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For big questions, a bigger forum

first_imgOne of the most challenging and lauded programs at Harvard isn’t part of the academic course curriculum.Coordinated through the Freshman Dean’s Office, the “Reflecting on Your Life” initiative invites freshmen to think about meaning and purpose. Featuring facilitators from across the University, the program typically meets for three sessions, at the beginning of second semester.The sessions fulfill no academic requirements, and yet, year after year, freshmen show up for three consecutive weeks to participate in small-group programming that delves deeply into their values, leading to conversations with peers that sometimes reveal gaps between thought and action.“The program gives students time to stop and think about what really matters to them,” said Katherine Steele, project manager and director for freshman programming, such as “what their values are and how those values shape the decisions that they make — from what’s important to them to how they spend their time, and even who they spend their life with.”Now, a grant from the Teagle Foundation is broadening the scope of the program, making it possible for Harvard to share it with colleges and universities interested in launching similar initiatives. The grant will also enable collaborations on best practices and programs to help students to consider the big questions: meaning, value, and purpose.After Richard Light, the Carl H. Pforzheimer Jr. Professor of Teaching and Learning, learned about the Teagle Foundation’s initiative to advance civic and moral education on college campuses, Steele worked with Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman to submit a proposal to help develop programs for the “civic and moral education of today’s college students.”The grant will sponsor the effort for three years, helping leaders at Harvard and elsewhere understand the impact of the various ways universities encourage dialogue about personal values and citizenship. But most importantly, Steele said, the grant should help promote programs that allow students to figure out how they want to live.“How do you affect moral growth? How does someone really solidify what they stand for? It’s about developing a stronger sense of who they are, and what they stand for. It’s about drawing the lines between what’s important to you and how you’re spending your time … and if the connections between those two things are missing, what can or should you do about it?”“Reflecting on Your Life” began at Harvard as a result of the in-depth, one-on-one interviews that Light conducted each year with students about to graduate. One answer was especially provocative, that of the student who told Light that Harvard had “forgotten to offer the most important course of all” — namely, how to think about living his life.“It was a revelation to realize that we were missing out on such a key and fundamental question,” Light said. “It’s often covered in an academic sense, but not necessarily from a personal, real-life point of view. What does it mean to live a happy, or useful, life? What about living a productive life? Are those concepts inherently different? If they are, which one do you choose?”Light approached Howard Gardner, the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, for his perspective. Gardner, whose research has often focused on professional ethics, said that the discussion mirrored a trend he had observed among students over the years.“I’d become concerned about something I’d observed from our best and brightest,” Gardner said. “They wanted to do the right thing, but they felt like the most important thing was to be successful. So if they had to cut some corners in order to accomplish that, they felt like they needed to do so. The metaphor I like to use is that the ethical muscle was very thin.”For the past six years, according to both individual testimony and a formal evaluation, alumni of the program have left it feeling that they have a better understanding of themselves, their goals, and their values.“In the 19th century, one of the reasons you went to college was to think about values, purpose, and deep spiritual values — which was completely expunged in the 20th century,” Gardner said. Although the secularization of universities was positive in many ways, he said, a void was left.“Some students fill this with religion, science, or a strong familial unit, but for many students in today’s fast-changing world — particularly those new to college, and especially those attending a high-pressure institution, such as Harvard — they need, and deserve, our guidance and our help.”For Steele, the grant will provide an opportunity for students across a range of Schools to pause and take the time to ask themselves the hard questions.“Harvard students are so busy and so focused, but we’ve found that students really benefit from posing these challenging questions,” she said. “When we create an opportunity for them to do that, and have a structure where they can pose these questions, it can have a really profound effect.”last_img read more

Father’s garden

first_imgBy Wayne McLaurinUniversity of GeorgiaAs Father’s Day approaches, I remember with fond affection my ownfather. He wasn’t a big man, but was very big in my eyes. Noteducated in a modern sense, he never failed to have time toanswer my thousand questions. He was never too busy to talk to uschildren.Many of the conversations came in the garden, started by aquestion.”What plant is that?””Is this bug good or bad?””Is that ready to eat?””Why are some peppers hot?””What causes tomatoes to turn red?””How big can a watermelon grow?””Can we quit now?”Railroad gardenWe always had a big vegetable garden on land we used with permission from the railroad.At 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. a passenger train passed by going toforeign places as far as we were concerned — northbound toWashington, D.C., and New York and southbound to New Orleans.We knew we weren’t going there, so we just waved at the people onthe train and showed them Southern hospitality while we wentabout our chores.Everyone had chores in the garden. One of my least favorite wasto pick squash and okra — both sticky. I was the fifth child,and now I think this chore was passed down as the older ones gotmore power and control.Okra lessonsLittle did I know then that I’d wind up getting a Ph.D. inhorticulture at Louisiana State University and do all of myresearch on okra. I reckon that garden got me geared up for life.Daddy never was into “gadgets.” We didn’t have a tractor or evena mule, just hand tools and a pushplow.Having come through World War I and the Depression and having sixchildren to support, Daddy was somewhat tight-fisted. Why haveone of those gadgets when Mr. John Scott would come over and plowthe garden with his mule Hugh?Besides the chores, we did everything else that was asked. Daddyalways asked. He never told us what to do. Of course, we neverrefused to do what he asked.That one time…Except there was that one time when my older brother V.L. decidedif he stuck his foot with a pitchfork he could get out of work –we always worked barefooted. Instead, he stuck it through his toe.Daddy took him back to the house, poured iodine on the puncture,bandaged it and made him wear shoes back to the garden. All of uslearned a lesson: don’t try it, because it won’t get you out ofgarden work.We didn’t have any of the supplies modern gardeners can’t seem todo without. We knocked pests off the plants into a coffee canwith a little kerosene in the bottom. After we were through, westrained the bugs out and saved the kerosene for the nextonslaught of insects.Specialized hoesWeed control was never a problem. We just used hoes and kept themsharpened. As the hoe heads were sharpened, of course, theybecame smaller.That was never a problem. We used the small-headed hoe to getclose around the plant. With this implement I could get rightnext to the stem and cut the grass.Woe be unto the kid, though, who cut a plant. We’d get “Son, whydidn’t you just pull the grass from around the plant with yourhands?” in the kindest of words.The newer, wider hoes were for the middles. And we never chopped.We “drew” the hoe along the top of the soil without disturbingthe soil, letting the sharp edge do the work. Chopping brought upweed seeds, the exact thing we were trying to control.Lots of lessonsWe not only planted and raised each vegetable but picked it,shelled it, helped cook it and, of course, ate everything. Theplate was never passed twice, and no one wanted to be at the end.Yet there was always enough to eat and share with others lessfortunate (or as we kids so selfishly saw it, too lazy to have agarden).As I look back, gardening with my father was one of the bestlearning experiences ever. All of the formal education I’ve gonethrough has only refined and enhanced what I learned in myfather’s garden.(Wayne McLaurin is a horticulturist with the University ofGeorgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)last_img read more

