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Over the last few months, I've been working with Citizens' Climate Lobby to bring their 9th annual regional conference to Xavier's campus. The effort includes a bunch of volunteers as well as Xavier's own Director of Sustainability, the indefatigable Helena Robinson.

Strictly speaking, this is not a CAT+FD event. It's not traditional faculty development. Yet the climate crisis is something that affects every one of us. It affects our students most of all, since they will see more pronounced effects in their lifetimes — as compared to those (like me) who were born way back in the 20th century.

There are many ways to get active in the movement for climate action. This conference is one way. I do hope you'll consider learning more on the registration site.

CAT+FD will present opportunities to address climate and sustainability in your teaching in the near future.

Most every seat is full in the University Center ballroom
Dr. Verret addresses Faculty & Staff Institute

Just a few days ago, it seemed like campus was empty. Now it's teeming with people, and on Monday we'll be back in full swing.

As I participated in our annual Faculty & Staff Institute, I reflected on how the university seems to spring into being so quickly, so suddenly. How is it possible for all these faculty and students to swoop onto campus and reconstitute an operational university in such short order?

The answer, obviously, is that campus wasn't empty ten days ago. Plenty of staff members and administrators (and, yes, even some faculty) have been laboring here diligently all summer and all year round. I'm proud to count myself in that number. I was reminded that our faculty and students need the support of our hard-working staff, in order that we can even have a university.

Yet, campus seemed empty without faculty and students around. It was peaceful and quiet. I enjoyed it, but that's a temporary condition. Indeed, the illusion of peaceful emptiness was delicious precisely because of its ephemeral nature. I was reminded that staff members like myself need our faculty and students in order for our work here to have any meaning.

These are simple observations, to be sure. I merely want to affirm this simple truth: we need each other.

Our cultural summer is over, though the heat will blaze on for quite a while. In the coming school year, it's my wish that we may find that great value that we supply to each other, that we may see it, and act upon it, in service to our shared mission.

Have a great year!

As CAT+FD has promoted contemplative pedagogy and work/life balance for years, we are very pleased to join our student groups in welcoming author and facilitator Tammah Watts, LMFT, to Xavier University of Louisiana this Friday.

[flyer for campus event]

Come join Tammah and connect with nature right here on campus.

Turning your focus to nature and wildlife can help allay stress and anxiety. During meditation, Tammah will help participants identify cues in nature to increase mindfulness.

This event is open to Xavier students, faculty, and staff. Attendees will receive a copy of Tammah’s new book, Keep Looking Up.

Friday, April 14th, 2023, 2pm in the UC Yard

No fooling: If it's April, it must be time for the Bike Easy Challenge!

I'm joining the Bike Easy Challenge to get more Xavierites riding bikes in New Orleans. Riding a bike can make you happier, healthier, and — yes — even 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

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!

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

The World-Wide Teach-In is underway now, and we're doing our part here at Xavier University of Louisiana. A number of professors already have or soon will MakeClimateAClass.

Thanks to Helena Robinson, Director of Sustainability, for helping to spread the news with this graphic.

There's still time to participate in the teach-in this year. See Bard College for details.

Did we miss anyone? Did you #MakeClimateAClass? Let us know!

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.


  • 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:

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

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"