Reflections from the Dean, Dr. Michael Carey – Virtual Campus Series: Indifference

Virtual Campus Series: Indifference

In a previous post I talked about how the Virtual Campus was created to ensure that Gonzaga’s transformative learning experience was available to graduate students wherever they are. Accomplishing this goal requires a focus on the learning experience itself, separate from face-to-face or distance modalities. The innovation that such a focus allows is grounded in three Ignatian dynamics: Indifference, Discernment, and Adaptation.

Indifference sounds like it might mean apathy, but in the thinking of Ignatius of Loyola it has more to do with getting the ego out of the way. Ignatius writes in the Spiritual Exercises—and I’m using a contemporary translation here—that “In everyday decisions . . . we should keep ourselves indifferent or undecided in the face of all possibilities when we have an option, and when we do not have clarity as to what would be a better choice. We ought not to be led on by our natural likes and dislikes . . . Rather, our only desire and our one choice should be that option which better leads us to what is best . . .”

One of the major impediments to educational innovation is becoming too comfortable with the way things are, whether as a teacher or as a student. I might prefer to attend a classroom in which I am physically present to the teacher and other students, but if my situation makes that impossible, I need to be able to transcend my preference so I can do what’s best for me. As a teacher, I might prefer to have my office hours each day in my campus office and allow students to meet with me there, but if my students are learning at a distance from campus, then I need to transcend my preference so that I can do what’s best for my students. Preferences are a part of being human, but being able to transcend preferences when needed is what makes one an authentic learner.

To accomplish its work of supporting faculty and students in making sure that no graduate learning experience at Gonzaga is bound by time and place, the Virtual Campus starts from a stance of Indifference, that is, of letting go of the way things have been done in order to imagine how things might be. The essentials of the transformative learning experience—the Ignatian dynamics of Experience, Reflection, and Action—remain the essentials, but the method of making these dynamics work changes with the circumstances of the students and the society. Indifference is the first step in imagining new approaches, and Indifference is followed by Discernment and Adaptation, which I will review in future posts.

Dr. Michael Carey

VIDEO PRESENTATION of Virtual Campus Series: Indifference

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