How will I be a New Professional?

Throughout this semester, we covered numerous topics in this course relating to pedagogy. For those of you that may not remember, below are the main topics we discussed:

  • Networked learning
  • Mindful learning
  • Assessment
  • Inclusive pedagogy
  • Critical pedagogy
  • Multi-tasking
  • Problem-based learning

I know, that’s a pretty daunting list of topics, but don’t worry it isn’t as bad as it might look. Now, each of these topics can be used individually when teaching an have powerful implications. But instead, if they are used together better results can be achieved to ultimately become the ‘New Professional’ as Parker Palmer likes to put it. For me, I feel that this idea of a ‘New Professional’ can be broken into four components:

  1. Adapting the curriculum
  2. Being mindful
  3. Proper pedagogical praxis
  4. Proper assessments

For each of these four components parts of the list above can be incorporated and mixed together to provide what I feel is a curriculum for a ‘New Professional’. The four components and the interactions of the topics covered in this course are discussed in more detail below.

Adapting the curriculum
The first component of becoming a ‘New Professional’ is adapting the curriculum to individuals in the course. One method of adaption is the used of networked learning. Firstly, networked learning can allow for individuals to participate in the class when they are not able to physically in the classroom. Networked learning can allow for deeper conversations to occur  through the use of blogging or similar online outlets. Adaption does not just stop at the use of blogging and online platforms. Adaption to new technologies in general is as a huge deal. Nobody wants to be taught by a professor that uses transparencies and a slide rule.

Being mindful
A ‘New Professional’ needs to be mindful of the students and be sure to take what Ken Robinson had to say in mind. In order for the students to flourish  a ‘New Professional’ needs to be mindful for three principles: diversity, curiosity, and creativity. Stifling any of these principles can have an adverse effect on the learning process. Being mindful covers more than ensuring your students have the three principles needed to flourish. A ‘New Professional’ must be mindful of the grading policy he/she puts in place. In certain instances an A-F grad may not be the right answer for providing feedback to students. A ‘New Professional’ must be mindful of competition amongst students. I feel that competition can have a positive impact on the students when used in moderation (The Bright Side of Competition Projects). However, if competition is used improperly it can lead to students playing it safe and not learning as much because they are scared to get a “low grade”.

Proper pedagogical praxis
The third component is using a proper pedagogical praxis when teaching a course. When in the classroom, it is important to use teaching methods that work for the students in the class being taught. This means that one method that works one semester may not work as well the next. There are numerous pedagogical praxis out there each with their own spin on what is important and what isn’t in the classroom. In this course we talked about inclusive and critical pedagogies specifically. I think both of these pedagogical praxis are a good start to forming a proper pedagogical praxis. The use of an inclusive pedagogy was illustrated in the first two components above so I will not repeat it here. Looking at what Freire had to say, it is important to not view students as empty banks where information is to be dumped. Instead, a ‘New Professional’ would use dialogic engagement.

Proper assessments
Being a ‘New Professional’ does not stop at teaching information, which is why the fourth component exists, assessments and course work. Deciding what assessment is best is a difficult choice, but it is one that every educator must make. One assessment that I feel will be used at least once in every course I teach is problem-based learning. I want students to develop the critical thinking skills that are necessary for engineering. While knowing the theory and calculations to back up claims is absolutely necessary, in industry there is no book with answers in the back to problems they will face. Therefore, students will need to be able think critically and use logical arguments to back up their claim, both concepts that are taught through problem-based learning assignments.

Final Comments
I feel it is impossible to say that there is one way formula to being a ‘New Professional’. Being a ‘New Professional’ is going to be different from educator to educator, but what will be the same same is the use of personal strengths to develop a curriculum that works for the educator and the instructor. As of now, I haven’t had enough teaching experience to know what topics I learned in this class will be of the best use to me. But, I now have a tool belt partly full of topics and principles that I can test and see how it works for me. Now, notice the “partly” in the prior sentence, I say this because I strongly feel that this course was just the tip of the iceberg and provided me with some tools but there many other tools other there that I still have yet to find. It is now up to me to continue investigating and keeping up with new developments so that I can be a ‘New Professional’.

