The faculty role in hatching positive change

January 16, 2015 by Jalin B. Johnson, Ed.D.

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” This is one of my favorite quotes from novelist C.S. Lewis (1952), that inspired me to reflect on my experience at Brandman and the positive influence change can have on both student and faculty support systems.

In the Beginning…
Somewhere between the 2010 and 2012 academic years, I began to better understand the impact of change. The university was undergoing a name change from being known as Chapman University College to Brandman University, a member of the Chapman University System. We were moving from a completely on-ground course format to a blended model with the addition of a completely online offering for our programs. We had a new home-base in Irvine and our sessions condensed from nine weeks to eight weeks in duration.

We were on the cutting edge of program development and innovation with our emerging School of Business and Professional Studies and expanding the School of Education, both ranking with top marks by U.S. News & World Report. This along with a new doctorate program launch for both education and nursing, plus a full slate of leadership development programs and certifications from our School of Extended Education designed to maximize the potential of the working professional; we were adding to the growing reputation and respect afforded to the institution.

It was in the midst of this new state of milestones and shift in culture that I saw Lewis’ eggs begin to hatch. This new generation of students, earning the first Brandman University degrees, were walking through our doors. As a member of our esteemed faculty (first as an adjunct in 2009) in the School of Business and Professional Studies, I had the pleasure of having some of these students in my classes. Many of them came with hope of being part of something new and exciting.

After viewing what seemed to be an overwhelming desire to hatch, walk and fly, I began to take the time to encourage them to document their thoughts, goals and personal mission statements. I learned that the truth each one of them held had many facets. Many were taking this step as the first in their family to earn a degree. Others were hard-working members in our service, government and private industries looking to change their path for the betterment of themselves and their loved ones. Some have proudly served our country or were parents of fallen warriors who were now finding additional ways to serve and offer their talents to the workforce.

The community comes in their desire to be a part of change.

This is where I learned that my role as a faculty member as a catalyst, as a mentor and as an advocate. We provide our students with a pathway to cracking the shell. For some it is slow, steady and requires a fair amount of maturation. The time dedicated to earning their degrees takes how ever long it takes, and we are here every step along the way. Others find that the incubator works at a speed unlike their own and with the help of our academic advising team and one stop specialists, they manage to follow paths that lead them to hatch at a more readied pace.

No matter the rate of development, we embrace our roles and encourage their flight.

At the recent 2014 Southern California Commencement ceremony at Chapman University in Orange, California, officiated by our distinguished Chancellor, Gary Brahm, I had the pleasure of witnessing several of our retired servicemen and women, along with students from an array of private and not for profit sectors, enter the end of their journey. It was with an immense sense of pride that I watched the final steps before flight as they marched across the stage. It was in the many hugs, handshakes and the sharing of reminiscent tales of shared experiences that I began to see the value in the change.

Brandman-JB-ClassWhile we continue to undergo positive change and growth as an institution, our students have embraced this change, developing a level of trust and security in knowing that we are here to support them each step of the way. It is the faculty, staff and administration that have changed.

We have hatched. Not remaining stagnant, or going bad as Lewis states, we have evolved and grown to better meet the needs of our diverse and vibrant student body. It is here that we fly, through our students’ stories and our shared mission and vision, paving the way for the next class of emerging leaders to take flight! It is our service to our students that allows us to be more than ordinary.

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