five years…and even more over the past five months… about Academic Freedom.    One of the many ways this conversation impacts me is through my dual role of full-time AP Faculty member and part-time graduate student.  Oftentimes I will write an assignment (a paper, a reflection/journal, or a blog post) as part of an assignment, and then second guess myself as to how this may be read by my professors/colleagues differently than it would if I were solely a graduate student.

This semester I am taking two courses in addition to my 8a-5p (8a-10p is more like it) job.  I am taking Critical Race Theory in Education as well as this course, Preparing Future Professoriate.

Both courses have covered topics that I am passionate about and have opinions about and in both classes I have censored myself for fear of my academic musings getting taken as official statements made by a university employee.

This is an interesting conundrum that I’ve been wrestling with all semester and I am also interested in getting others’ opinions about it.   I feel that when I was a full-time graduate student, I would’ve said something brash about being uninhibited by social/political convention, but now that I’m primarily a full-time employee, my tune has changed.

“A Map of Education Technology Through 2040 [#Infographic]”

While not about how current faculty are using “disruptive” technologies, I found this infographic to be incredibly interesting in the claims it makes about education in the future.  I would love to see a similar infographic providing an overview of the past 30 years as the advent of public computer and internet use really took off during this time.  While it would obviously not be speculative as this infographic is, it would be incredibly informative to see a networked timeline of the advances of technologies in education.

This infographic, however does discuss the past five years and extends to 2040.   The highlights of our recent past include the use of tablets, electronic paper screens, interactive whiteboards, data projectors, educational games, badging systems, student developed apps, online academic communities, open courseware, and portable academic histories, to name just a few.  Each of these are technologies I have either used as a student or as a faculty member, though had I been asked before viewing this infographic, I probably could’ve only named 2-3.

Over the next five years such technologies as 3D printers, eye tracking systems, cascading knowledge maps, desk- and wall-sized screens, and entire mobile learning platforms are expected to really take off. I can imagine how these technologies will impact education but as they are already so readily available and accessible, I’m unsure that I can fully grasp their impact.

Some of the claims about the next few decades are the physical teaching spaces being redefined as “studios” and relying on, rather than incorporating technologies.  According to this visualization, before 2040 we should be in the realm of reactive furniture, retinal screens, neuro-informatics, holography, and immersive virtual reality.  I understand what these words mean and how they could potentially be used in education, but I am unsure of how great of an impact they will have on the entire learning environment.  I’m interested to see what technology that is not on this graphic really innovates our educational system out of left field.

The Future of the University

Something near and dear to my heart is the connection between universities and their regional communities. I’m not necessarily talking about town-gown relationships-though these are important to creating healthy and vibrant communities both on and off campus. The connection I am most interested in is that of the resources of the university benefitting the region within which it is located.

Virginia Tech is a land-grant institution, meaning that the land the university occupies was given in order to advance more “practical” education rather than the liberal arts. At many land grant institutions agricultural research stations were set up under the Cooperative Extension program created to “advance agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities” (Virginia Cooperative Extension).  According to their website, “Virginia Cooperative Extension puts university knowledge into the hands of people. We are credible experts and educators who provide information, education, and tools you can use every day to improve your life” (Virginia Cooperative Extension).

This community engagement is something that I believe should advance in higher education.  I do not believe it should be the sole responsibility of land grant institutions nor do I believe that university knowledge and resources should remain in the so-called ‘Ivory Tower’ that is academia.    Higher education was created as a public good to advance and further educate society.  I believe that better connecting education to resolving social problems is one way that we can advance many goals in one concerted effort.  I would hope that this would be the truest definition of Ut Prosim.

The department I work for is focused on service learning- engaging students and faculty in local and regional community-identified needs. One aspect of this work is bridging the gap between faculty members, their courses/area of expertise, and local community organizations or issues.  Sometimes faculty determine that the relationships necessary for this to be successful are too much work and instead assign students an “hours requirement” rather than an intentional and engaged learning experience that advances responses to needs.

This is something my department helps to address and facilitate.  It is a constant uphill battle, however, as faculty wishing to designate their course as a “service learning course” simply have to check a box on a form with the registrar. There are no checks and balances to determine if the community engagement is truly service learning or if it is simply a volunteer hours counting opportunity for the students.   This is something that I would love to change at Virginia Tech.  There is an entire academic field of service learning with its own intentional theory and practice and there are many overlapping and interdisciplinary fields that create a Venn Diagram with service learning.  It is unconscionable, in my opinion, for any institution put its stamp of approval on service learning designated courses without there being a rigorous process for said designation.  This is something that I believe should change here at Virginia Tech as well as within higher education as a whole.

Virginia Cooperative Extension. (n.d.). Retrieved December 04, 2017, from https://ext.vt.edu/