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This spring, we invite you to "Make Climate a Class" for just one day, as part of the Worldwide Teach-In on Climate and Justice on or around March 29th, 2023.

Can you do it? Yes, you can! Here's what we mean:

Devote a short portion of your regular class time to a discussion of how your field contributes to the understanding of climate change, or climate solutions, or climate justice. Bring it into the classroom. If even a few Xavier faculty do this, we will engage hundreds of students in a positive focus on the climate crisis.

Here’s what we suggest:

Tell students you are taking a short diversion into climate. Tell them it's as a part of the Worldwide Teach-in. For 15 minutes, introduce an example of how your discipline is thinking about climate change. Then have a 15-minute presentation from an alumnus or colleague who is actually working on climate change. Thirty minutes, DONE.

Climate change touches every field — from artists to entrepreneurs, from philosophers to scientists. Our courses can inspire students to see how they can be leaders in the critical work ahead to stabilize the climate.

Examples:

  • If you teach literature, talk about the emergent genre of climate fiction ("cli-fi") or a specific work of climate fiction. Then engage your students in discussion. 
  • If you are in STEM, assign students a problem related to climate change or climate solutions.
  • If you teach a class related to food systems, discuss the impacts of climate change on agriculture and the food supply.
  • If you are in the social and behavioral sciences, discuss the human dimensions of climate change and climate justice. (For a neuroscience-informed perspective, you might take a look at Ann-Christine Duhaime's new book, Minding the Climate, subject of a recent interview in the New York Times.)

The possibilities are endless.

Students will appreciate the chance to learn how your field relates to an issue that is of major consequence for literally everyone on the planet. They'll appreciate seeing a pathway to solving climate that goes beyond lifestyle choices and political action, as important as those may be.

CAT+FD is here to help. Reach out if you'd like to brainstorm ideas, or if you have a specific question, or just to let us know that you're thinking about it.

Footnote: This post is adapted from the "Letter to faculty who spoke in 2022 teach-in"

Yes yes yes we know this semester is crazy! But we just wanted to ask you to save the date now for something very interesting next semester.

Here's what's up:

As part of the Worldwide Teach-In on Climate and Justice, we invite you to "Make Climate a Class" on just one day in the spring semester.

This means you would devote a short portion of your regular class time to a discussion of how your field contributes to the understanding of climate change, climate solutions, or climate justice.

It doesn't matter if your class has nothing to do with the climate crisis. In fact, that's so much the better. The idea to reach as many students as possible, all around the world.

Tell students you are taking a short diversion into climate as part of the Worldwide Teach-in. Then for 15 minutes, introduce an example of how your discipline is thinking about climate change. Then have a 15-minute presentation from an alumnus or other professional who is actually working on climate change in your field. Thirty minutes, DONE.

We'll be posting more information in December. For now, we're just planting the seed. We urge you to save the date now. Mark it on your calendar on or around March 29th, 2023. If past experience is any indicator, next semester could be even crazier, so any dates not saved may well be lost in the shuffle.

PS: We'll be using this hashtag:
#MakeClimateAClass

We're all concerned about the climate. That concern can be wearing, to say the least. Many young people now suffer from climate anxiety, and some climate organizers are “burning out.”

After the year we've had, this might sound all too familiar.

We need to encourage young people, activists, and teachers of all ages to nourish themselves. As a community, we need to offer support to each other, to give each other permission to slow down and engage in self-care.

Often we try to do too much in too short a time, rather than pacing ourselves for the lifetime mission to which we are called.

And so, on the second Thursday of May, we invite you to do nothing — for the climate!

What’s that mean? Well, the accentuation is actually on the nothing. In other words, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything for the climate (i.e. give up for a day). Rather, for one day, we should intentionally do nothing for the climate. The climate needs us to do more nothing—as it is our pursuit of growth and more, more, more (whether profit, stuff, or children) that is at the heart of our sustainability crisis.

How you do nothing is up to you, but we suggest taking a day away from the fight, away from emails, from work, from school; from the news, from TV shows, movies, and definitely social media. We suggest keeping your devices off completely if you can, and — if you can take a personal day, a mental health day, a vacation day — take one.

Make it a day for relaxing, chilling, nourishing your soul, and reconnecting to the ineffable spirit of being.

To learn more and sign the “Do Nothing” pledge, see Gaianism.org

Imagining Grace is a performance-oriented installation of wellness and contemplation inspired by the work of St. Katharine Drexel and the words of Toni Morrison in recognition of Women’s History Month, presented by Xavier's Women’s Studies Program, Performance Studies Laboratory (PSL), and Department of Art & Performance Studies.

Photo courtesy Robin Vander. All rights reserved.

We've heard a lot about "breakthroughs" over the last year, in contexts that are often alarming. That's why it's so refreshing to get news of a different and thoroughly beneficial kind of breakthrough on our campus.

I'm talking about Imagining Grace, of course. You've heard of it by now, I'm sure.

