As we approach the end of another fall semester, and the end of 2023, it is customary to take time to reflect on the year and our experiences.
As I look back on this year, many things come to mind. First of all, I worry about all of us who work or go to school in higher education. We all are stressed and sometimes anxious, and our students often seem to be in the same space.
Each fall, I teach a course in the Grainger College of Engineering at Illinois, SE361- Emotional Intelligence Skills. It is part of the Innovation, Leadership and Engineering Entrepreneurship (ILEE) BS Dual Degree program in the college. While all the students are not engineers, many of them are. We spend a great deal of time getting to know ourselves and how our emotions impact us and how we can better read and react to other’s emotions. As I tell the students at the beginning of the semester, “It’s not what happens to you, it is how you respond that matters.”
We learned, laughed, and sometimes cried in class. We learned how to be vulnerable with each other. We reflected a lot. Some of the engineers were not fond of that! But at the end of the day, we built a community. A community where everyone could be themselves and know they would be accepted, supported, and loved.
We certainly need more of this in the world, and in higher education. When I look into the eyes of these students, they have fought hard to make it to this point. They have grit, tenacity, and resilience. They have hopes and dreams for their future. And they know how complicated the world is to navigate. But they persist, as we hope they will.
The last activity we do each semester is to have everyone write a note to the class. We trade them, and someone else reads your note. You don’t know whose comment you have.
I will leave you a comment from one of the students in class.
“Thank you for being a safe space for me to learn and grow. Although I haven’t known you all for long, we somehow feel like a family. Thank you for being vulnerable and growing with me. It was a pleasure getting to know you all. Best of luck in your beautiful futures.” ❤
How does this tie to CAS, you ask? Very well, actually. In our standards we work to create environments that allow students to grow and flourish. We should provide programs and services to help students thrive. We should also make sure that we are taking care of our staffs and ourselves.
As I finish this reflection, I wish for more spaces for our students to build community and a sense of belonging. I also wish for peace on earth. With so much suffering in the world, we need more grace and kindness.
Gayle Spencer, Ph.D.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.