A sprawling and busy college campus can easily be visualized as containing many concentric and overlapping circles.  For instance, students, staff, and faculty are three major circles on campus.  I exist within the large “student” circle.  This circle contains an incredibly diverse population of individuals.  Within the student circle exists my personal “circle of empathy” for my fellow students. While negotiating my way through student life, determining who is placed in or out of the circle is difficult at times.

As a nontraditional student pursuing higher education in my thirties, I fall into a category of students that are more serious about school.  This attitude combined with some of my personality traits cause me to occasionally get very irritated with distracting and disrespectful behavior among students. Additionally, it is sometimes difficult for me to study and learn with excessive background noise and in public spaces, which adds to my annoyance.  Students who cross talk during important lectures or rudely answer a cell phone in a quiet study space can make my blood boil.  Considering the amount of money I pay in tuition and the personal sacrifices I have made to participate in academia, my irritation with these issues is justified; I deserve a high quality educational experience.

In Jaron Lanier’s book “You are not a Gadget,” he introduces the concept of a “circle of empathy” (36).   Lanier describes the circle as “An imaginary circle…drawn by a person (and which)…circumscribes the person at some distance, and corresponds to those things in the world that deserve empathy” (36).  My personal circle of empathy is challenged by the urge to defend my right to an educational experience that I deserve, but, at the same time, place emphasis on areas of personal development, including adaptation to adversity and exercising patience while working with and around other students.  This is where I am challenged at times: a young man will not stop cracking jokes and flirting with his class mate, which is extremely distracting to the class, the instructor, and particularly to me.  However, he looks like he is fresh out of high school, and when I remember my own past as a high school dropout who did not make it to college until now, it helps me put his behavior in context.  By taking a moment to pause and reflect, I can be less reactive and speed check my emotional response.  This is where my circle of empathy becomes “variegated and fuzzy,” as Lanier puts it (39).  This young student is on the edge of my circle as I try to relate to his perspective, yet stay focused on learning. Do I continue to try and ignore his chronic disruptive behavior or do I give him the “you’re really starting to bother me” look?

Language and rhetoric also play a large role in the constant flux of my student circle of empathy.  In the case of the disruptive student, his rhetorical choices consistently pushed him further out of my circle. He is intelligent and comments frequently during class, however, his comments are almost exclusively sarcastic jokes.  Not only is his cross talk very distracting, he also raises his hand and essentially stops the flow of the class to perform his attempt at humor.  Each time this happens, he moves further out of my circle.

On the other hand, some students are clearly in or out of my “student circle of empathy”. Over the course of several terms, I have noticed a visually impaired girl who brings her service dog to campus.  I started noticing her all around campus.  I saw her at the coffee shop adding her cream and sugar, in the gym working out, and taking her dog to relieve himself in the lawn area.  My admiration for her strength and independence has had a profound effect on me.  Despite her disability, she proceeds throughout her day with courage and confidence.   She is near the center of my “student circle of empathy.”

Technology affects my circle of empathy.  Availability and access to computers on campus is first come first serve.  It is very frustrating when computer labs are full, yet, I cannot help but notice a large percentage of the users are on Facebook or playing video games.  This is not always the case; occasionally most of the users are doing actual schoolwork.  I have come to accept this annoyance as part of our modern techno-society, although I am still prone to frustration over this at times. For instance, when it is finals week and I need a computer, only to see a large amount people using computers for leisure.  Higher levels of stress contribute to a quick and hasty placement of these users outside my circle of empathy.

For me, pursuing an academic path includes much more than the degree I will be earning and pure academics.  My intention with my current lifestyle is that of holistic personal development.  It is my aim to make progress mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually as part of my experience in academia.  Areas of personal growth like being less judgmental and the ability to engage and work with all types of people are also very important to me, which, as I have mentioned, can be challenging.  But, I will not give up.  I will continue to use empathy to the best of my ability as I navigate through my academic experience and beyond.

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Immersing in the world of academia is a life path I never conceived for myself.  Departing high school early and not under the best of terms made it easy for me to ignorantly classify education as something that just was not for me.  Looking back, I labeled it into a category with entities like big government and big business, things for which I felt contempt, angst, intimidation, alienation, and even anger.  Many years later as I pursue higher education as a non-traditional, older student, my paradigm of academia has changed substantially. However, some of my adolescent views and judgments remain valid, including the convoluted and subjective nature of how history is taught in this country.

As part of a brand new Lane Community College honors writing course with an African American history focus, I have been comparing three different timelines of African American history.  The timelines are “Culture and Change: Evolution of Black History” http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/bhistory/timeline/game.htm., by Scholastic Publishing, “African American World” http://www.pbs.org/wnet/aaworld/timeline.html., by PBS, and lastly, a timeline titled “Remembered and Reclaimed,” found here:  http://www.blackpast.org/?q=african-american-history-timeline-home-page at BlackPast.org, compiled by Quintard Taylor, an African American professor of American History at the University of Washington, Seattle.

All three timelines come from respectable sources, yet they vary greatly in content and coverage of Black American history.  While researching the life and influence of Jackie Robinson, the man famous for breaking the color line in Major League Baseball, I decided to compare how the timelines cover this monumental event in American History.  All three timelines include Robinson’s historic first game in 1947.  The BlackPast.org timeline goes into much greater detail about the game and provides a page outlining Jackie’s life, whereas the scholastic publishing site has a link to a very lean skeleton of a “Rachel and Jackie Robinson” timeline that tells almost nothing of this amazing man beyond his baseball exploits.  The PBS timeline has a broken Jackie Robinson link, so the reader is left with just a sentence about breaking the baseball color barrier.  After researching this subject independently, the contrast between the timelines about Robinson and what his life really entailed are astounding. Even the thorough and well-constructed timeline by BlackPast.org fails to touch on the personal side of this man’s lifelong struggle for equality that was so intense and brutal that the stress ultimately caused his early death at age 53.

