Dusty Wilson,
Highline Community College

[March 18, 2012]

We attempt to engage and direct our students in a lifetime quest to achieve balance and congruity in all aspects of their lives. While this includes education in our respective disciplines, the “whole person” is broader – encompassing the areas of family, health, education, career, service, finances and spirituality.

Ironically, we live in a fragmented culture where we address health at the gym, education in a classroom, and the spirit through isolationist gatherings on Sundays.

Is developing the whole mind through general education requirements sufficient? Perhaps. But I believe we can do better.

A Look in the Mirror

For example I found it difficult to teach to the whole student when I myself was a fragmented soul. Perhaps this was most evident in my own discipline where we intentionally isolate ourselves from the rest of the academic curriculum. (Did you know a degree in math requires no formal training in any of the other natural sciences?) I found myself wanting to understand how mathematics fit within a broader context. To do so I began to listen to those around me and pray for guidance.

The answer came in this question: Is mathematics invented or discovered? Many great minds have wrestled with this conundrum; more so as the efficacy of mathematics has increased while incompleteness has eroded its foundations. For me finding philosophy within mathematics has breathed life and coherence into my teaching and research. I found a new marvel and awe for the queen of the sciences!

Be Intentional

I encourage you to be intentional in your effort to understand your academic discipline and intellectual passions within a broader context. Mary Poplin (Claremont, Education) said it this way, “Each one of us should read through our Bible at least once from the perspective of our respective disciplines.”

For years I mocked Facebook (Fb) and online social media as disingenuous and faddish. I have come to see it as a way to communicate with students. In addition to numerous math topics addressed via Fb, I have used it to pose questions, share thoughts, and generate conversation with my students and colleagues more freely than time and culture allow on campus.

Perhaps most importantly, it has let me see into the personal lives of my students and provides opportunity to share, challenge, and encourage them through the struggles that rarely come out in the classroom. I welcome student dialogue beyond the classroom.

I know that many faculty feel strongly that there should be an inseparable divide between our personal and professional lives. But that compartmentalization seems at odds with our effort to reach the whole student.

We don’t have to talk or dress like a teenybopper. But this generation values openness, honesty, and authenticity. Consider using social media with your students. Think about it as one way to contribute to learning that extends beyond the classroom.

Share your own faith journey at MeetTheProf.com

©2012 Dusty Wilson