Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Rest Stops & Scenic Overlooks: A Call to Professional Renewal

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Rest Stops & Scenic Overlooks: A Call to Professional Renewal

Article excerpt

I used to be one of those no-nonsense drivers. Fuel up early, pack lunch, drive a steady 15 miles over the speed limit and don't stop until we get there. Then, many summers ago, I studied abroad in South Africa and took a road trip with my classmates to Kruger National Park. They stopped at EVERY scenic overlook. I honestly didn't even know what a scenic overlook was. In the States, I just sped by the signs. In what might have been the longest drive ever, we saw incredible mountain views, had wonderful conversations and got in the car singing at the top of our lungs. We eventually got where we were going, but more importantly we got there happy.

This scenario is a metaphor for what often happens in higher education. Too many colleagues are driving full speed ahead, never stopping to renew and soak up some inspiration. Those in student affairs are working an insane number of hours on campus. They are in the office by the early morning for an all-day slate of meetings, one-on-ones, training, strategic planning sessions, etc. By 8:00 p.m., when many others are comfortably home, student affairs professionals are often gearing up for some major campus event. The day is packed so rill that there is literally no time to think.

Those on the academic side also have their feet pressed to the pedal. The race to tenure has created a culture of workcrazed scholars. Faculty routines are packed with committee meetings, multiple projects and pressure to publish, not to mention teaching. Everyone is in a race to be the busiest person on campus. Still, being the busiest professional in your field does not make you the most productive person in life.

We all need to pull over--to get off the assembly line. An assembly line is about uniformity and expediency, everything is made quickly and looks the same. Such is the case with higher education. Our campuses are formulas and our career trajectories are simply templates. And the deeper questions still remain, "What is your purpose in life?" and "What specific innovation and creative imagination do you bring to this field?"

We need to cultivate a culture of contemplation and joy. When I led a student affairs office, I did work crazy hours. However, I also made it okay in our office to embrace the word "no." That simple word can feel like freedom when it is used wisely. We said no to some campus meetings. We allowed ourselves to close our doors and think. You should stop for students who need you. …

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