I bookmarked dictionary.com before noon my first day of work at the University. This wasn’t merely because of the impressive language being thrown at me by the staff and faculty, I understand English pretty well and all – and if that were the only issue, I wouldn’t have been nearly as concerned. However one of my first tasks was to go through the files of Graduate Studies Officers past and I found myself under attack by Latin. Latin. A so-called “dead” language that seemed determined to haunt me: ex officio, ipso facto, mea culpa. All part of everyday conversation for me now, but at the time, the potential for future dialogues in a language that I had thought was only used in medical schools caused me a bit of panic. I had always wanted to take Greek and Latin – maybe that can be the next project I tackle once I’ve completed this Master’s degree. Or not.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago to me proudly attending the convocation for the first graduating class of our new master’s programs. This was the reason I was hired in my position – that initial cohort was finally on their way. I felt like a parent – I couldn’t have been more pleased with the collective efforts of the students, my department and everyone involved with the individual programs. As I waited for the ceremony to begin, I found myself mesmerized by more Latin in the form of our University crest and motto: Lux et veritas floreant. Let truth and light flourish. I found it an almost impossible task to resist the urge to blackberry other university mottoes on the spot (there are some dull moments during convocation after all). I raced home to google and was delighted with what a fascinating exercise it was. Latin, Middle English, Gaelic, Italian, Greek, all reflective of each institution’s history and values.
And though I can’t help wondering if I’m not just a wee bit biased, I have to say, I like my own institution’s motto the best (with nods to institutions like Yale, Northeastern, Indiana etc with remarkably similar mottoes). Perhaps because I’ve found, over the course of my time working here that I’m one of those people. One of those who are ridiculously idealistic and delighted with the environment I’ve found myself in. I’ve been accused of being too “green” and “new” to have fully absorbed the cynicism and low morale that will inevitably come. However, I have to confess: I revel in my wide-eyed utopian outlook on the Academy. I adored my time as an undergrad, and followed it up with years of volunteering with the Alumni Association before I was finally rewarded with a job that would allow me to never leave these hallowed halls.
It’s so easy to be negative and cynical about the institution we’re in. I myself could spout off a myriad of complaints and things that I wish were different. Less bureaucracy, more time to prepare, overwhelming work-load, insufficient information sharing…the list goes on. And Lord knows I’ve had my days where I wax nostalgic about my former event planning and marketing career with all the perks and excitement that came with it. However, I think the same holds true for any environment one becomes immersed in: there’s always going to be good and bad.
But I can honestly say I love my job. It’s so rare to find a place where you can genuinely believe that you’re making a difference. My last job? The focus was not about growth and knowledge – it was about money and consumerism and having to desperately twist around the values in my head until I could squeak out something even moderately laudable in what I was doing. So yes, while I remain a realist about the limitations of my environment, I choose to keep my rose-coloured glasses firmly in place. I want to carry my own little matchstick in the flourishing of truth and light.
Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada
Deanna England can be reached by email at Deanna.England@insidehighered.com. She is a member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.