Monday, May 16, 2016

A Culture of Appreciation

Today is my last day at DePauw. My students turn in their final work for the term at 5:00 p.m., and I start driving to Boulder at 5:01, in order to complete the 18-hour drive in time for the birth of granddaughter Madilyne Jane (via c-section) on Wednesday.

This last week - indeed, these last few weeks - have been filled with end-of-year celebrations of every kind. One thing this place excels at is displays of appreciation. I have never worked anywhere where I have felt so appreciated or been given so many opportunities to show my appreciation for others.

I attended the Senior Showcase, where the top graduates present their best work to an audience of faculty, parents, and peers. I beamed with pride at the Phi Beta Kappa initiation dinner where five of my students were inducted into membership. I happily accepted an invitation to a recognition ceremony at one campus sorority. Many of my students received end-of-year honors at the Academic Awards assembly. Faculty publications were heralded in a fat booklet shared at the Faculty Recognition Reception where half a dozen colleagues were feted with exquisitely worded 8-10 minute tributes for their recent books or other accomplishments. The Prindle Institute for Ethics sponsored an elegant dinner where students received prizes for papers in a range of disciplines focused on the discussion of ethical issues. President Brian Casey hosted an extremely fancy gathering at his home to announce faculty recipients of endowed chairs, where colleagues gave beautiful send-offs to retiring faculty with speeches that moved many of us to tears.

I thanked my students for a wonderful semester with parties in each class. After the immigration class party, one student asked me if she could meet with me briefly to discuss her final paper. She asked me a couple of halting, awkward questions for a minute or two - and then her two co-conspirators came bursting into my office with flowers, a cupcake, and a postcard of Greencastle so I would never forget them. One of them wrote on the postcard that if there were a Nobel Prize for teaching, I would get it.

This is completely untrue, of course. What IS true is that if there were a Nobel Prize for expressions of gratitude and appreciation, these students would get it, nurtured by a university culture that encourages all of us to take the time and make the effort to let others know how much they are valued.

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