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Friday, February 22, 2013

The unintended consequences of success

I don't know if I ever really considered what "success" would look like beyond "glorious." I find that I now understand that transforming STEM education system means that I will experience a transformation, as the system is IN me.

I suppose that in thinking about transformation of STEM, my thoughts were superficial. I didn't consider the fact that profound change might mean not only that I would undergo profound change, but my life, within the STEM education system would look profoundly different.

The profound change that I am in the midst of is that of my department being dissolved by my dean because she has been convinced that it is "dysfunctional," and that the engineering education research that I am doing is weakening the Materials Engineering (MATE) program.  My involvement in SUSTAIN was directly cited by one of the two faculty members pushing for the department dissolution as his rationale for essentially bullying me, labeling me as an "outsider", no longer dedicated to the MATE degree program.

There is much of this that lies in the realm of comical. For example, the faculty-developed mission of the MATE program is:
" to create and sustain an integrated effectual, engineering learning environment that develops students into educated and effective members of society."
And "to be the world leaders in engineering education" is a stated vision of the college.

So, it is in the domain of comical that the work that is directly aligned with the mission and vision of the college is considering to be diminishing the program.

What is really meant is that the emergent work, the pedagogy that is being revealed as more effective for some dimensions of learning, is profoundly offensive to the conservative parts of the system. It challenges their identity as experts and undermines their sense of power and authority.  When one sees someone do something so differently and "successfully", it is hard not to experience it as implying "what I do is wrong and inferior."

The suggestion that is on the table is to merge the materials engineering department with biomedical engineering and put me in a program of 1 person, in charge of a non-accredited and dying "general engineering" program with apparently no resources, but with the ability to do what I want with engineering education.

I am in the process of relating to this suggestion as an opportunity, although it is quite easy to feel that it is an effort to isolate me, to free others from being subjected to my insubordination and lack of controllability.  It is quite easy to feel it is a set-up for failure, to illustrate to all that the problem of the "dysfunctional dynamic" is actually me.  But this is just how I feel.  Others view the offer as a real compliment and opportunity.

In the now, I understand that authentically transforming engineering education will be experienced as a transformation in my own life.

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