Bringing It

Bringing It #114: Introducing Paradigm Prompts and our Faculty Associate, Dr. Annie Jonas

November 30, 2023

Dear friends,

As we forge ahead in our work on the Paradigm Project, our effort to advance systemic change for holistic, engaged, and equitable learning for all students, we are actively developing new strands of work. One such strand is a set of catalytic documents that we are calling “Paradigm Prompts,” themed sets of resources aimed at catalyzing change. Because our work is strengthened by collaboration and the guidance of our community, we’re so fortunate to welcome an exciting, valuable colleague for our work in the new year. Over the course of her sabbatical, Dr. Annie Jonas will act as a Faculty Associate, helping us craft materials to support the work of the Paradigm Project. We’d like to dedicate today’s Bringing It to formally introduce Paradigm Prompts, and to introduce you to Annie and her work.

Paradigm Prompts

We’re envisioning Paradigm Prompts as compact documents focusing on specific themes. Designed to help institutions at inflection points shift from focusing on specific innovative practices to thinking about more transformational change, these documents will promote change across silos and underlying institutional systems. These resources will be geared towards institutional teams of stakeholders and stress the importance of working in integrative teams. By helping institutions to see the kinds of roadblocks or chokepoints that may hinder the energies of more systemic change, these documents will provide ways institutional stakeholders might move through barriers to transformational change. Paradigm Prompts are meant to be “self-help” resources rather than instructional guides—they’ll offer framing questions and core concepts to inspire exploration, rather than detailed recommendations for worked-out models of best practice. We are developing Paradigm Prompts on topics like new curricular models that center high-impact practices, integrating education for work with liberal learning, and many other key areas of work. Dr. Jonas will be assisting us as we work toward developing Paradigm Prompts centered around the integration of student flourishing and well-being, which is a core focus of her sabbatical research.

Dr. Annie Jonas

Dr. Jonas serves as the Chair of the Education Department at Warren Wilson College. Warren Wilson is a wonderful home for Jonas due to, as she put it, “the experiential nature of the mission of the college.” One of nine remaining work colleges in the country, Warren Wilson assigns every full-time student to a work crew in addition to their studies. This builds a sense of communal responsibility among the students and faculty to maintain their campus, and to see themselves as integral members of the campus community. This ethos reflects how liberal education and work can work in tandem to enrich the student experience. We look forward to learning more from Annie about this holistic sense of campus community and how to translate this to support other higher ed institutions.

Dr. Jonas is currently conducting research on instituting wellness and mindfulness intervention practices in the higher ed classroom. In her courses centering on learning and the brain, she found, “students were craving an environment that showed [she] was paying attention to them beyond their academic success.” Her research compares two courses, one with a well-being intervention and one without, and she’s seeing clearly the positive results of a holistic approach to the student experience. As she dives deeper into this work, it has become clear to her that faculty are at the core of this intervention. In addition to pursuing certification as a Mindfulness Teacher through the Mindfulness Institute for Emerging Adults developed at Duke University, she’s concurrently researching and developing strategies that explore, “how faculty might get off the sidelines and become more integral to supporting student success.” “I’m looking at specific ways to make this information available to faculty,” she said, “so that they can implement [these strategies] in their own authentic way.” In empowering and equipping faculty to thrive, she hopes to also bolster student learning to truly support student wellbeing. In this manner, Annie’s research reflects the interconnected nature of our work.

In addition to the fantastic work that Annie is pursuing, we value that Annie is thinking about change paradigmatically. She explained that the shift to a more holistic classroom relies on faculty re-evaluating how they understand their students, and students re-evaluating how they act and who they are in a classroom community. And that the vision of a holistic, engaged, and equitable higher education experience that we’re seeking to promote does in fact lead to the career readiness that so many students are seeking. She explained, “If we’re saying ‘career-ready,’ I believe we need people who are grounded and supported in terms of mental health. Our students and, ultimately, our communities need adults who are self-aware, community-minded, capable of overcoming challenges with resilience, and with the strategies and skills that support health for themselves, their communities and our world.” Redefining the charges of these terms–student, teacher, classroom, career-ready–will be essential to our work of shifting paradigms in higher ed.

Annie’s holistic view of higher ed and her rich perspective on student wellness and the student experience will be greatly beneficial to developing Paradigm Prompts and to our work. Thanks so much to Annie for sitting down with us to share her perspective and story. Keep up with Bringing It for updates on Paradigm Prompts and more—our work depends on our collaboration with you, our community.

With thank for you all and all you do,

David, Gianna, Gillian, Kate, Paul, and Todd

Bringing Theory to Practice
Elon University
www.bttop.org