Day 1 – Chicago to Joliet
It is significantly different traveling with a group than basically going it alone. Democracy is sometimes not a pretty thing to observe. Still, sharing the road is a special delight, especially when your colleagues prove such wonderful ambassadors along the way.
We held our first alumni reception this evening. After a light presentation and some questions I invited our guests to comment on what there is about Pepperdine they thought we should keep and what we should change. We didn't get beyond what to keep, and one perfectly wonderful challenge. A current MBA student expressed satisfaction with his faculty and a former parent spoke of a caring community. The challenge came from a former teacher who asked that Pepperdine (and schools like Pepperdine) act and lead in a manner that would encourage a "third grade teacher." I liked that very much.
Earlier in the day we held our first group discussion. Our participants included a school superintendent, a professor involved in placing his university teacher-education students in inner-city positions, and a minister with roots in England and Australia. All hold terminal degrees and the discussion was reflective of that fact.
We talked about the importance of encouraging our students not to lead insular lives where cell phones, PDAs, and iPods distract from earnest face-to-face encounters. I asked that they identify a course that should be required of all college/university students. They underscored the importance of a course integrating analysis and critical reasoning and one added that it would be important that it encompass values and ethics.
One participant expressed the opinion that "no child left behind" places metrics above all else and is disrespectful of teachers who give deeply of themselves. Another urged attention to better communication between and among K-12, college/university, and governmental interests. More support and funding are needed and the present "finger pointing" is not productive of much good. Generally there was a lot of interest in bringing to bear forces for good – parents, churches, teachers, colleges and universities, and government – in a manner to support America's youth.
All of this leads me to want to summarize a lot of thinking that has occurred in various conversations held over the past few months. I may try to do that while experiencing tomorrow's drive to Funks Grove and Springfield. One thing I hoped to find on this journey was opinion – deeply held, carefully considered opinion. I am confident there is a lot of that ahead. Today was productive and, I might add, blog comments are also proving to be very interesting.
Closing this brief entry, I want to observe the joy of spending time today with an alumnus who is living our "purpose, service, and leadership" mission, while hosting two families who will begin their own journey with us this fall. Both are sources of pride and joy.