Getting Radical at the Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference

Eric Stoller - Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference

The most-commented, most-discussed post that I’ve ever written for Inside Higher Ed was last year’s “Where Are the Radical Practitioners” entry. It quickly collected far more comments than I had expected, and I made the decision not to answer any of them due to the epic amount of time that it would’ve taken to constructively engage with all of them. Out of frustration and needing to vent, I did write up a quick “pseudo addendum” and posted it to this blog as “Radical and Student Affairs.”

What happened after that was an intriguing journey as I was asked to talk about being radical in student affairs at the Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference. In hindsight, I don’t think I really needed the social media aspect of my Big Ideas talk. Next time!

Unlike any other conference that I spoke at last year, 99% of Big Ideas featured speakers weren’t employed in higher education. It made for a fascinating event. My favorite part of the Big Ideas experience was meeting so many cool speakers. Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere and I had a great chat about our appreciation for retro Saucony sneakers. Amber Rose Johnson gave a slam poetry reading that gave me chills. And then there was Dayna Steele…well, she’s a legit rockstar! The full slide deck and video of my talk is after the jump. Continue reading Getting Radical at the Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference

Be Different, Be Daring, Be Bold

On a whim, I picked up a copy of the recent edition of the Atlantic while in a long-forgotten airport terminal. The cover provoked me by implying that Facebook was making us lonely. Always looking for things that challenge my thinking, I gladly dove into the magazine. Surprisingly, the article that really resonated with me the most in the mag was a profile of Jonathan Blow, titled “The Most Dangerous Gamer.” Blow is wicked smart and he’s kind of a smartass. Both are qualities that I appreciate. The profile is exceptionally captivating. However, the last paragraph connected with my head and heart like an underwater sonic boom. Chills and moist eyes. Resonance.

Which, in a sense, is just what he is—a spiritual seeker, questing after truth in an as-yet-uncharted realm. These are the terms in which he sees his art. “People like us who are doing something a little different from the mainstream have each picked one direction that we strike out in into the desert, but we’re still not very far from camp,” he told me. “There’s just a huge amount of territory to explore out there—and until you have a map of that, nobody can say what games can do.”

I recently gave a talk on “Influencing Student Affairs By Quitting My Job” at the 140cuse conference. I hope that what I am doing, what I have done, is different. I’ve picked a direction and I’ve struck out on a journey that has no simplistic rulebook.

Jonathan Blow does what he does because it feels right. He sees things differently and then acts upon that vision. Pretty inspirational stuff. Think about it.

“Radical” and Student Affairs

PUSH

I asked a question and received 40 comments: “Where are the Radical Practitioners?” One of the interesting themes was the idea that people couldn’t be radical (as they defined it) for fear of losing their jobs…couple that logic to another theme: because I am no longer a fulltime student affairs practitioner, I am no longer qualified or credible when it comes to asking about or asking for radical practices in student affairs. Seems like I am in a prime position to add radical commentary as I am not in a position to “lose” my job. Although, some (and I would agree) would say that I am in a far riskier position as a consultant who generates controversial critical conversations. And, while I was employed fulltime, I would like to point out that that was when the majority of my radical writing took place. In fact, I remember when I got raked over the coals after this post came out about student affairs and technology. That particular post, in my view, was fairly benign in terms of its “radical” nature. However, it was perceived by some as too provocative. That’s me….a thought provoker.

Radical Student Affairs Practitioners … Do they exist? Does our profession allow them to exist? Do we nurture them or isolate them? Are they leading our associations or quietly leading from the periphery? Does Student Affairs deconstruct the status quo or do we sustain it?

What do you think? Add your voice to the comments at the original post on Inside Higher Ed.

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