Monday, September 04, 2006

Welcoming New Students

This morning I welcomed the new students to campus and shared with them some thoughts about College of the Atlantic's academic philosophy and mission. We have many different goals for new student orientation at COA. We want students to get to know each other and staff and faculty, and of course we need to tell students about academic requirements and policies and such. But the purpose of the session I spoke at was to try and set the tone for academic work at the college and to talk about our educational philosophy and shared beliefs.

I've done this for four years now, and I enjoy it. Preparing the talk was a difficult but fun exercise. The first time I gave the talk was an enormous amount of work, and each year I spend a lot of time thinking about what I'm going to say and how to say it. I've pretty much given the same talk every year, although I continue to refine it. Although I don't usually do so, for this presentation I wrote out my comments almost word for word. I had too many different thoughts and I didn't think I could do a good job improvising as I normally do when teaching or giving research presentations.

My remarks from this year can be found here as a pdf file. (If the pdf file doesn't work, drop me an email or leave a comment and I can convert to html.) I think it works much better as a speech than a piece of writing. But nevertheless it might make interesting reading. I freely admit that it borders on a being little too sentimental or melodramatic. But I'd like to think that this sort of thing is ok once or twice a year. I think that teaching at a college, especially one like COA, is important work, and attending college can be powerfully transformative. This talk/essay is an attempt to articulate why I think this is the case.

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