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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Confessions of an academic

We had a meeting with the food group last week. It was encouraging as there were several people/organizations that are interested in working with student groups this coming quarter. We will probably do two or three projects with my Facilities design class (Industrial Engineering) and with students from Neal MacDougal’s Ag business classes.
I am observing myself and my trepidation about these projects. I will record these feelings here in hopes they are unfounded. Somehow I want to qualify myself (this is funny in itself, because I don’t really value people doing this). I have been working with local (and distant) companies for 15 years with small groups of students working with an organization and developing ideas for efficiency improvements. These projects are on the whole valuable to the organizations and the students alike. Over the years I have developed some rules of thumb for these project. First, the organization must be fully informed as to the commitment they are making to the students. Second, there must be a culminating presentation to the client group at the end of the project. And third, students must have access to the organization, this might include interviews, observations, production or sales quantities. In the food group it is quite difficult to identify a client/decision maker. I have noticed this before when working with non-profits. The decision-making is much more distributed/collaborative. I need to do a bit more work to identify these three contact points. This is not too hard, just a bit more difficult than when dealing with money-making organizations.
The thing that is a bit more curious to me is my own internal reluctance to coordinate with Neal.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Am I able?

....This seems to be the question of my life. And the answer is often - "no, but step out anyway." That is how I feel about SUSTAIN...unqualified, incapable, yet willing. I read both Roger's and Linda's excellent posts and thought to myself, "I am not able!" Yet here I am posting too.

Although I am a teacher here at Cal Poly, I am not, during this first initiation of this experiment, a core faculty member. For much of the same reason that Linda stated: my expertise is very narrow. But I am a willing participant in small scale "step up" activities initiated this coming winter quarter. I am also coordinating, with Linda, most of the assessment activities: Assessment of students and faculty and even community. I find my involvement in SUSTAIN to be invigorating, life giving and really quite essential to my well being.

Backing up a bit, I have been at Cal Poly for 17 years. First as a lecturer, then as a staff member, and now as a Tenure-Track Faculty. Well, actually my involvement with Cal Poly dates back even further when I started here in Fall of 1976, as a scared 17 year old engineering student. I guess this place is in some ways very much my home. But not until I became involved with the SUSTAIN group in the fall of 2009, have I really known the community and fellowship I have longed for my whole life.

This group of people, faculty, community members, staff and students has shown me what a life of caring really means. I experience with these people inspiration, acceptance, challenge, and hope.

why in the world am i doing this?

I came to a teaching university in 1991 with a very naive view of what it would be like. Despite the presence of truly wonderful people, within a couple of years, I discovered that teaching was more about a mechanistic and scaled attempt to get students to reproduce information from the past. This occurred to me as a mind-numbing job made worse by a culture of isolation from colleagues rather than the learning with colleagues that I had imagined.

The interactions with the students kept me alive. I tried my best to assist them in developing to their full potential. I tried lots of things, mostly focused on perfecting the classroom experience. As I grew older, and learned more about the societal challenges we face, the activity of perfecting my performance as a "teacher" grew very empty.

Fast forward to 2002. I had just adopted a girl from China.

uninvited change

Please consider all of the following remarks, and all my remarks in general 'qualified' in a wide variety of ways, including the implicitly read 'in my model' embedded within each sentence. Also, I consider this an asynchronous blog and therefore assume that anyone reading this has chosen to do so and could certainly cease, or abstain from doing so at any moment.

I have several working assumptions about change and the supposed process of change. At least it seems so to me today.

• Change is already always occurring, except with reference to the whole itself, in or as a function of which some change can be considered to be occurring.
• There is an 'absolute' version of such a whole, but it is not sensible in a 'normal' way and cannot be constructed from what seem to be its parts, because such a whole does not actually have parts, per se. Such a whole can perhaps be intuited.
• We actively define, construct, and enact conditional 'wholes' that are not naturally given, but are part of the larger whole (or we participate in such)
• Such an enactment gives us the impression of change as something that happens with respect to something that is not changing, but this is a false impression, in most cases
• Our thoughts, actions, behaviors, emotions are a result of participation in the definition, construction and enactment of these apparent (not actual) points of stability (paradigms, mental models, social constructs, habits, patterns and the sources of patterns- patterns patterning)
• Sadly this may mean that change is also not occurring, except as a function of our own construction and enactment - this possibility may have many interesting consequences in terms of managing what we experience as conditional change. It also means that in a functional sense that seeing our part in this construction and the act of pattern recognition become important.


Consider two extreme cases of attention. One state is a state in which one's attention is so 'relaxed' that their is no distinction between anything. Dreamless sleep might be considered an example of this. The other is a state in which one's attention is a single point, which also means no real distinction between anything. The intent of such a single point is to eventually release, dissolve or eradicate that single point. Both of these states are practiced in various traditions, whether through ecstatic (to be outside of oneself) trance, or focused meditation, etc.
We tend to believe that we ourselves are consistent in some way over time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

a cursory post

"Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers."
- Heraclitus

"The flag does not move. It is the mind that moves."
- Hui-Neng