January 29, 2020 | Bringing It #31: Thought-Provoking Reflections and Opportunities

Dear friends, 

We’d like to start this week’s Bringing It off with a pressing reflection by our friend Brian Murphy, President Emeritus of De Anza College. We recently invited you to muse on the opportunities and challenges facing higher ed throughout the next decade. This is what Brian had to say:

The dominant issue of the new decade is climate change.  All current climate modeling suggests an intensification of climate-related catastrophe, Australia over and over again. Faced with economic and ecological collapse, vast regions of the country will face further deterioration of social life, a continuation of the opioid and suicide epidemic, and violence. The political system will be trapped by its dependence on the money and power of the current economic system. The contradiction between the market (as currently construed) and a plausible future will be evident as the climate crisis intensifies each year.  How will students react? How will colleges and universities react, or act? What kind of political choices will be available? How prepared are our students to be a constituency for the tougher choices available? How does higher education play a positive role?

The next decade will have such massive ecological dislocation as to transform the world our students enter.  As one of the British academics now working for the Extinction Rebellion puts it, "Why do we educate students for a future that does not exist?" 

I have been struck by the degree to which all of our thinking and planning assumes continuity. What if that is fundamentally at risk through the climate crisis?

A Further Thought from David…
Brian’s response to our call brought me up short. It made me realize how little my own focus on the crises and futures of higher ed has taken seriously the massive reality (not just threat) of climate change.

It’s surely no accident that at the AAC&U Annual Meeting last week, four different folks made exactly the same point to me in conversation. “Why isn’t higher ed doing anything about climate change?” a new acquaintance asked. “Don’t you think that Bringing Theory to Practice should be on this?” Like Brian, she wasn’t talking simply about carbon footprints and fossil fuel divestment and local food sourcing (all important operational issues). She was asking: what are the implications of climate change for our educational values and practices?

So: who in the BTtoP community is thinking about this? What are you and your institutions doing to educate students about and for and against climate change? How can BTtoP work collaboratively to support this work? We are eager to hear your thoughts and suggestions at info@bttop.org

Caitlin’s Reflection on AAC&U’s Annual Meeting
We were honored to present two sessions at AAC&U’s Annual Meeting last week, reprising our fishbowl discussion format from last year: “Redesigning College: Whole Education for the Whole Student,” and “Listening With: A Model for Community Engagement.” To our friends who were able to join the discussion in person -- thank you for your generative participation, your new ideas, and your thoughtful challenges. The spirit of the meeting as a whole was warm, collegial, and ripe with learning. We’re grateful, as always, to our partners at AAC&U for the countless hours they spend making the event possible. If you have your own reflections on our sessions or the conference as a whole -- or suggestions for BTtoP’s future panels -- we welcome your feedback at info@bttop.org

Job Opportunity: UCLA’s Center for Community Learning 
The UCLA Center for Community Learning is seeking a creative and collaborative individual in the field of community engagement in higher education to fill an Academic Coordinator position with principal responsibilities for its Community Engagement and Social Change minor and its extensive academic internships program. Applications are due by February 16 with an expected start date of mid-March. Please read the full job posting here.

With thanks,

David, Caitlin, Mercedes, and Kate