Tough semester fosters glass half-full thoughts

This has been a tough semester. 

One of the toughest in my 20 years here and for a variety of reasons. 

There were merger pains and uncertainty leading up to “Optimization 2.0,” and we are now having to say goodbye to a lot of good staff and faculty members, perhaps highlighted by Rita Geno in the president’s office, who has been a fixture at Castleton for parts of five decades.

So much institutional knowledge going away. I remember former Castleton University President Dave Wolk basically saying how Rita was his lifeblood and caretaker. 

She’ll be missed.

As will guys like Interim Dean of Students Matt Patry, who was always so helpful to The Spartan newspaper and its staff and great to our students. 

Perhaps related to 2.0 has been what I’ve seen as a lack of motivation among some students – more so than usual, which has frustrated me. You always get some of that every semester, but it seems a little more widespread.

I’m enduring more students being tardy to classes or not showing at all, late assignments – or again – not handing them in at all.

Are they frustrated with 2.0? 

Is it a COVID hangover?

Is the very uplifting presidential election looming in less than a year? 

Is it fear for their future in rapidly climate changing world? 

The wars that are raging? 

Are professors not “bringing it” like we should be to motivate them? 

I feel like I’m trying hard, but am I?

So that stuff is on my mind as we wrap up the fall 2023 semester and head into the holiday break.

But like I always try to do when I’m glass-half-empty thinking, I look for positives.

And honestly, there are a ton of those too.

Pearl Bellomo has masterfully taken over leadership of The Spartan newspaper and guided it to six solid issues with help from many including editors Camille Jackson and Maddie Lindgren. Sports has been solid under Justin Gitto and our website was redesigned under the leadership of Jess Emery.

I also got to thinking about our student from Palestine, Mahmoud Alyazji, whose family back home is living in constant fear. Our 2.0 problems are weighing, but nothing like what he and his family are dealing with.

And I just got done reading a bunch of student work – from scripts in Media Writing to Select Board stories in Intro to Journalism – and a lot of them were great and inspiring. I was blown away by one this morning by a student who three days after it was due, was basically asking me how to do it.

Despite being annoyed at the timing (see late submissions above) I helped him understand the script-writing program – and was rewarded with arguably the best submission in class.

So, when I vent about students seemingly being less enthused and more willing to slack, it’s not all students and many are still striving and inspiring and we as professors need to foster more of that.

Also on the positive side, my daughter Kirsti will be home for Christmas from her home in Spain for the first time since 2018. So psyched!

And next week, for the eighth consecutive year, students and I will be buying dozens of gifts for area children in need and throwing a party for 10 of them at Vermont Achievement Center to warm up our insides and feel good about helping others less fortunate. We’re close to our $1,200 fund-raising goal and it’s almost time to shop again.

I hate shopping. But I don’t mind shopping for them.

So following finals and the VAC Christmas party, I’m going to recharge, enjoy family and friends during the holidays, tinker with some courses for spring and come back fired up to welcome and inspire the next batch of students.  

   – Communications Professor David Blow 

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