“He chose to do what is right, not what is easy”

In his 2007 essay, “A New Professional: The Aims of Education Revisited,” Parker J. Palmer takes issue with “knowledge” devoid of social context as the product of education, such that graduates—professionals—are subservient to institutions rather than the interests of humanity. ‘The institutions in which we work too often threaten our professional values.’ —Parker J. Palmer …

I Need More Ice Cream for This

It was not in Raj Lyubov’s nature to think. Character and training disposed him not to interfere in other mens’s business. His job was to find out what they did, and his inclination was to let them go on doing it. He preferred to be enlightened, rather than to enlighten; to seek facts rather than the Truth. But even the most unmissionary soul, unless he pretend he has no emotions, is sometimes faced with a choice between commission and omission. “What are they doing?” abruptly becomes, “What are we doing?” and then, “What must I do?”
The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin (2010, p. 124)

When I started reading the selections for this week the above quote from one of Ursula Le Guin’s books came to mind and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s went into my hand. In higher education, in our graduate school careers, in the courses we teach, and with the students we work with the question remains: what are we doing?


What are we doing when students from historically marginalized populations continuously take the third shift of educating their peers, and us, about what it is like to be at an institution that was never meant for them?

What are we doing when we make students jump through hoops of paperwork for “accommodations” that may not actually fit their needs out of fear that someone, somewhere would abuse our generosity if we simply took students at their word?

What are we doing when our peers and colleagues say they suffer in ways we could never understand, that they’re tired, that they have to be on their “best behavior” to avoid validating stereotypes and that they feel tokenized when the only time their voices matter is if they are needed for a photo-op for the upcoming recruitment brochure or for a video highlighting the diversity at a given institution?

What are we doing in these situations? Sometimes this

When I read this weeks readings I felt/feel: angry+sad+irritated+ tired…

All these birds at once…

I feel like I need to go grab another three pints of Ben and Jerry’s even though I know I’m probably at least partially lactose intolerant and that I should be a vegan.


I feel all these things and this is what is missing from most of the classes I’m in and from a number of the conversations I have with folks outside of my friend circle: emotion and affect.

Palmer’s essay was about this notion and long before Palmer people such Audre Lorde pointed to the uses of emotion and affect, in Lorde’s case The Uses of Anger. In fact, most of his essay read like the work of numerous liberation scholars including liberation theologians and those historically invested in black liberation. While what I say next is in keeping with what Palmer says, it’s from the space of the liberation scholars who did the labor before us all and are no longer around to see their labor bloom into a new movement and conversation.

Contrary to the commonly espoused belief, emotions can serve in a clarificatory capacity for some people at least some of the time. Which  people? Well, probably the folks who historically have had robust reasons to be irritated with the current state of affairs and higher education.

How does this semi-diatribe relate to being a “new professional” and connecting the dots? It’s an invitation to reflect on the final question: What must we do?

How do we make space for emotion and affect to be in our classrooms where our students can be their full, authentic selves even in the midst of deep and sometimes uncomfortable conversations?
How do we relate to those who question the system when historically and systematically we are given disincentives and incentives to the contrary to censure, ostracize, and disassociate from the “revolutionaries”?
How can we be our authentic selves while we are here?

How can we do these things? By being revolutionaries which is what Palmer is gesturing at even if they never use the word and say they aren’t calling for an uprising.

What would that look like? I don’t know, but I suspect that the answer relies on building capacity and a network of colleagues who can share the labor, work together, and change a system to be in the service of those it is charged to serve-to place the system into the obediential service of students and faculty/staff alike.

What might it require? Being for and with one another even in battles that are not our own.

Being for and with our students in the project and labor of inviting them to be critical of themselves, the programs they are in, the lessons they learn, and of the institutions they attend.


It requires solidarity (tapputu in Akkadian), emotion, labor, and hope–but what these look like are things we will have to figure out in the process of relating to one another and figuring out our revolution.

“You cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit or, it is nowhere.”
The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin (1974, p.301)


The Ethical Dilemma of Ethical Dilemmas

“The fact that we have schools does not mean we have education. The fact that we have hospitals does not mean we have health care. The fact that we have courts does not mean we have justice. We need professionals who are “in but not of their institutions, whose allegiance to the core values of their fields”

This quote in Parker Palmer’s article really stuck with me. I think that in every field we have issues where what we learn in school isn’t necessarily what is done in the world of work, whether this be because of lack of time, money, or effort. Obviously this disconnect is an issue, but the bigger issue is the gap in education that we receive in terms of ethics. We’ve discussed numerous times the cursory attention that ethics are given in education, and the more I think about it the more I see this gap everyday.

While writing this I’m sitting across the room from my boyfriend who has a degree in engineering, and he confirmed that he doesn’t recall any of his classes addressing ethics. This man could go out and build buildings, create weapons, design computer programs, and a million other things I’m unaware of, and not once did anyone ever prompt him to consider the ethicality of doing so. Luckily he has a good head on his shoulders, and is a very culturally and environmentally aware person, but what about those who aren’t. What about those engineers or doctors or biologists or teachers who didn’t grow up being taught to think about how their actions impact others? If these people aren’t learning this in their personal lives, and aren’t learning it through their educations who knows what could happen.

