Bringing It

Bringing It #76: Reflections and an Opportunity to Join Us

December 15, 2021

Dear friends,

In our final Bringing It of 2021, we want to thank you for being thought partners and collaborators over the past twelve months. This time of year brings an opportunity to reflect on relationships, successes, and challenges; here Todd reflects on his experience teaching in Elon’s fall term, and David offers some thoughts about 2021. If you’d like to share your reflections, especially in relation to the work you’ve been doing in higher education throughout 2021, please send a message to [email protected]. We’ll be taking a short winter break beginning this Friday, and will return to sending these biweekly letters on January 5th, 2022.

Reflections: Teaching a First-year Seminar on the Purposes of Higher Education

This fall I was fortunate to teach a first-year seminar as part of the Core Curriculum of our host institution, Elon University. While shaped by the faculty member based on their own research and teaching interests, all sections of The Global Experience are centered on four common learning goals: Curiosity and Questioning; Global Perspective-taking; Critical Thinking; and Communication Skills. I was excited to develop this course through reflection on the work we are doing at BT2P, with a focus on the purposes of higher education and how higher ed can be transformed to better support all students. Each week we examined important topics in higher ed through readings, videos, and guest speakers, including international education, student housing/food insecurity, High Impact Practices, combating structural racism in higher ed, civic engagement, student well-being, and others.

Students had the opportunity through assignments to conduct interviews on higher ed’s purposes and need for transformation. They spoke with grandparents, parents, mentors, and peers to expand their understanding of higher ed while producing reflective papers, videos, and podcasts. The culminating assignment was a group project where students identified the most pressing areas in need of change in higher ed, wrote requests for proposals (RFPs) detailing how their group would fund projects designed to address these areas if given $1 million, and evaluated student-written proposals to “award” the funds. The groups focused their RFPs on four student-selected areas – Student Life & Well-being; Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion; Student Mental Health; and Accessibility. The creativity and seriousness shown by students during this process was remarkable; I would sometimes forget that these were students in their first semester of college.

Throughout the term we kept returning to the fact that although these areas in need of transformative change are complex, that doesn’t mean they are immutable. They reflect years of policy decisions and shifting priorities. I hope these students continue to think critically and question policies and practices in higher ed that do not support all of their peers. And I hope that they can be a voice for radical transformation in shaping higher ed’s future.

– Todd Rosendahl, Assistant Director

The Balm for Exhaustion

As the end-of-year holidays approach, what I feel is…tired. It’s not all I’m feeling. I am excited by the work that BT2P and our partners have done this year. By the PLACE Collaboratory and the extraordinary cultural partnerships it has undertaken in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Newark, and Greensboro in the face of the pandemic. By the important change-work that we were able to support in The Way Forward grants. By the launch of our digital Newsletter. By the launch of our new Paradigm Project (more on that below).

But still, I’m tired, and it’s different from the usual end-of-fall-term drag. It’s a sodden feeling of when-will-all-this-turn-around? Omicron and the spike in infections. The surge of conspiracism about voting and vaccines. The trolling rage against health providers and school boards. The endless undertow of racism. Here at Elon, we’ve been able to weather the resurgence of the pandemic without outbreaks or shutdowns. But I’ve never had so many students miss class from illness (Covid or not) and speak with me about anxiety. Every new communication from the university’s (excellent) Ready and Resilient Committee brought home the realization that we are in for a long march.

I’m mindful that many of you may well be thinking, “Welcome to the United States of Exhaustion.” What has been the normalization of crisis for me is a day in the life for many Black and brown and poor and queer Americans. Yes. And I’m mindful of what they’ve taught me about balms for exhaustion, about the need to renew ourselves for the everyday work of loving our students and the long work of change within and beyond the academy.

Those balms include rest, retreat, reading, the taking of joy, the sharing of embodied life with those we love. For me, that will mean a lot of tennis with my partner and kids this December. Another is remembering to be buoyed by the creativity, doggedness, and daring of our community of educators in the face of and in response to the crisis. If you’ve been reading Bringing It this fall, you’ll have seen posts about the amazing work that Pitzer College and immigrant-rights activists are doing in the PLACE Collaboratory; about the coalition for Civic Learning and Democracy Engagement that BT2P has joined; about the refugee support work of our neighbors at UNC Greensboro and Guilford College; and many other stories. In today’s letter there’s the wonderful first-year seminar that BT2P’s Todd Rosendahl taught this fall.

BT2P believes that change, deep change, is needed in higher education. But we also know that higher ed has deep reservoirs of commitment and creativity, not yet fully tapped, with which to envision and make that change. That’s my balm for exhaustion — along with family tennis — and I’m looking forward to renewing our work in 2022.

– David Scobey, Director

Seeking a Senior Project Manager for our new Paradigm Project

We are currently searching for a Senior Project Manager for the Paradigm Project, an important new initiative for systemic change in higher education. This full-time position will have a wide-ranging portfolio, including public outreach, the creation and support of design teams and advocacy networks, and engagement with educational decision-makers. Given the ambition and scale of the project, we are looking for a skilled and experienced colleague to join us at Elon University next year. For more information about the position and to apply, please visit Elon’s job posting. Applications will be reviewed starting January 7th, 2022 and will continue until the position is filled. Please circulate news of this search to people or networks who may be interested in this opportunity.

With warmest wishes for a restful and restorative holiday break,

David, Gianna, Kelly, & Todd