I was infatuated with trains when I was a child, so it’s no surprise that “The Little Engine That Could,” the classic children’s story told since 1930 and published in several book editions by Watty Piper, was one of my favorites – and one that I now love to read to my child.
Many scholars and educators have contemplated the importance of a liberal arts education, so I do not seek to presume that I am stating anything new in this month’s blog. Rather, this month I aim to reflect on my view of the importance and meaning of a liberal arts education.
This month’s blog is a little more philosophical in nature than some of my other blogs because I’m writing about miracles. Let me start off by saying that I am a firm believer in miracles. To me, a miracle does not have to be some big once-in-a-lifetime supernatural cosmic event (although those count too, I suppose). Instead, I believe that miracles can be “little things” that happen each day. Some people view daily life as though nothing is a miracle. Others view every positive thing that they experience as a miracle – even those things that are perhaps mundane. I like to think that I fall into the latter camp.
Recently, Dr. Gail Fairhurst (a friend, mentor and colleague of mine from the University of Cincinnati) visited Saint Vincent to give a guest lecture on her research. While her comments were primarily about how to be an effective leader through focusing on communication style, she also talked about the nature of problems that leaders must solve. I am reminded of some research of hers that I read in which she identifies problems as “wicked” when they are challenging to describe, difficult to solve and closely related to other problems. She and her colleagues term these to be problem “knots” because they are often tangled together in such a way that multiple problems relate to, confuse and add to each other (Sheep, Fairhurst, & Khazanchi, 2017).
I am a wildlife biologist, but I am just as likely to be found swimming in the Resnik Pool at Saint Vincent College as I am watching birds fly over the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve or the campus wetlands. I took some time during my sabbatical to consider how similar the transportation modes of swimming and flying are to one another and wrote an article to put my thoughts in order.