There is so much deception, damage, and corruption in the world already. If we don’t, as Palmer says, “humanize” ourselves, and begin to educate in a way that emphasizes the effect rather than the result things will only continue to get worse.

Despite my examples being primarily engineering related, this isn’t an issue that only impacts the hard sciences. We all need to humanize our students. What good does it do for me to teach my students how to give an effective persuasive speech if I don’t address the ethical implications of this type of speech, and when this type of speech might be inappropriate.

We often shrug ethics off as something that everyone already knows, but judging by the current political state in our county I believe we have to accept that everyone doesn’t always know the difference between right and wrong, especially when the lines begin to blur, money becomes involved, and your personal security is on the line. I am throughly convinced that ethics need to be a more prominent subject in my course, and I hope you do too.

Final Thoughts


I love the quote by Parker Palmer used in this week’s blog prompt:

“In the midst of the powerful force-field of institutional life, where so much conspires to compromise the core values of my work, I have found firm ground on which to stand—the ground of personal and professional identity and integrity—and from which I can call myself, my colleagues, and my profession back to our true mission.”

I feel like this accurately describes my main goal as a professor. Working on the Flint Water Study team over the last year and a half has been an eye opening experience for me. I was the “dark side” of the engineering profession where the people who were supposed to be working for and protecting the public were actually causing them harm and then trying to cover up their wrong doings. While I don’t believe that these people woke up one day and decided that they wanted to lead poison an entire city, the choices they made and actions (or lack of actions) they took ended up harming an innocent population.

What I have learned through this experience is that there is definitely a cultural problem within these organizations (i.e. EPA and MDEQ) where they are more focused on meeting regulations by whatever means possible (even lying and cheating) rather than actually providing people with safe drinking water. But maybe there is also a major flaw in the way were are educating our future engineers. I know that when I was in undergrad we did not spend very much time discussing ethics or how we would/should handle situations that could come up in the professional world.

Through discussions in this class as well as with people from the engineering education department it does seem like we are moving in the right direction and putting more emphasis on ethics and showing students real world situations that they may have to face as professional engineers. But there is always room for improvement. As a future professor I plan to bring up ethics and ethical dilemmas in my classes as much as possible because I think it is key to developing good engineers. You can be the smartest most creative student but if you have no ethical values and are just in it for the money then are you really going to provide value to our society?

In “A New Professional: The Aims of Education Revisited” Parker J. Palmer’s statement really resonated with me: “Does education humanize us? Sometimes, but not nearly often enough.” He went on to say: “If higher education is to serve humane purposes, we who educate must insist that knowing is not enough, that we are not fully human until we recognize what we know and take responsibility for it”

This summarizes very well the point that I am trying to get across, we can’t just teach students the technical skills they need and expect them to be successful engineers there is also human aspect that is often overlooked or ignored in our field but is equally as important.

Becoming a professional

I recently had a professor ask me how I introduced myself to others. I usually tell people, “I work with [advisors names] on [research].” Apparently there are still people who refer to themselves as “students under [advisor],” or just as students. But as graduate students, we’re not “just” students. We are early career professionals. In my case, that means that I am just as much an entomologist as anyone else in my field. As a professional entomologist, I realize there is more to it than the practical skills of keying out or pinning insects. Sometimes it seems like we’re made to feel that the best scientist is the most emotionless one. This is why Parker Palmer’s essay is so valuable. Emotions and ethics have an important role to play in guiding our actions professionally and personally. Rather than acting as we’re “supposed to” on the outside, we should honor how we feel on the inside. There is a reason why depression, anxiety, and alcoholism rates are so high among graduate students! We have the opportunity to do tangible good in the world, but that would be much harder if we completely walled ourselves off from how we felt or imploded from the process of getting a higher education.


Image result for leaf cutter ants
Being a professional isn’t about “staying in line”


Since I started at VT during the fall 2015 semester, there is one statement that I repeated on the first meeting of practically every class I took: “I am here because I teach engineers, but I am trained only as an engineer and not as an educator.” I arrived at this realization before I left home, but I had no idea about how much there was to learn and how much needed to change from the way we taught and organized our curriculum until I got here. I realized that it was not enough for me to bridge the gap I recognized in my skills and identity as an engineering educator; there are institutional and systemic issues that need to be looked at and addressed as well.

