Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Tutorial advising"

Our college is piloting a new kind of academic program this semester, tentatively called "Tutorial Advising." Students will meet regularly in groups of 5-7 with a faculty member, as in a course (they get 1 academic credit for it), but the purpose is discussing the sorts of issues and concerns specific to academic advising. Reflecting on their careers as students, their vocational and career plans, etc., with visitors, excursions, shared meals. I think it's a great idea.

There are four pilots, and I'm doing one. Two are targeted at specific majors - one in screen studies, one in psychology. The other two, including mine, are as wide as the phrase "liberal arts." Mine will give me a chance to continue some of the great discussions which came out of our "Buddhism and the Future of the Liberal Arts" roundtable. In fact, it's called "Buddhism & Liberal Arts." Here's the tentative description:

This advising tutorial uses the phrase Buddhism & Liberal Arts as a kind of kôan, framing a shared journey exploring old and new meanings of learning, vocation, and the meaning of life. We’ll tap into ongoing debates about the nature and relevance of “liberal arts,” in theory and in our own lives at Lang, braiding them with Buddhist questions and practices, and with shared experiences on and (mostly) off-campus. 

Students will help assemble readings and other shared experiences which turn on the dualities of school/life, study/practice, contemplation/activism, personal/political, spontaneity/discipline, self/nonself, and path/destination. We “turn on” these dualities in four ways inspired by the history of Buddhist reflection: 
1) we let a given duality serve as the center of our discussion 
2) we complicate it in every way we can, teasing out its presuppositions and implications and challenging them 
3) we explore ways of breaking free from its constraints, and finally 
4) we consider ways of reclaiming the duality that can make it real and helpful for us as we think about shaping our lives. 

Learning Outcomes: 
• Becoming more intentional about your liberal arts education, and more thoughtful about how to translate it into your life and the wider world 
• Developing a practice of reflecting thoughtfully about your academic journey and life choices 
• Helping to craft questions and conversations for pursuing these concerns with others

We'll meet ten times for 90 minutes, only four of them at school. We'll meet twice at the Rubin Museum of Art, once at MoMA, once in a park, once at a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant, once at my house (to prepare a meal together). I'm quite excited, but it will all depend on finding the right students! That's the task of the next few weeks...

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