About the Advising Summit 2008

2008 Advising Summit Summary

The theme of this year’s Summit was “Student Engagement In and Outside the Classroom.” In his opening remarks, Dean McDonald spoke about his promise to potential students that if they so desire, they can have an “intellectually transformative” experience here at the University. He proceeded to discuss the corresponding need to facilitate more students rapidly reaching the point where they are ready to take full advantage of all the opportunities the University offers, in part through providing them with experiences that cause them to reflect on precisely what forms of engagement they want to be involved in.

We had an extraordinary panel of pairs of students and faculty who collaborated on a number of projects and in a variety of venues. David Schoem (Sociology and MCSP) and Aaron Gomes (Sophomore-BBA, MCSP) talked about their experience in David’s Sociology 105 course on Diversity, Democracy, and Community, which involved a group of international students going to an Ann Arbor city council meeting to witness first-hand American democracy at the local level. The students were initially disillusioned by their observations at a local city council meeting but also subsequently motivated to get on the docket for a future council meeting to articulate their views, which held the rapt attention of the Council (as David phrased it, “for the full 2 minutes” the students were speaking). This course models community-based learning in which students are encouraged to make the connection between their excitement and passion about the issues being discussed in the classroom and their everyday lives and the larger communities in which they live. Aaron described his experience not only in this class, but also as an MCSP student leader as precisely the kind of transformative experience promised by Dean McDonald, and one that will potentially affect the career choices he makes after obtaining his degree. At MCSP engagement occurs not just between individual faculty and students but as part of an engaged community environment.

Henry Dyson (Classical Studies and Philosophy) and Helen Merenda (Sophomore-RC-German) presented their work together through a UROP project in which they translated a chapter of Adolf Bonhöffer’s interpretation of Epictetus and the early Stoics. This translation project may lead to a joint publication, as well as to a larger web-based collaborative translation project. They also talked briefly about their participation in the ONSP Mentorship Program for First-Year students. Both Henry and Helen conveyed their enthusiasm for intellectual collaboration, as well as their excitement at the prospect of a larger collaboration through utilizing interactive web technologies to build an online scholarly community. Helen was particularly compelling in her description of her initial anxieties about her linguistic abilities (as a first-year student) and the sense of accomplishment she had in completing the project, which has opened new intellectual and scholarly vistas for her.

Terri Sarris (SAC) and Sultan Sharrief (alum-SAC) talked about “Bilal’s Stand,” a feature-length film that they shot and are currently using as a tool for community outreach through an NCID grant. Making the film was a true community effort, involving not only a wide range of UM faculty and students, but also students and community members from various nearby communities, in particular Inkster where most of the film was shot. Making the film not only helped tie together much of his coursework and functioned as a kind of capstone project for Sultan, but being so integrally involved in local communities also played a considerable role in his decision to remain and continue working here in Michigan, rather than head for LA or NYC. Working on the film also transformed Terri’s perspective on her production classes, as well as on working on a collaborative project of this type and scale with local communities.

Cutting across all the panelists’ presentations was the fact of engagement as a catalyzing agent for further forms and avenues of engagement. In this regard, one might think of engagement metaphorically as a stone tossed into a pool, whose ripples both spread out in ever widening circles and also create interesting patterns of intersection. Whether it be the effect of an individual or group of students on her/their peers; a class reaching into and working with a local community; or a project leading to new models for creative scholarship, production, and intellectual community building, each form of engagement on the part of students and faculty enriches both their individual experiences here at the University, as well as the University community as a whole. So, one final message to take away from this year’s Summit might be: Glass houses notwithstanding, throw all the stones you want.

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