With a hat tip and hearty congratulations to Astros Nation, let me be clear that I am a lifelong Dodgers fan. On a recent autumn morning in Montreal, I found the hallowed ground I was looking for: the former home of the minor league Royals. Jackie Robinson spent the 1946 season there prior to breaking the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers the following year. The stadium is long gone, but the city preserved this chapter in history by creating a baseball-themed memorial. As I reflected in this space, I couldn’t help but wonder if that year somehow healed wounds inflicted during the difficult spring training in Daytona Beach but also equipped Mr. Robinson for the grueling challenges to come. More generally, I pondered how a winning team can be strengthened by diversity.
So what does 1946 Montreal have to do with 2017 Austin? Maybe it’s the idea that preparation in a supportive, diverse environment can build a foundation for future success AND hardships yet to come.
I was fortunate to visit this amazing city for the annual conference for Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network, the leading organization for educational developers in higher education—folks who typically work in and with university Teaching and Learning Centers.
The conference was an energizing opportunity to reflect on my own journey in our field. I can be included in the statistic of students from the liberal arts that are not necessarily working in the discipline where they started. Despite my non-linear path, including a heavy dose of time in private-sector technology companies, I have found a home in teaching and learning. I am grateful for the ways in which my skills and experiences have contributed to significant efforts such as building lab-based MOOCs, launching technology infrastructure platforms, and creating a robust portfolio of services that equips instructors of all types.
So what does 1946 Montreal have to do with 2017 Austin? Maybe it’s the idea that preparation in a supportive, diverse environment can build a foundation for future success AND hardships yet to come. Advancing the educational mission of a university is difficult work. Personally, I’m involved in these efforts as one without a PhD. Apparently, this is a growing demographic in the POD network which even warranted a dedicated session at the conference. This session included designers, technologists, faculty, and others possessing considerable expertise but without the standard academic credential. Questions addressed in the conversation centered on the roles of these non-faculty professionals, the challenges they face, and an evaluation of what they contribute to the field. Some in the room even claimed their PhDs from other disciplines did not directly provide credibility to contribute to the work of teaching and learning.
On our campus, the road to transforming teaching and learning is being paved by a wide variety of professionals. Graduate student services, academic advising, technology infrastructure, multi-layered policies, enrollment management, student success initiatives, and many additional components must be addressed to usher in new ways of equipping instructors, staff, and students. Our work in curriculum redesign requires an increasingly larger table. For example, I have had the privilege of sitting at that table to participate in the creative efforts in Electrical and Computer Engineering. In this department and many others at UT, students, faculty, administrators, and staff who possess a deep understanding of teaching informed by research and experience are all making contributions. All are valued for what they bring to the table.
According to the accounts I’ve been able to find, Mr. Robinson thrived over the course of his year in Montreal. He found a place of acceptance and encouragement that equipped him to embrace the inevitable challenges of becoming a better ballplayer. I can only imagine the tough decisions he faced as well as ways in which he was equipped. This powerful combination eventually led him to say upon his departure, “As the plane roared skyward and the lights of Montreal twinkled and winked in the distance, I took one last look at this great city where I had found so much happiness. ‘I don’t care if I ever get to the majors, I told myself. This is the city for me. This is paradise’”.
Who was at the table when you have been equipped to take on challenges in your work? Who was missing? We must ensure the right expertise is assembled to tackle the daunting challenges that lie ahead. It really does take a whole team.
Project Manager, Faculty Innovation Center
Following his tenure in the College of Education, Chad joined the Faculty Innovation Center to catalyze campus-wide transformation efforts. He now manages a portfolio of projects and services centered on instructional practice.