The history presented in these timelines describes events that have the common thread of having transpired almost exclusively in and around intense “contact zones.”  In an eye-opening article by Mary Louise Pratt, Professor of Languages and Literature at New York University, she elaborates on her research on “contact zones,” areas which allow for the intermingling of two or more cultures.  She describes the contact zone as a “term to refer to social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today” (n.p.).  Taking this insight of contact zones into consideration helps foster an understanding of why we often get a diluted and patchy version of history that depends heavily on the source and which side of the power continuum with which this source aligns.

This argument is further reinforced in Terrie Epstein’s article “Tales from Two Textbooks,” where she “compares the treatment of the civil rights movement in two secondary level U.S. history textbooks” (n.p.). The focus of this article is to make relevant the fact that any historical account is directly contorted by the author’s perspectives and interpretations of the past events she attempts to recount.  And it is duly noted that these perspectives and interpretations are generally and historically those of the elite, making it no surprise that voices of minorities and marginalized people are almost never included.

The primary takeaway from these insights is to never accept one version of history as fact.  It is up to the individual to search for truth, and it is our job as the current generation to pass this advice on to future generations in order to grow a free-thinking, and open-minded nation of youth who automatically question everything.

Lane Honors Spring Health and Wellness Symposium

The inaugural Lane Honors Spring Symposium was a great success.  While extremely challenging, it was equally rewarding.

Their were many challenging aspects to this event in addition to the research and content. Designing and producing the event, advertising, and panel challenges are just a couple of many obstacles that were overcome.

I never previously analyzed the mechanics of shaping an argument.  By doing this with specific purpose and intent, it has begun to open my eyes to the importance of using sound principles when designing an argument.  I am beginning to see the value of addressing opposing views, thereby  setting up a platform to refute counter arguments. For me, details such as this are the difference between making a sound argument with forethought and planning, or just jumping through the hoops in order to produce a required piece of work.

My fiancee and her OSU Masters of Education cohort. A community of scholars.

I think Veins in the Gulf was a great example of a non-traditional community of scholars.  My paradigm of what a scholar, or “community of scholars” is, has definitely been changing recently.  While it is generally assumed that a scholar indicates extensive schooling and/or college degrees, I think a scholar can be anyone who is dedicated to learning and becoming an expert in a particular subject or field.

Many of the community members who participated in the film may or may not have college degrees, but regardless they represent an excellent and diverse community of scholars for the film.  Furthermore, I think a non-traditional community of scholars such as this can bring unique perspectives that a purely academic-based group may not be able to offer.

Profound knowledge and wisdom can sometimes be discovered in the most unlikely of places and among the most unlikely of persons.

I spent many years working hard in the construction.

I spent many years working hard in the construction business.

As a result of the economic downturn, I lost my job, my real estate investment, and felt like I was in the "doghouse".

After working hard at a very difficult and unrewarding job for low pay and in a demoralizing atmosphere for two years, I was frustrated and angry, willing to try anything to better my situation, even going back to school.

I decided to follow the advice of my fiancee, and enrolled for a couple classes at LCC to feel out the possibility of pursuing a degree in order to better my life. I enjoyed the intellectual stimulation and I had broken ground for building a new path. The seeds for an academic garden had been planted.

So now my adventure into academia is well under way. Although it will be a long and arduous climb, I embrace and welcome the challenge.

This is my persuasive speech for my “Fundamentals of Public Speaking” class.  I had already been working on a different speech when I realized I should do it about the honors program. This proved to be stressful because drafting the outline was harder than I anticipated, which left very little time to practice and refine the actual speech.

As I mention in the speech, it would have been much easier to stick with my original topic and deliver the speech I  planned to give, but I decided I owed it to myself, my classmates, and the honors program to do an honors speech.  I actually used this experience as evidence of how I am beginning to hold myself to higher standard by being in the honors program, which can be one of the program’s benefits.  This was a challenging course for me, and although my final speech was not as refined as I would have liked, I felt good to have had the opportunity to be an ambassador for the LCC Honors Program.

After discovering some of these exercises a few weeks ago I have been experimenting with them in the fitness center and having a ball (no pun intended of course). Getting back into fitness during my time here at Lane has led me to resume some Thai Boxing and Ju Jitsu training I was involved in many years ago. I have definitely gotten a few funny looks while spinning and flipping around with the ball, but after a few two-minute rounds of this I’m dripping sweat and have to pause to let my heart rate recover. Exercise is so much more enjoyable when it’s fun!

Feast

Renaissance meal picture found here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/suckamc/208607658/

We had a good time and dined well at todays honors luncheon in the renaissance room. Sarah Ulrick (next terms seminar instructor), Katie Morrison-Graham (honors coordinator), Catherine, Barry, Alex, Katy, Rose, and myself enjoyed a fine meal and great conversation. We have a lot of great people involved in this program and it’s only going to get better as we go along!

The fitness center here at Lane is an excellent facility. It’s a full scale gym with something for everybody. This is my fourth term enrolled in the self directed fitness class, which is basically an open membership to the gym with your grade dictated by how many forty minute visits you tally during the course of the term. You can squeeze in workouts whenever they fit into your schedule, which can be a great stress reliever in addition to all the other great benefits of consistent exercise. Here is a link for more information on the fitness center.