• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


Doing College

Wisdom from The Girl.

January 16, 2020

Every semester, I send out a welcome letter to the entire campus. This one seemed worth sharing with the interwebs at large.


Welcome to the spring semester of 2020.

My daughter is 15 and the smart one in the family. At the start of the school year, she explained why she was excited about her sophomore year of high school: “In the freshman year, you’re making the adjustment and getting used to it. In the junior year, you’re thinking about colleges and trying to make your application look good. As a senior, you’re already thinking about the next thing. Sophomore year is the one time you’re just doing high school.”

She had a point, at least from the perspective of a family in which college-going is assumed. But it also helped me clarify why it’s so gratifying to work at a community college.

We get to “do college” all the time. We’re the only people for whom that’s true. We get to work in a place that’s designed to help people learn, and to improve their lives. The “product” we “sell,” if you want to think of it that way, is empowerment. That’s rare. We actually get to spend our time helping other people discover their passions, develop their skills and improve their lot in the world. Some moments are better than others, but the reason we’re here is an optimistic faith in the future. Most people encounter that only in passing, if they encounter it at all. We’re in it every day.

Here's hope for another semester of breakthroughs, lightbulbs going on over students’ heads and lives improved. Somehow, that never gets old.


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