New Year resolutions for academia



Part 2
“LIFE begins at the edge of your comfort zone, but navigating the balance between pushing the limits of what’s comfortable and taking unmitigated risks can be tough.“ (Elise Strachan, founder of My Cupcake Addiction). Very well said. It could be demanding at times to live up to what we promised ourselves. We are not fully prepared to take the risks. Earlier, we sought what new year resolutions found their way in the web hoping to gain some insights. We came across Six Changes meant for organizational leadership systems-wise or among units. We also noted the strong emphasis hoped for in higher education that all students regardless of degree programs are provided an excellent liberal education. Liberal education prepares students not only for productive citizenship but for a meaningful life. Today, we share resolutions relative particularly to our provincial locale—in the higher education scenario where we are in as academics.

Our resolutions as academics. This year, we hope (1) to dwell on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), to devote enough time for studies that relate to nagging problems of teaching and learning in our respective disciplines. These empirical findings could guide us to develop in our students better critical thinking skills, creativity, asking the right questions. Rather than well-kept lecture notes from what we dish out, our approach should prod our students to record authentic insights into what they read and hear day in and day out of the classrooms. Having empirical bases on these, we would know how to spur more interactive sessions. A second resolve is (2) to improve our course requirements, saving students from temptation to merely copy a whole article, if not chunks of an electronic write-up which they pass off as their own. Indeed, while the web brings valued advantages, there too, is a downside. Most websites are confined to foreign data. It is no sin for students to connect to foreign data, since it opens the world to them. However, our students should also demonstrate to us that they can bring about the concept of knowledge out of interpreted experience drawn from local situations. There is then a need for us to spend continuing professional development (CPD) sessions on crafting course requirements that stir curiosity, that encourage responses illustrative of a broader intellectual life.

A third resolve is (3) to manage our time well so that we can fully attend to our advising duties – be this on the undergraduate or graduate level. Time management makes us cool, saves us from spewing insults when students grope for clarification. Lest we forget—language is a God-given gift; let’s use this gift to lend more clarity to what may be confusing, to encourage those who are into giving up. Respecting them, we would expect our students presenting better thought-out research papers and more of such meeting the deadline.

A fourth resolution is (4) to read a recent book –a whole book not necessarily in one’s discipline. Why? This quotation from Carl Sagan (an American astronomer, educator and author, perhaps the world’s greatest popularizer of science, reaching millions of people through newspapers, magazines, etc.) will tell us why: “What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

2017 best books to read. The web lists a series of 2017 best books to read. Ruth Hogan’s The Keeper of Lost Things is “a charming, clever, and quietly moving debut novel of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us.”<>. Another is Scott Jasehik’s A Practical Education where he discusses “why those who major in liberal arts disciplines—and the humanities in particular—make great employees.” A third one is Caleb Everett’s Numbers and the Making of Us: Counting and the Course of Human Cultures. Bernd Heine, University of Cologne, describes the book as a “journey through the millennia of human evolution, from the forests of Amazonia to the deserts of Australia, ever in search of a better understanding of human diversity; Caleb Everett presents a breathtaking narrative of how the human species developed one of its most distinct cognitive and linguistic achievements: to count and to use concepts of quantity to expand and enrich a wide range of cultural activities.”<https://www.smith…>.

As the initial week of the New Year unfolds, let us all hope for a better world—a less hostile climate change, even as we have news that the alpines are dripping with melting snow and that neither India nor Myanmar would take in the Rohingyas. Together with civil society, let us resolve to do our share in our respective universities to mobilize efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Agenda of 2030. “Universal, inclusive and indivisible, the agenda calls for action by all countries to improve the lives of people
everywhere.”<>. This indeed, is a grand resolve.



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