Tuesday, September 7, 2010

College Made Me Vacation Like I Do!

I constantly think about the outcomes of college. How are college educated people different than non college educated citizens? In the Foundations of Excellence action planning I do with college campuses to help them develop a plan to improve new student success, we use an aspirational standard we call “roles and purposes.” It asks institutions to measure how they are introducing to new students to the “roles and purposes” of higher education in general and the institution in particular. The idea here is that if we were more intentional and successful at this we could improve student motivation. And then if we improved student motivation they would be more likely to adapt the kinds of behaviors that lead to being more successful, like going to class for starters.

I know as a college educated person that that experience influences me in a myriad of ways, including what my wife and I do on vacations. And we are on an annual vacation and so this is on my mind.

So, what have we been up to? Well, we went to New England to attend three concerts at a Jazz Festival at Tanglewood in Lennox, MA. And we are going to two plays at the Berkshire Theater Festival in Stockbridge. And we are going to a favorite country inn, The Inn at Shelburne Farms on Lake Chaplain in Vermont. There we will achieve our definition of a great vacation which is to get a lot of pleasure reading done. And because I am college educated and developed the motivation to practice rigorous physical exercise discipline, I will more than double the amount of time and distance I spend running. And we will visit several museums and take in still another play. And we will venture over the US/Canadian border for a cross cultural experience in Quebec at another favorite inn, the Manoir Hovey, where we can be treated like we are in France but with no accompanying jet lag.

And while I am on vacation, I plan to do something I learned to do in college, practice “reflection,” the deepest kind of thinking on the current status of my life, and I am sure will generate some new ideas for personal and professional ongoing regeneration.
But perhaps the most important thing I am going to do-- I didn’t learn in college: to disconnect myself electronically, ignore my laptop and smart phone. I didn’t learn this in college because it didn’t exist, that is the kind of technology we now have which both imprisons and liberates us.

Sometimes when Betsy Barefoot and I vacation we even practice “mystery shopping” of colleges we spot along the way. We see a sign for a college we haven’t visited and we do the drive through tour and occasionally even go into the Admissions Office and interact and collect information. Now who but a college graduate would consider that a form of recreation?

Yes, I am aware every day that college shaped my roles and purposes and still does to this very day, for how I spend and derive meaning from every day, to the fullest. In the most generic of senses, I wish the same for my students.

-John N. Gardner

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