Compliance is the baseline for credit union diversity-equity-inclusion programs

first_img 15SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Miriam De Dios Woodward Miriam De Dios Woodward is the CEO of PolicyWorks, LLC. She also serves as Senior Vice President of AMC, the holding company of the Iowa Credit Union League and parent … Web: https://www.policyworksllc.com Details As credit unions increasingly embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and seek to better represent and serve their ever-changing communities, understanding the regulatory components that touch such initiatives is an important starting place.For example, laws such as the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOA) and Equal Credit Opportunity (ECOA) acts outline baseline requirements for employers and financial services organizations to follow to ensure equal treatment regardless of ethnicity, national origin, gender and other protected classes. Viewed from a different perspective, these laws provide the baseline for inclusivity in hiring and lending. While the EEOA speaks to the area of human resources, which is a robust area in and of itself, let’s focus on DEI from a membership standpoint. Certainly, few if any credit unions today consciously or actively discriminate against particular groups based on national origin, race, religion, or other criteria. But inclusion involves more than mere non-discrimination. It means proactively reaching out to underrepresented groups, understanding their needs, and striving to meet those needs through the credit union’s products and services in a compliant manner.Adjusting Products and ServicesCredit unions, like all organizations, have to make business decisions on a variety of matters every day. One such business decision could be expanding their services to underrepresented groups. A way to ensure the credit union is addressing the community at large is to consider the changing demographics in its membership area and aligning account opening and lending practices accordingly. If the credit union is serving immigrant groups for example, this may require an update to a member identification program, lending policies and procedures, in order to be inclusive of all.End-to-end MindfulnessIt is important to keep the needs of the target community in mind from end-to-end, all the way from advertising to member service on the front-line. For example, if a credit union advertises its services on its website or elsewhere in a language other than English, be sure to have employees available to speak to members in that other language. This will not only make non-English speaking members more comfortable working with the credit union and can reduce misconceptions or misunderstandings among non-English speaking members, this will help you avoid any potential UDAAP ( Unfair, Deceptive, or Abusive Acts or Practices) violations and overall will avoid misleading members into thinking you offer services in another language if in fact you don’tIf you are going to provide materials in another language, a translation strategy is also important to ensure all relevant information is accurately translated, leaving no room for misunderstandings. Because there can be many ways to translate a word or phrase from one language to another, it is important to seek experts who not only understand the native language being translated to, but also understand financial and credit union terminology for any required translation work. Accuracy, consistency, and relevancy are important in translations. Avoid using Google Translate for something this important and seek outside consultants, if necessary, to assist. Going Beyond Traditional ApproachesServing diverse population groups is part of the credit union creed. While there are always regulations to consider, there are also many opportunities to grow credit union membership by tailoring products and services to specific needs of the membership base.Serving people with non-traditional forms of identification, such as a consulate card, is one example of new membership a credit union could be serving. By expanding services to include underserved members and updating the credit union’s member identification policy and procedures to include non-traditional forms of identification, you do not have to turn down membership. The IRS’s Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which is a taxpayer identification number that some immigrants may have, is a valid taxpayer identification number that credit unions can accept to lend and open interest-bearing accounts. Another opportunity to be inclusive in lending is through the underwriting process. Members without traditional credit histories may not have the traditional forms of documentation you seek to verify credit, however, this does not mean that they have not established credit. The credit they have established however may be found in non-traditional sources such as alternate payment data, including that found in paying recurring bills such as utilities, or rent. While this likely would not alter your lending policy, it would require a change in underwriting procedures to ensure your requirements list is as inclusive as possible. This would apply for anyone seeking a loan at your credit union, whether it’s a young college student or a recent immigrant.  To achieve success in DEI initiatives you need to go beyond meeting the regulations. The regulations provide a baseline framework, however, it takes initiative and a commitment to ensure you go beyond what’s required to what’s needed in your communities.last_img read more