Search This Blog

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Problem with Hysteresis

hysteresis (hst-rss) The dependence of the state of a system on the history of its state.

Linda and I recently were allowed to give a brief presentation and take questions regarding SUSTAIN SLO to a group of faculty in a Cal Poly department that had initial reservations about our contacting students to attend information sessions regarding SUSTAIN. [We encountered the usual problem of many faculty/administration confusing our request to contact students with a request for approval of SUSTAIN.] The faculty were respectful to us and had some good (if the usual) questions. Linda was transparent and respectful -- as a person who is maybe a little too astute politically, I have an initial worry about admitting to others about the possibility of failure but I am slowly being healed of this.

After leaving the meeting, I followed up with an email to a friend in the department asking if we had covered the bases and if there was any additional information that was needed. Prior to receiving an answer form the friend, I got the email saying that the department would withhold its imprimatur for a year to see if SUSTAIN was successful. Later, I got a phone call from the friend saying that part of the discussion after Linda and I left focused on the our personalities and "history" at Cal Poly. I was characterized as always wanting to go off and do my own thing (not being a team player) and Linda was described as not really caring about GE, that as an engineer all she wanted to do was to get engineers out of the usual GE classes. The friend was a bit dispirited because the department was becoming a group of naysayers.

I learned about the term hysteresis in grad school and it revolved around the idea of a backward rigidity after an event. The application is often around labor hiring after a recession. After so many cutbacks, even when things improve in general, hiring does not bounce back to previous levels. My sense is that the hysteresis here is that part of our current state with SUSTAIN -- that portion over which we have so little control -- is tethered to these ideas about the individuals involved and our (perceived) history that has little to do with the particulars of the current initiative.

It seems as though the path to success is to have been invisible in the past -- but then being invisible could open someone up to not having sufficient experience. This "no win"-"no win" situation is just another issue to deal with.

I'm drawn to my peers

and so are the students.  this is what i discovered by attempting to hang out and attract applicants at the liberal arts dorm.  students wanted to talk with students.

i realize that i occur to them like their parents.  hmm.  we really do need the students if this is to happen.

Monday, October 31, 2011

the pain, the pain...

(not to be confused with "the plane! the plane!" from that bad '70s TV show intro ...Fantasy Island).

After Roger's workshop, I found myself faced with the fact that all my complaining about other people who are "getting in our way" was really a more sophisticated form of me doing the same thing to them that I am accusing them of.

What upset me about the physics advisor is that she didn't take the time to understand what was going on...that she didn't inquire into it, but had a knee-jerk reaction to the thing she didn't understand.  Of course, I did the same to her...had a knee-jerk reaction to her knee-jerk reaction. So I approached her with what I wished for from inquiry, "what are you seeing that we are not seeing?"  It turned out that she totally misunderstood what the initiative was all about and was advising people from that place of misunderstanding.

Then today, I went an offered an apology to the advisor woman who left an angry, swearing voice mail on my machine.  I realized I was criticizing her for being impatient, just as I was impatient with her impatience.  I apologized and she was perfectly nice.  She gave me some advice as to how to approach the CLA students.

It turns out that they save their science courses for last because they believe they are difficult and find that they lack meaning. students feel nearly the same way about their general education courses in the liberal arts.  So she advised me to market it as a way to do more applied work in the sciences (which are the general ed to the liberal arts students).  Funny...that is what engineering students want...a more applied and relevant liberal arts experience.

the pain is about the dissolution of my own ego.  it doesn't really hurt, it's just humbling.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some Ideas--No Theme.

1) I have come across a book at the city library that I just love--and it's made me think of our team and the way that we are aiming to build community in our efforts. Or, actually that our efforts ARE to build community and that whatever we do will emerge from this commitment. The book is IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD by Peter Lovenheim. It could turn out to be something worth offering to students. Writing it down here so I don't forget.

And also to say that I see us everywhere I look.

2) Also started IMAGINE DESIGN CREATE and am reading the thing like a novel. It's gorgeous and inspiring and so wonderfully big picture in its talk about design that I feel included in its definition of "designer."

Reading the book has been a nice echo to a realization I made last week. It popped out of my mouth in the experimental film that I made last week when I said, "We are allowed, uh [hesitation at the boldness of what I was about to blurt], I think [and then I paused and looked up--which was me stopping myself to see if I really meant with completely conviction what I was about to say out loud and also to reflect at the speed of light that I do, in fact, believe what I was about to say] We're allowed to call this design [and I was nodding in celebration of what I'd just said AND because I felt relieved to believe it.]

Here is the trailer for the movie, which includes the moment (about 1 minutes in) that I'm talking about here:

I am invigorated to feel included in the word "design."