The Online Beacon

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

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An Open Letter to Students

An+Open+Letter+to+Students

I recently sent an open letter to my faculty colleagues here at the college and thought I’d share with you some of what I said to them, while hoping you also consider and take to heart the message.  

 

I without a doubt have one day a year that is my favorite on campus. Everyone is happy, you can feel the positive energy and sense of accomplishment amongst our students. The only tears are those of happiness and joy. For me, that day is Commencement. 

 

In my humble opinion, there are other days where we could all feel the same way we do at Commencement because I think we used to have this dynamic. During my first few years at MCLA there was decidedly different level of community engagement on our campus, including among students. I could feel this sense of community at my interview and is a large reason why I accepted the job to work here. Students at my interview were excited to tell me about their recent Model United Nations trip to Toronto and the other interesting academic and personal projects they were working on. The mood was contagious, and I realized this is a place I want to spend my career as a political science professor.  

 

When I arrived, lecture halls and exhibits were regularly full. Attendance at sporting and theater events was better and included many students in attendance. I know there have been big changes and challenges. COVID— a collective trauma I know we are all still trying to cope and manage. But, I’m here to say we can work together, even though it’s hard, to get this sense of belonging back. 

 

We need to work better at connecting with each other. There are other points throughout each semester where there is reason to celebrate the accomplishments of your student colleagues and friends as well as faculty and staff. Theatre productions, Lecture Series, art exhibits in Bowman and downtown, athletic games, all the club events E-Boards are working so hard to plan. These are events that epitomize what it means to have the privilege to be educated at liberal arts college. Because no, speaking as a political scientist, the ‘liberal’ in liberal arts does not have anything to do with politics. The liberal arts is a unique learning experience that allows students to engage in interdisciplinary critical thinking and learning. This happens in and outside of the classroom. And as of late, we as a campus need to all do better at showing up outside the classroom.  

 

I want to tell you all that I have made a pledge to the following. You as a student may want to take a different pledge that includes attending SGA meetings, Club meetings and events, among others. Regardless, I want you to know you will see me and other faculty colleagues outside the classroom supporting you and my colleagues in our community. 

 

Each semester I pledge to attend at least:  

  • One Athletic event  
  • One Lecture Series—including the reception, if offered (all faculty are invited to these) 
  • One theatre production  
  • One MOSAIC event 
  • One Mind’s Eye Faculty Works in Progress 
  • One other event (panel, workshop, smaller speaker series, student/class exhibit, etc.), partly because I am certainly forgetting important categories of events. 

 

Why I Will Sign The Pledge 

I am an introvert; spending time with people, especially large groups of people depletes me and there is nothing I want to do more at the end of a day than go home, relax, and unplug from work. But plenty of research continues to find that having close relationships and connections with people in our lives will make us happier. A sense of community and belonging matters. Political science research finds plenty of evidence to support the idea that having an active and engaged citizenry cannot happen without a connection to our local community. While we all live in difference part of area, we share a local community in MCLA.  

 

I am one of a few faculty (and at times students) who plan some of the lecture series and panels on our campus. I want to talk a bit more about the importance of these events in particular.  

 

I’ve attended a few Constitution Day talks of late, where we invited local experts on the Courts to talk about reproductive rights, and healthcare inequity in the states, and the rare non political science students who attend have commented to the speakers “Wow, why aren’t more students here? This is so important”. These are the types of reactions and intellectual engagements we want to provide for you, our students. These panels and speaker-series play a role in the development of a student body to have the skills to critically think. And having a common event where more people attend creates more opportunity—in and out of the classroom—to have vibrant and intellectually stimulating conversations about the world in which we all live based on the events we attend collectively.  

 

We should not have the mentality of ‘this lecture’ does not apply to me. The liberal arts mission is to be intellectually curious and seek ways in which these events truly are related to our interests and courses. And ultimately, we are all global citizens and these lecture series like Public Policy, Hardman, Lavender, Vadnais, are pushing all of us to think and reflect on critical, timely, and important topics that we otherwise might forget about in our busy lives.  

 

I know we can all do better, myself included. When I was a student, there were many times I can think where a faculty mentor told me I should attend an event or do something I saw as ‘extra’ but it helped me grow as a teacher, a scholar, or a human in this world wanting to learn and grow. Isn’t this why we all went into academia? To keep learning and have intellectually stimulating conversations about the world? Let’s get some of this back. Let’s work to make our campus a place where we as faculty, staff, and students want to learn.

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