To call it an art installation might miss the point. It is artful, to be sure, but moreover it's an invitation to participate, to immerse oneself, to chill, to simply be. I call it a breakthrough.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, stop by the Administration Building Art Gallery at your next opportunity and experience it for yourself. Moreover, I urge you to allow yourself a little time for that experience.

Dr. Robin Vander says the space is there for everyone "to make it what they need." So you can sit in silence, you can meet a colleague, you can meet a student, and so forth. There's no right or wrong way, but here are a few pro tips.

  • Candle remotes are tucked under the rear of the basket in the center room; change the candle colors to fit any mood.
  • Read the weekly prompt in that room and see if you want or need to respond to it; if you do, place the card in the other basket in the meditation space.
  • Each Tuesday, there's an African Dance class in the space at 5pm, led by Kai Knight, Founder and Creative Director of Seasons Center. Space is limited, so please register by emailing Dr. Vander.

Please make sure you spread the word. Many students have been discovering the space on their own, but Dr. Vander says the biggest thing she's confronting is "trying to let staff know that the space is there for them as well."

CAT+FD has been advocating for contemplative practices on our campus for over a decade now, and we are proud to support this initiative in our own small way. We're moving our long-running weekly Quarter of Quiet meditation to the space for the duration. Join us there at 12:30pm on Mondays for a silent meditation, about 15 minutes — a great way to start your week.

Photo courtesy Robin Vander. All rights reserved.

See also: Imagining Grace press release [PDF]

Pronoun Nametag by Ted Eytan
Image by Ted Eytan/Creative Commons

Recently a student congratulated me on my email signature. In light of that exchange, I thought it appropriate to share the following "unsatisfactory meditation" on personal pronouns.

He, him, his. These are my pronouns. Or at least, they are the ones I've answered to all my life.

It's become a custom, recently, to let other people know your pronouns by way of introduction. You might see them in an email signature. Sometimes people label them as "gender pronouns" or "preferred pronouns" or simply "pronouns." Or they might just be sitting there next to the person's name. You can now specify your pronouns in your Zoom profile, and on certain social media sites.

This might seem odd or unnecessary the first time you see it, but in practice it's actually very helpful. If you've ever experienced confusion over what pronoun to use with a new acquaintance, well, it can be embarrassing for all parties involved.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. ...continue reading "Yes, you should totally tell your students your pronouns"

Devon Price, a social psychologist (they are the best!) and author of the book, Laziness Does Not Exist, reminds us that we don’t have to “earn our right to exist. We're fine and beautiful and completely lovable when we're just sitting on the couch just breathing.”

This quote made me think of my colleagues (and students) who are doing some heavy lifting post-Hurricane Ida and in Surge 4 COVID to keep up with their courses, advise their students, and be insightful in committee meetings. It’s a lot, and it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of “if I am not working this very moment, I am not _________ (successful/effective/professional/committed/worthy). You fill in the blank. But that kind of thinking leads to burnout (or as I describe in a previous post of mine, job-related depression).

In fact, Price argues that feeling “lazy” shouldn’t always be viewed as a deficit; instead, it might be your body telling you that you need a break!

So find time to do just that. Take a break, slow down, enjoy some nature, savor some you-time. Do this to model it for colleagues who look up to you. Do this to model it for your students (who feel like they aren’t really studious unless they are stressed out). Do this for your friends and families who care about you. But mainly, do it for yourself.

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

NPR’s Life Kit has some good information about avoiding burnout and other topics related to well-being. I highly recommend you check it out. You can subscribe and get their newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

Ok, I’m going to go take a break now.

Well. Here we are. Again. The school year has gotten off to kind of a rough start, wouldn't you say? I heard one mother with children in the local system remark that this would absolutely, positively have to be the last "first day of school" this year. At least, she hopes so.

On our campus, the physical damage may not be profound, but we have faculty and staff and students who have lost a lot. In some cases, they've lost their homes, possibly even loved ones. We are walking around and doing our best to return to the normal rhythms of the academic year, but it's challenging, to be sure.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could just reboot this entire semester?

That may not be possible, but perhaps we can reboot our own experience of the semester. We can make some time for stillness, which can refresh and renew the spirit. Please join us Wednesday morning for "A Quarter of Quiet." See details below. Whether you make it or not, please do remember to engage in some form of self-care. It's absolutely essential in the best of times — to say nothing of right now.

Wednesday is also the autumnal equinox, a very special time when day and night are equal, considered by many Americans as the first day of fall. On behalf of CAT+FD, let me be the very first to wish you a happy equinox!

Meditation Room

A Quarter of Quiet

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development invites you to join us for a regular group meditation. We'll meet in the Meditation Room of the St. Katharine Drexel Chapel each Wednesday morning throughout the 2021 fall semester. Drop in when you can.

What to expect?

As the meditation room is located directly beneath the bell tower, we are using the bells in our meditation. They chime quarterly. Our period of silence begins at 8:30 and ends at 8:45.

