Volume 17 • Issue 1
Southwestern @ Georgetown Southwestern @ Georgetown
Above: Paideia® Scholars helped The Caring Place in Georgetown by clearing a vacant lot. Service-learning is one of the five strands of Paideia®.
Below: Paideia® Scholar Cassidy McClain makes a presentation to her Paideia® cohort about her intercultural experience.
Southwestern @ Georgetown

The Paideia® Professor and Scholar Relationship

— Stephanie Fabritius

I’m frequently asked about the benefits of Paideia®. Students express surprise that the tangible benefits ($1,000 for Paideia®-related expenses, recognition upon graduation and earning academic credits) aren’t necessarily its greatest benefits. The intangible benefits of connecting in- and out-of-class experiences, working with a small group of students with vastly different backgrounds for six semesters and reflecting on educational goals are the first benefits that emerge. Paideia® Professors enjoy these same benefits.

The Paideia® Scholar and Professor relationship is another intangible benefit. Scholars and Professors with whom I spoke cherish this relationship. The Professors’ primary role is to mentor and motivate the richly diverse seminars by understanding the differences students bring, and to build cohesion among the multiplicity of ideas. Mentoring requires the Paideia® Professor to know and learn from the “whole” Scholar. Dan Slezak ’06 and Mitch Barnett ’07 note that while they have close relationships with many faculty, their Paideia® Professors know them more completely. Jenna Burditt ’06 speaks out more freely in her Paideia® seminar than in other classes, and attributes this to the trusting environment established after spending multiple semesters with the same Scholars and Professor.

Slezak and Alison Rector ’06 describe the Scholar/Professor relationship as a partnership. Although he and his Professor do not share academic disciplines, Slezak notes that they have intellectually engaging conversations in which learning takes place on both sides. The idea that he might actually help teach something to one for whom he has so much respect pushes him to more deeply explore his ideas. Rector describes the seminar as an environment in which they all teach each other. “We are all the professor and we are all the student,” she says.

Several Paideia® Professors cite the liberation from specific content as a key ingredient in the Paideia® Professor/Scholar mix. While exploring ideas, Scholars become more critical, use multiple lenses and explain concepts to those outside their discipline. Aryn Campbell ’06 notes that her Paideia® Professor helps her in the process of learning how to learn well, to choose impeccable words and to take risks to discover the subtle blessings in life.

Professor Tim O’Neill adds a sixth strand to Paideia®, the human connection, and feels that this applies to the Scholar/Professor relationship as well. He describes a relationship that isn’t necessarily a friendship, but one that is different from the typical relationship that exists between professor and student. “We want our students to do well, live good lives, and find continuing satisfaction and meaning in their lives,” he says. “As a Paideia® Professor, I can talk to my students about these things.” He observes that, presently, students feel life after Southwestern is fraught with uncertainty. His goal is to have students view this as a time of great promise and new opportunities.

O’Neill feels that by reflecting on the Paideia® strands, solving life’s puzzles via connecting knowledge and thinking holistically about what they’ve learned, Scholars should be better equipped to solve unknown problems. At one point, he discussed the idea of thinking “outside the box” with a Scholar. The Scholar responded that there isn’t a box. O’Neill took that to mean that the box is something that we impose upon ourselves. His job, as Paideia® Professor, is to help all his Scholars realize that. Sixth strand? I think I’m convinced.