Back to the Classroom

This semester has involved going back to the future for me, specifically in my teaching a college course for the first time in 14 years.

I was nervous at first. 14 years is a long time! It is like riding a bike—you don’t completely forget. But I felt like I needed training wheels. I had to learn not only the course material, but also how to use Canvas, our learning management system, a quantum leap technologically from the olden days.

What’s more, I’m teaching first year students  in the required course “Leadership 101”, which paves the way for an extended curriculum in leadership for the upper class years.

Of course, as a college president, I meet and talk with students regularly. Dealing with this cohort in class has proved a different matter entirely. It has been as much a learning experience for me as for my students, starting with the reality that I need to be very explicit about assignment requirements and what happens to late submissions.

I have to remind myself that these students are 18 years old with limited experience to draw upon, so I need to be thoughtful about the types of questions I ask and to be realistic in my expectations. I’ve also been reminded about the joys and frustrations of dealing with folks who have varying levels of motivation and personal/professional goals.

At the same time, I am very impressed with the poise and professionalism of our first-year students. They seem comfortable speaking in class and have developed and delivered effective presentations. I find these students are very articulate and able to lay out coherent and compelling arguments.

I admit that it has been difficult layering in this extra day of work per week on top of an already more than full-time job. But I’m enjoying this second job. I hope that my students are as well. I feel like I’m getting my groove back.

Canvas and I are even getting along a bit better now as well.

Dining In

At the beginning of the school year, a number of students and an occasional professor wondered where the College was serving its meals. A good question, considering that the Lombard Dining Hall—the school’s one and only—began a massive, multi-million dollar renovation earlier this year, and it was natural to think that the building would be closed.

But it’s been dining as usual in this structure erected in 1974. Students and faculty need only take a detour by crossing to the far side of Center Road and then crossing back to a side entrance into Lombard.

It’s been hard to miss the early stages of construction, as the brick outline of a new front entrance has risen, leaving the actual dining area intact. And while the project’s design and engineering have impressed, the planning has become the bigger marvel.

At first glance, the almost four-year schedule may seem excessive. In the past few years, we’ve constructed our two newest buildings—the Fels Center and the Academic Building—in less time than that, and from the ground up. But the challenge here has been to create a state-of-the-art dining facility while keeping the student body fed.

The solution has meant doing the heavy lifting on a compact, efficient schedule during vacation breaks, starting with the past summer, when the new vaulted entrance took shape. We’ve adjusted the coming break between fall and spring semesters to accommodate construction that would otherwise be intrusive. The same approach will continue next summer, and so forth.

2018 11 1 Dining-Hall-Render2The final result in 2021 will be worth waiting for, as a cathedral ceiling extends the length of the dining hall with light streaming in from numerous windows, and energy efficient food stations will dot the periphery.

Bon appetit.