John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Reflections: Thanksgiving 2012

November 20, 2012John N. GardnerInsights0

John N. Gardner
President

Here we are about to begin our annual Thanksgiving vacations, for those of us who work in the academy in the US anyway. What a curious custom. When I lived in Canada as a child I found their celebration of Thanksgiving much more rational in terms of the calendar and when such a day could be connected to the cycle of agricultural harvests.

Now as with so many holidays, the original intent has been corrupted, or at least modified and expanded.

But for me it is a period when I do spend some time reflecting on what I am thankful for in my professional and personal life.

I will engage in some reflection here which is directed to the professional, but which will surely also verge on the personal. For me to separate the two is a challenging intellectual, arbitrary and abstract exercise.

I am thankful at Thanksgiving 2012 that—and for…

– the greater probability that the during the next four years our students will not see a significant reduction in their federal financial aid.

– the election is behind us—sort of.

– a bell weather state, California, just showed the rest of the country the importance of approving a constitutional amendment to raise taxes to increase support for education.

– a handful of states’ voters voted affirmatively to enhance inclusion and rights for a previously discriminated against population—with my hope being that any sign of increased tolerance will benefit all Americans including those on the campuses that I serve.

– we are one year closer to withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan, many of whom will end up on our campuses for us to give them the help and the skills they need and deserve.

– the privilege to work in campus environments that, while they may have internal divisions, are not as badly divided as the rest of our country.

– the privilege to work in higher education settings where we have  more freedom to express ourselves than in most work settings outside.

– more opportunities to do work of socially redeeming value.

– greater chances to discuss our differences in environments of greater tolerance and civility.

– a cohort of colleagues who are some of the brightest, most creative, most supportive professionals anywhere
our students, who in spite of all our national and international challenges, remain so hopeful and determined to improve their circumstances, and who are so much fun to work with!

In my own case, I am thankful for the opportunities to continue to do my own work to support higher education and our students, including some brand new types of work which I will be announcing later in 2013.

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