Director's Cut: Professional Thriving

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Jeff wasn’t sure he wanted to go to the session. “This is a good way for the Center to support Phoebe Myhrum and the great work she’s doing,” Lauren countered. “And besides, I’ve put it on our calendars. We’re doing this.” (Note for Jeff: Spend time understanding the settings in Google Calendar.)

The session in question would concern mindfulness practice, to be conducted by Linnea Pyne, a certified mindfulness practitioner through UCLA, who had visited Denison earlier this fall and was scheduled to be on campus again in early December.

Jeff’s reluctance stemmed from being unfamiliar with exactly how to practice mindfulness. And, in truth, its practice is gaining foothold in higher education. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published a story describing initiatives at schools like the University of Virginia, where faculty and staff are helping students better understand the benefits of contemplative practices like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. Combined with sessions focused on the broader pyscho-social landscape students must navigate during college, UVA aims to promote a culture of thriving. The Chronicle piece got us thinking: What might it mean for the CfLT to embrace commitments to professional thriving at Denison, for all faculty and staff?

At the risk of sounding too excited, that question has, for us, prompted an urgency of the best kind—one that spurs us to want to talk with others about imagining programming through the Center that goes beyond the “nuts and bolts” of teaching and drills down into what matters most about faculty work.

Don’t misunderstand, please. We’re not pioneers. And we’re mindful (pun intended) that many good things are happening across campus. And it’s true: There have been quiet, thoughtful rumblings about the directions professional development for faculty should assume, given how the professoriate is changing and the needs of our students. The challenges are real. And so we wonder: What might Denison’s faculty development look like—how might it change—if we considered it through a more holistic lens? (Thanks to colleagues in Chemistry/Biochemistry who unknowingly nudged us to feel brave in thinking aloud about this.)

We need to be clear: Our commitment to student-learning must and will remain core. We won’t pass up opportunities to facilitate workshops on effective grading or backwards course design, for instance. And, based on data we’ve collected about our fall programming, we’ve begun to wonder how the Center may facilitate conversations about expanding and deepening what faculty/professional development looks like, particularly as those commitments might encompass a more holistic frame.

It’s clear—at least to us—that this contemporary moment in higher education is asking so much of faculty. How should our CfLT respond? If you’d like to talk with us more about this, we’d love to meet with you. We love paying for coffee.

Oh, and that mindfulness practice? Awesome. Linnea graciously guided us through our separate sessions. Jeff didn’t die of embarrassment from sitting with his eyes closed in a public place. (That was the source of reluctance!) Linnea keyed into Lauren’s “Type-A” personality within a minute of meeting her, and then they settled into a fulfilling session. The real conundrum we now have to solve: How do we schedule “mindfulness” on our calendars?

Posted Date 
Tuesday, December 18, 2018

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