During my second semester at APU, I balanced (sometimes well and sometimes horribly) three courses. It was the same number of credits as my first semester, but it turned out to be a lot more complicated to balance three syllabi, three instructors, three large projects, and three thoughts processes that didn’t intersect as often as I would have liked. One of my projects was to develop a sophomore level learning community syllabus. And with no offense intended to any other course or project, this task was by far my favorite of the semester (possibly of the year). The task required collaboration with several members of the WPC faculty and staff, and had plenty of space for creativity in the outcomes, assignments, and supports developed. I loved imagining the potential students that could be in this course and what they would experience. And since the course did not actually have to occur, there were no boundaries in regards to budget or process. I could just build.
Before I started writing the actual syllabus, I spent two months researching learning communities and the needs of the sophomore population. I had chosen this group based on a chapter read while flying down to California, and a short deadline to develop an initial proposal. Who says that deadlines can’t support creativity? I learned this spring that the sophomore population can often feel ignored as the focus of an institution shifts to the new freshman, and the faculty may emphasize their upperclassmen who are more skilled and in leadership roles. This middle child population has unique needs that I had not realized before…and then I realized that I was going to be a sophomore at the completion of the project / semester.
After almost 12 months of interaction with the APU Higher Education faculty, I knew that these men and women cared about all of their students from orientation to dissertation, so there was no potential of suddenly being ignored. But there was and is definitely potential to step up as leaders entering this second year. My cohort, which we titled Bakers Dozen, has developed a strong foundation over the past year through collaboration, social gatherings (in person and online), and prayers as opportunities or struggles were shared. We as a group are in a great place for growth. And personally, I’m passionately seeking something meaningful for my studies to focus on and for my moments of margin to engage with. Getting to serve as Cohort Representative this coming year will be part of that search, as will an independent study course in the spring on adult students and participation in a research team throughout the year on the social impact of higher education. I’m looking forward to learning through the great work of my friends and classmates, and tackling the large stack of new books that Amazon delivered a few weeks ago.
During my first year at APU, the unexpected lesson was to ask myself the question I had often asked my students: “What’s the worst that could happen?” As I look forwards year two, I think I’d like to start asking a second question to help remove some remaining fears, “What’s the best that could happen?”