While on spring break mission trip (a good service learning experience for students and faculty/staff) I brought along my borrowed copy of The Heart of Higher Education. With all the travel involved, it’s a good opportunity to read.
At a workshop conducted by Interfaith Youth Core the presenter cited the same UCLA Higher Education Research Institute study of students and the interconnections between spirituality and higher education that Zajonc describes in chapter 5. Having read that chapter that very morning on the “L”, I perked up at the synchronistic occurrence. It struck me that IFYC was approaching the transformation of higher education into more integrative learning from the outside, but with similar aims and practices (transformative conversations) as Palmer and Zajonc are advocating.
Simply having the book with me has prompted conversations. I’ve learned that my co-advisor is also reading it. Having a background in education, she was already familiar with many of the studies, ideas, and concepts included in the book. We began discussing how to affect change on our campus. The student team leader asked me what the book is about, and, when I summarized it, she recommended another colleague who she thought would be excited about this book club and the conversations it is prompting.
OWU spring break mission trips are great examples of integrative learning. Students encounter first hand an issue (in our case, interfaith relations) in a local context and reflect daily on the experiences. The team has months beforehand get to know each other and to build trust. Then, when the inevitable awkward or offensive incident arises, we talk openly and supportive about what happened, how did it make us feel, how the people involved and ourselves could have handled the situation differently, how power, gender, religion, and/or race played a part in it, etcetera. Students gain new perspectives on the topic and on their own lives, often causing them to reconsider assumptions and rethink personal goals and values. It’s enriching and deeply satisfying to be a part of such personal growth in our students.