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Saturday, October 22, 2011

the invisible hand of roger

since bill torbert's visit, i've been thinking a great deal about roger. what is entirely invisible to the outside world, perhaps, or even the inside world, is the work of roger.

what we are doing, in my view, has been nurtured by roger burton. he has "held" the aspirations in a way that helps us all believe in the impossible.  i have somehow forgotten this along the way and forgotten to be grateful.

the way i remembered is in seeing bill here. i expected bill to be a kind of hero. what i saw instead was the surgical-like precision and insight of roger. of course, roger has brought himself into our system for two years now, so he has a deeper base of experiential knowledge from which he can draw.

there is something very spiritual and other-worldly that must happen when an initiative is coming into being. someone has to "hold" this possibility in a disciplined way.  it is a practice of constantly returning to "why" we're doing this.

i can see that roger has been invisibly holding this part of the initaitive...probably kind of alone.

i have been rather caught up in the drama of my own life.  i began an experiment in healing about a year and a half ago and i'm a bit in the thick of it.  i feel that i've allowed myself to be irresponsible while i've been narcissistically attending to my "self."  but this has left roger alone and i can see it now.

today i am setting my mind on the task of returning to the discipline of holding our aspirations.

Friday, October 21, 2011

the "help" we are getting from our colleagues

today we learned of the "help" we are receiving from our colleagues: a student who entered college with a year's worth of college math credit, a term's worth of physics and probably some other advanced placement credit, was advised not to participate in SUSTAIN because it would "slow him down."

slow him down from what, we don't know....from going ahead in all the technical classes, perhaps.  he is perfectly eligible, but would find himself taking History, instead of the next Physics class, which would be a year ahead of what he would normally be taking at this point in his college education.

this is the kind of thing that we are suffering now...the risk aversion of the faculty being translated into advice "not to participate", without any substantive reasons.  students can progress toward their degrees without any loss of time, but somehow we find our colleagues manipulating these unsuspecting students with their own biases and fears.

UPDATE: I realized I need to ask the person who is doing the advising if we are missing something. I can see that I'm exhibiting the same kind of knee-jerk reaction that is irritating me in others. I just found out from the person who did the advising had a complete misconception of what it was that we were doing, what classes he could take and so on.  I wonder how many other times we act as experts only to really mis-inform those who have sought our opinion.  Almost always, the student is the loser in our irresponsible "expertise."  I am making a commitment to be more aware of not knowing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The cost of our Silos

Roger came to my Industrial Engineering Graduate Seminar class last Friday. He challenged them to consider their career and life choices, and to make theses choices consciously and with consideration of their mandate or goals in life. It was very thought provoking and many students were engaged with questions and with continuing discussions later in the hall.

But, that is not the point of this blog engry. The point is that my students are very smart successful engineers. Very close to 100% of them will get job offers upon graduation where they will start at $70,000 per year. With this backdrop, one student in class asked a question of Roger that knocked my sox off (in a bad way). Roger was saying that some people think the global and societal problems resulting form the anthropogenic era will be solved by technological or free market solutions. She raised her hand and asked "What do you mean by free market?" Roger was shocked, as was I, and asked someone in the class to explain it. Another grad students said, "I don't know, but I think it is open source or free items available on the web." Roger said that is interesting, but not right. Roger then explained briefly free market, and then everyone did remember learning this in econ....or somewhere.

But my question is how could these students in their 5th or 6th year of college not be able to integrate the concepts learned (probably several times)?

That is all I have to say.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

oh, the occupational hazards of being an engineer...

alright, i am truly embarrassed. what i discovered today from students is that their college advisors are advising them not to participate in SUSTAIN because
  • they don't understand it;
  • it's new;
  • the application process is cumbersome;
  • they are not seeing how courses can be rearranged.
but what i see is that i totally acted like a classic engineer.  i went off in a corner by myself, designed the perfect application process, spent a 4-day holiday weekend teaching myself javascript, programmed and debugged the perfect, interactive set of on-line surveys. well, i didn't initially go off by myself, i went off with another engineer!  (oh, what could be a worse recipe for disaster?)

i engineered the perfectly complex system that met all my functional requirements. it was elegant, it was powerful, it was unusable by the average freshman and staff member. 

i can't believe i did that! i invited feedback but got none. why?  

boy, do i feel dumb. this has been the source of us not having students apply.  the advisors encounter it and say "oh, looks too complicated to me...don't do it."

the lesson learned: Never, never, never, let an engineer work on something alone when the something must be used by humans.

Prodded/Prodding to Write

At our meeting last night with Bill Torbert, Ginger brought up a hugely important point which addressed power and self-censorship among other things. She had earlier offered to help people get going in writing and in writing this I wanted to echo some of her points as well as ask her to post some of the points she made last night.

I find myself in many different situations doing a lot of self-censorship. I often find that in my own department I have become this node of sustainability -- not necessarily in a positive sense but, maybe, in a knee-jerk sense. I bring up issues of sustainability but with this expectation that it will cause a bit of eye-rolling and, often, I caricature myself in the process (as those who know me, I don't usually pass on opportunities to be a little funny). In retrospect, this is me holding back a bit, not wanting to be seen as overly tedious or tendentious. This feeling has also kept me from pushing SUSTAIN with my own department's students as much as I should (which I am beginning to correct). Bill Torbert commented that this recognition of what we do in the face of power and the changes that we make as a result can change that power dynamic. I think Linda commented that it is not that the people in position have inherent power but that we tend to give it to them and that when we recognize it and remove that power that we somehow convinced ourselves to give the people in those positions, we are in fact giving ourselves back the power.

It was a great evening last night, in spite of the exhaustion and headaches that many/all were experiencing. A cleansing laugh, some honest evaluation of where we are at and, best of all, a continuing sense of community.