On Intellectual Crafts’man’ship and That Other Stuff

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To work and live in a small community like the one we currently have brings a stream of small joys, and every now and then, some really big joys. There are moments of chagrin as well, but that would be the topic for some other time. Every student has an array of official advisors and mentors but also many informal others who are around with eyes, ears, and hearts open to gauge how folks are doing in their journey towards their Victory for Humanity or just in how they are doing. That mentor can even be a housekeeper who might notice a student in the dorm seems to be having an awful moment. We are Community! Sometimes the interactions are about academics and sometimes about navigating a student’s worlds with them as seen through young eyes or hearts.

The class of 2023 has brought quite a diverse bunch of students; many are first-generation college students and some first-generation Americans. Some may need some extra help with routine written language skills, but many seem to be more focused than many first years I ever have seen. I feel they will more than get everything done and in quick order.

One of my current student workers arrived in the United States at the age of 12 and speaks four languages. That might make them three times as smart as others as they are able to think in three extra languages! They are driven, have two campus jobs and one in town. One day, they sat down and they said they were doing a budget. More people should take time and do that. As part of that budget, they were including paying for their baby brother’s health insurance. Awesome family values. Maybe we need to learn something from these young people who are so new to this country.

Of course when you are young, you have many things you might wish to be. So you might want to be a doctor but at the same time a music/media producer. In the meantime, there is that first coursework and some things that are required before you can really get into one of those long-term passions. So this first year’s course on Social Psychology involved writing a first college paper. Their topic possibly was writing about the middle class in various countries. A tall order!

Every discipline has its own flavor. That is why we have all sorts of style manuals and other tools. Having been around the College for decades, one knows that there are always some folks to which Antiochians usually seem to gravitate. There are Max Weber, Karl Marx, and C. Wright Mills, and among others Paulo Freire. For decades at the College,many have taken courses that require Social Research skills. For years, one of the most difficult and talked about courses was “Research Methods in Social Science.” Most of the time it was taught by Hassan Rahmanian. It was grueling and sometimes produced Kleenex moments as it was tough. At the beginning of the course, Hassan always assigned two chapters from C. Wright Mills’ Sociological Imagination, Chapter 1: “The Promise” and the Appendix “On intellectual craftsmanship.”

As all the evening’s work was caught-up and it was a quiet moment, I ran to the stacks and shared the book with my student who was working on that possible paper about middle classes in many places. When I opened the book, (previously read by decades of Antiochians) it was pretty obvious that someone had read every assigned word. They also painstakingly in tiny letters de-gendered every word. So man evolved to “people” and mankind became “humankind”. Although it was done in green ink and one might choose to be irritated I found it a simple joy because someone was adding their own intellectual craftsmanship or should we say “craftspeopleship”?

You might also be awed at the ingenuity of some of our “upperclasspeople” as well. One other first-generation student who actually is heading toward the medical field has been juggling extra courses at University of Dayton and Wright State in courses so advanced you might need a medical dictionary to figure out what is in those course titles. So recently, one afternoon, he sat at the desk and planned his next term’s load and talked with that first year and did some quiet mentoring. Nothing is better than someone letting you know about the extra possibilities out there.

The College has a long history of people who are consummate advisors. As you read this Victor Garcia is ailing. One of his “wo-mentees,” Judith Wolert-Maldonado ’05, set up a Facebook page for people to write testimonials directly to Victor. It currently has well over 200 members from around the world who are sending to him photos and testimonials. Then one discovers the breadth and depth of a great mentor. More than coursework….

Antioch has been so blessed to have some of the best guides to the universe. People like Al Denman, Jewel Graham, Karen Shirley, Ann Bohlen, Bob Devine. Hassan Rahmanian, and Peter Townsend. Actually the list is endless and there is no doubt that the legacy continues. Fall term has just ended and we are heading into the November/December blocks (little mini-terms). A design/build course will offered by Michal Casselli ’87 which will involve the re-imagining of a new open space as one enters the OK Library. Build it and they will come! The students will help create the space and some of the furniture will be made on 3D printers. This project may appear as a Giving Tuesday project and I am sure it will be academic but will also involve way more than Academics…most Antiochian.

As Thanksgiving approaches, this Buffalo is thankful we are here and doing what we do in a robust and sometimes seemingly chaotic way. To make us stronger, there are always some simple things that help: Finding a Co-op job that pays real money as well as gives experience. Scholarship ideas. Keeping in touch and referring someone who may want their very own Antioch Adventure. We do experience, reflection, and insight. Not on everyone’s curriculum but we all know that!