But I've never done this before!

You needn't have any experience with meditating; just stop by and give it a try. There's no commitment and no pressure. There's also really no right or wrong way to do it. Just sit quietly. Of course, if you'd like some basic instruction we can help; contact Bart Everson.

Why meditate?

Meditation has numerous well-documented benefits, including stress management, improved emotional balance, increased focus and awareness and increased responsiveness to student needs.

  • Date: September 22, 2021 - December 15, 2021 (when classes are in session)
  • Time: 8:30 - 8:45 AM
  • Location: Meditation Room, St. Katharine Drexel Chapel
  • Sponsor: CAT+FD

Photo credit: Bart Everson

As we prepare to return to campus this fall, we're also planning to bring back our popular mid-week meditation meeting, with a shift to an earlier time: morning instead of afternoon.

This is an experiment. Many traditions emphasize morning meditation as a way to start the day. That's great — but does it work with your schedule? We'll just have to see. Read on for all the details.

Meditation Room

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development invites you to join us for a regular group meditation. We'll meet in the Meditation Room of the St. Katharine Drexel Chapel each Wednesday morning throughout the 2021 fall semester. Drop in when you can.

What to expect?

As the meditation room is located directly beneath the bell tower, we are using the bells in our meditation. They chime quarterly. Our period of silence begins at 8:30 and ends at 8:45.

But I've never done this before!

You needn't have any experience with meditating; just stop by and give it a try. There's no commitment and no pressure. There's also really no right or wrong way to do it. Just sit quietly. Of course, if you'd like some basic instruction we can help; contact Bart Everson.

Why meditate?

Meditation has numerous well-documented benefits, including stress management, improved emotional balance, increased focus and awareness and increased responsiveness to student needs.

  • Date: August 25, 2021 - December 15, 2021 (when classes are in session)
  • Time: 8:30 - 8:45 AM
  • Location: Meditation Room, St. Katharine Drexel Chapel
  • Sponsor: CAT+FD

Photo credit: Bart Everson

"Burning My Candle at Both Ends" by gfpeck is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Even in a typical academic year (which this one was not) we tend to burn our candle at both ends as we work our way from August toward graduation. I don’t know if you have felt it, but I have certainly felt the increased pressure of keeping up the past few weeks—letters of recommendation, student advising, and wrapping up goals for the academic year have all made demands on my time.

Adding this pressure to an already-stressful year can increase our risk for burnout. Burnout has become a popular term during COVID, especially for educators who have had to reimagine their teaching. In fact, NPR’s Life Kit podcast just did a timely episode on burnout, complete with tips to avoiding it.

Burnout, a concept studied psychologist Christina Maslach since the 1970s, doesn’t just mean we are overwhelmed and exhausted (though exhaustion is at the core). It also includes becoming cynical about our work, which in higher ed can lead to "phoning it in" to our classes, complaining about our students or colleagues, and disengaging from our institutional missions. (Salvagioni and colleagues provide a thorough, empirical review of the physical and psychological consequences of burnout.)

However, there is recent evidence that what we have called burnout might actually be a form of job-related depression. In a meta-analysis, Renzo Bianchi (University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland) and colleagues looked at evidence from from 12,417 participants in six countries and found that characteristics of burnout were more strongly associated with depression than they were with each other. The implications of this data? Burnout is something that both institutions and faculty should take seriously.

If you are feeling physical or emotional exhaustion or cynicism, I encourage you, in these last fews weeks of the semester, to engage in some of the following that work for you.

  • Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits.
    Give yourself permission to invest in you own good health. Yeah, you have a lot to do, but none of that work is going to get done if you are too ill to do it.
  • Balance work and play.
    Be sure you have downtime and take breaks to do things you find truly joyful. In the academy our work is never truly "done." It's up to us to set some boundaries.
  • Take a daily break from technology.
    Need I say more about this? Take some time each day to completely disconnect and perhaps even look at a tree.

Last April's Bike Easy Challenge was, well, challenging. This April, at least we can ride to campus occasionally — as staggered work schedules dictate, obviously.

In any event: I'm joining the Bike Easy Challenge to get more Xavier faculty and staff riding bikes in New Orleans. Riding a bike can make you happier, healthier and wealthier. That's what I call professional development!

Did you know that New Orleans ranks #7 (among cities with over a quarter-million residents) for the percentage of people who bike to work?

And yet we could certainly do better by our bike riders, our transit riders, and our pedestrians. As I've argued elsewhere, safe transport is an issue of social justice and aligned with Xavier's mission.

Plus there are awesome prizes for riding and encouraging others throughout the month of April. Find out more and register at lovetoride.net/bikeeasy

It only takes a minute to register. It doesn't matter if you ride every day, or if you haven't been on a bike in years. Everyone is invited — and be sure to join the Xavier team!

Note: Due to COVID-19 protocols, only solo rides or household rides are encouraged.

Holler at me if you need any technical assistance or have any questions.