On 2017

Admittedly, I’ve been slacking a bit on the blogging front. Thanks to vacation, an office move, the holidays, and then being sick, other things have taken up my time.

Somehow we’re already in 2017. A new year is typically filled with promises – to ourselves and others, new goals, and sometimes fear of the unknown. I’d say I’m squarely in the middle.

Personally, I will commit to writing more. This blog is a start but each year I tell myself I will work on a journal article or book chapter and then I get distracted by other things. No longer working in academia has helped my procrastination, but it’s time to get serious. I also commit to reading more. Starting with Well-being and Higher Education. Among many others, it contains a chapter by my friend and colleague, Dr. Andrew Seligsohn who serves as the president of Campus Compact. Our new office has a cozy seating area with lots of bookshelves and I should be able to end most days with a few pages.

Professionally, I intend to tell our story better. Not only the story of service but the importance of civic and community engagement. This is related to one of my fears in 2017, which is the impact that the incoming administration will have on our field. We need to be better at telling our stories with data, not just anecdotes. We need to set outcomes and achieve them. I’m also committing to learning more about how organizations operate. Non-profits are different beasts than colleges and universities and joining a nonprofit board will help me personally and professionally. I only hope that I can contribute as much as I’ll learn.

My fears, at least related to higher ed, are many. They actually started after the Brexit vote. The UK is a region that I hold near and dear. I’m unabashedly an anglophile and there are times, even now, where I’m ready to pack my bags. This article makes some predications about the higher ed landscape in the UK and this sentence resonated with me- “Universities will need to do lots of hard work to ensure they are in closer touch with their surrounding communities – many of which voted for Brexit by large majorities.” Most colleges and universities in the UK have only recently started paying attention to their neighbors and using the term “civic engagement.” I’ll be watching from across the pond to see the implications Brexit will have on international students, on faculty, and on research as well as in the neighborhoods that institutions call home.

While many colleges and universities in the US have been committed to their communities for decades, I think that their relationship with them is changing. There’s been an unfortunate uptick in the number of racially motivated crimes on campus as well as sexual assaults. There are open questions about guns on campus. We don’t know whether international or undocumented students will be able to remain on campuses. I’m also concerned that we’ll continue to strip away liberal education in favor or pure job preparation – I’ve always believed that we can marry both of these while cultivating the type of young people we need for our democracy. Despite my fears, I remain hopeful because of my colleagues, their commitment to students, and the energy of the next generation to “do good” in the world.

 

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