Category Archives: Discussion Board

Musing by Design: It Takes Two to Tango

I’ll get us started!

Since the symposium in June I’ve been giving “formation” a lot of thought. I’ve reflected on my own formation and education. I consider I am a “well-educated” person despite my education. The older I got in my formal schooling the less joy there was in formal learning. As a child and adolescent I received praise for my creative writing – short stories, poetry, songs – and yet when I got to college there was no joy in writing. And then there was grad school….

I realized after entering the academic workplace that PhDs were a dime a dozen (especially in Boston) with not enough tenure-line positions to go around (by design). I “sold out” and went to law school hoping there would be a job with a living wage at the end of the line. Unfortunately, I finished burned out and disillusioned.

When I tell people how miserable I was in school they are surprised that I have spent my entire career as an educator, and have been regularly recognized for outstanding teaching. I think it is precisely because my experience was so counterproductive that I have dedicated my life to being the professor I wish I had had and being a part of changing the dominant paradigm.

I found our gathering in June to be inspiring and affirming. Educators from all kinds of institutions of higher learning came together to talk about and act on what we can do to prepare and nurture our students – not torture them. I am proud to be a member of a social movement that can have widespread implications for the quality of life of vast swathes of the population.

The Gallup-Purdue Index Report, “Great Jobs, Great Lives” (2014) really made an impression on me. Workplace engagement is a huge part of our lives (where do we spend most of our waking hours?) and now we’ve got proof that the undergraduate experience has a huge impact on the students’ futures as productive and happy members of society. Educators have more of an impact on a student than many could possibly imagine. Mentorship and experiential learning make for a future society where people care for each other and understand the common good. Two things we could use more of in our society.

This year I’ll be continuing to focus on student well-being with my colleague Carol Day, Director of Health Education Services and professor in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. Carol and I are teaching “Flourishing in College and Community” to First Year students in an effort to give them the knowledge, skills, understanding — and perhaps most importantly – the permission to live happy, balanced, ethical and joyful lives as students and well beyond. We are collecting data on these young adults and look forward to tracking the impact of this intervention.

In addition, I’ll be “living the dream” as “Mentor in Residence” at the Red House, working with students on creating the best, most productive “formational” education experiences we can to prepare them and those who come after them to get great jobs and lead great lives.

And now perhaps the biggest challenge. It takes two to tango! We must be the models of this formation and transformation. Om.

What are you working on?


Welcome to the Formation by Design (FxD) Workspace, a digital hub where innovators from across the world designing for whole-person formation share, connect, and collaborate. Members of the FxD Networked Inquiry Community use this space to envision a future for higher education in which whole person development is central to the mission of all colleges and universities. We welcome you and your colleagues to do the same.

By serving as a nexus for members of this community, this workspace allows those invested in formational education to learn from peers, see what has worked in other places, and work collectively to reshape not only their local learning ecosystem, but higher education more broadly.

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In  the meantime, tell us what’s on your mind.  What’s missing?  What would you like to contribute? What are you grappling with wherever you are?  Let’s get the conversation started.