Monday, September 19, 2011

Talented tenth

As you know, I direct the First Year Program at my school. Besides arranging first year seminars, I also coordinate the First Year Workshops held each week by peer advisers (known as Seminar Fellows). The weekly meeting with the peer advisers is the best part of this job.

At today's meeting we were discussing how to help new students adjust to being on their own financially. (The topic, "Smart spending and living on a budget," was proposed by last year's Seminar Fellows, who know from personal experience that adjusting to the academic demands of college is only one of many important transitions first years go through.) Various students described tricks for keeping track of their expenses, from hiding credit cards to buying exactly the same groceries at Trader Joe each week to filtering all their expenses through a website called mint. Then one student said that whenever she gets money, whether from a job or from her parents, she gives away 10% of it, mostly to her church. Stunning how the practice of tithing can change one's understanding of economy and one's relationship to the world. What had been a discussion framed by scarcity and taking care of yourself expanded into a deeper discussion of our place in a shared world.

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