This week’s readings served as another reminder of that realization. It was interesting to note that despite the fact that I came from an institution that placed value on integrating liberal arts education into the sciences, those of us who taught in engineering are still not able to give our students the holistic education that they need. When I reflect and think about it, it is an unfortunate paradox that I hope will change eventually.

Dan Edelstein’s quote from Mark Mills and Julio Ottino’s Forbes article is something that my institution subscribed to: “Innovation […] requires the attributes of the humanities found in right-brain thinking: creativity, artistry, intuition, symbology, fantasy, emotions.” In the Philippines, degree programs in higher education institutions are regulated by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), which mandates minimum course credit requirements that students should satisfy before being conferred a degree. For my discipline, CHED regulations require students to earn at least 221 credit units over five years (engineering is a five-year program back home), 39 of which are Humanities courses, in order to get a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. At my institution, however, a student needs 256 credit units to earn an electrical engineering degree; they take 27 more units of Humanities courses on top of the CHED-mandated 39 credits. Examples of courses that our students are required to take but are not mandated by the government are Theology and Philosophy courses.

So from the perspective of recognizing the importance of the Humanities, it seems like we made an effort to provide our engineering students with this important aspect of their education. However, I question whether we did more than just place a tick mark on a check box; how helpful will being saddled with 69 Humanities credits on top of 16 service-based course credits and 171 engineering and sciences course credits be to a student? As a basis for comparison, a student needs 132 credit units, 20 units of which should be from the curriculum of liberal education, in order to earn an electrical engineering degree from Virginia Tech.

My students…

What I have observed both as an undergraduate student and as an instructor in this environment is that the significance and positive impact of integrating liberal arts education into the engineering curriculum is diminished because of the immense workload that students are saddled with. Students are, more often than not, faced with choosing between finishing that 200-item problem set over spending time reflecting upon a reading for their Moral Philosophy class. It also does not help that some of our engineering instructors perpetuate the notion that engineering courses are more important to their degree than their non-engineering courses.

Palmer defined the “new professional” as “a person who is not only competent in his or her discipline but has the skill and the will to deal with the institutional pathologies that threaten the profession’s highest standards.” In order for my home institution to “produce” graduates who will embody this definition, engineering instructors should go beyond the abstract concepts and equations, as suggested in Palmer’s article. We should also foster an environment where the Humanities is considered as an integral part of the curriculum, and not a check box to be ticked off in order to meet “minimum credit requirements.” And most importantly, our higher education system should rethink the workload that we give our students; students should be given a reasonable amount of time to have a positive and balanced learning experience, allowing them to devote just as much time to discipline-specific as well as professional/humanities/liberal arts courses.

All this, however, is easier said than done. There are a number of other things that need to be considered – such as the teaching loads and compensation of faculty members – that I did not discuss here. I can only hope that I can make even a dent of difference when I share all the things that I have learned – and continue to learn – here.

Was going to take the week off from blogging, but here we are…

When I read the article on CNN about the 11 year old boy who committed suicide because of a prank played on him via texting, I was absolutely sick to my stomach. Therefore, I shall blog about it.

That’s really part of the argument, right? That we have access to this incredible amount of data and information from a young age, but does it help us? More specifically, is there a threshold age in which we should restrict this access? In my opinion, there is a moral obligation here to allow children to grow and learn in a “child’s world,” so to speak. They are inherently curious, and active, and passionate, and inquisitive. AND WE SHOULD ALLOW THEM TO BE THAT. But, at what point do we take a step back and say, “privacy should be an adult luxury,” or something of the sort? Are we blinded by our own outrageous EXCITEMENT over how the digital age is exploding and “information is everywhere” and “let’s use lap tops in the classrooms instead of books” and “what’s the worst that can happen when you allow young children to freely explore and interact online without oversight?”

I don’t want to write much. I’m angry. Information is sacred. Privacy is sacred. “Globalized digital worlds” are sacred, or whatever. More importantly, though, life is sacred. Children are sacred. Our peers are sacred.

I leave with this final question: What good is information sharing to a population of people who are in the process of navigating their own viewpoints on their own little worlds. As adults, we cheer and rejoice at the idea of information sharing and globalization, but let the children be children, and perhaps begin worrying about their “ability to excel in the social media age” after they hit puberty. Or after they get a driver’s license, for goodness sake.

I’m so angry. I’m so, so angry. I don’t want to talk about the importance of staying connected today.

Farman said, “Beyond developing a deeper connection with places, using cellphones to foster deep connection with the people in our lives is a common, everyday practice.”

“Cellphones…a deep connection with people.”

I am so angry.