Provost’s Office

The Blog # 4

Greetings, Colleagues.

I hope you’re enjoying the return of the sunshine. Maybe if we all wish really hard, it will last through Homecoming weekend. I always look forward to bumping into former students at Homecoming, even if I do feel old when they tell me how soon their own children will be visiting Alma for a tour. The importance of those relationships and the impact it has on the education we provide was the focus of last week’s Friday Forum on “Relational Teaching and Embodied Learning” presented by Drs. Maya Dora-Laskey and Brian Hancock. Their presentation reminded me once again that personal connections, those we have with our students and each other, are often at the core of what is distinctive about an Alma College education.

Connections That Matter

Some connections grow out of simple proximity: the student who reappears in class each semester, the colleague whose office is just down the hall. Others are rooted more thematically: shared or complementary disciplinary interests, serendipitous committee assignments, simply being at the same stage of a career/life trajectory. And still others may seem tangential: a friend of a friend, or a colleague from a different institution who happened to present on your panel at a conference. I don’t agree with that old chestnut that “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” but I think it’s important to pay attention to who’s around you, what they know, what you know, and how it all might come together.

Grandma Is Not His Thesis Advisor

Several years ago, my youngest son was finishing his degree in Biology. He wasn’t interested in veterinary medicine, but really enjoyed research so was looking for a Master’s program, with the hope of studying big cats. His undergraduate professors sent out feelers, and colleagues here offered tips, too. But ultimately, it was Grandma who got things rolling. Grandma has a friend, and that friend has a friend. And that second friend, she has a daughter. And that daughter teaches in Nebraska and studies big cats in Africa. You guessed it. He’s at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He earned a spot in Grandma’s friend’s friend’s daughter’s lab, finished a Master’s degree studying urban foxes. Since then, he accepted a spot in another professor’s lab, and is currently working on his Ph.D. studying California mountain lions. He’s a bright kid and would have landed on his feet somewhere; but it doesn’t hurt someone’s mom asks them to keep an eye out for an email from her friend’s friend’s grandson. Connections matter.

Celebrating The Work We Do— 

Serendipity is a wonderful thing; the right place, the right time, the right connection. There is amazing work going on all over Alma’s campus. But in typical “Midwestern-nice” fashion, we don’t always to a great job of tooting our own horn. Let me toot it for you (my kids laugh at me for becoming more like Grandma every day, so I may as well lean into it). Let me know what you’re up to and let’s see where the connections take us. The Andison Center for Teaching Excellence now has its own email account. Send me a note with your title and abstract when you present at a conference, or submit an article or grant proposal. Let me know what new pedagogy you’re trying out (or just thinking about trying) in class; maybe someone else is interested, too. Pose a question you’d like us to consider as a community of scholars. I’d like this blog to become a place for celebration, dialog, and connections. So let me know what you’re up to, what’s going on, and where you’d like to go. I’ll be Grandma.

This Week’s Friday Forum

This week, Dr. Kristin Olbertson of the History department will talk with us about her forthcoming book? The Dreadful Word: Speech Crime & Polite Gentlemen in Massachusetts, 1690-1776. Soon to be published by Cambridge University Press, the book describes how the criminalization, prosecution, and punishment of speech offenses in eighteenth-century Massachusetts helped to establish and legitimate a cultural regime of politeness. Kristin analyzed provincial statutes and over 1500 criminal prosecutions and argues that rules of etiquette defined the king’s peace and helped effectuate the British empire. Now I’m curious about the role of official language in the rise and fall of the Spanish Empire. I bet it’s something worth looking into.

As is customary, we will gather Friday around 3:30 with snacks and beverages provided by the Andison Center for Teaching Excellence. Please note that this week we will meet in SAC 110. Our I.T. colleagues have enough on their plate this week setting up multiple spaces for the board meeting, so we won’t ask them to set up the portable screen and projector outside. Come when you can, leave when you must. I hope you’ll join us.


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