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High Impact Practices Purpose of Teaching

Resonant Listening: Cultivating Seriousness of Purpose

Today, I offered a brief presentation on resonant listening, where participants discussed Hartmut Rosa’s work on resonance and a worksheet from the University of Minnesota on listening and mentoring.

When I think about resonance and its significance for mentoring, I think about the challenges of balancing efficient advising with creating spaces to uncover new interests and new hopes.

For example, when helping a student navigate St. Lawrence’s distribution requirements, we want to make sure students fulfill these requirements while also helping them appreciate the importance of an education that has distribution requirements. It is about efficiency and an invitation to the adventures of a liberal education. This is a hard balance but an essential one.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, St. Lawrence University has a mission statement that focuses on how students admitted to St. Lawrence are selected for their seriousness of purpose. When we think about mentoring and advising, we should keep this at the front of our thinking. We should wonder: What questions can we ask that help students deepen their seriousness of purpose? How can we, through the questions we ask and the presence we offer, help students gain the confidence to aspire and articulate their deepest hopes while also exploring opportunities that push them outside their comfort zone and into a sense of accomplishment?

I’ve often found that good mentors give me confidence while also opening doors I would never know to open. Students often only know what they experience and they only hope for what they’ve been exposed to. Good mentoring can show students the range of options available to them, and our faith in a student’s seriousness of purpose coupled with our experience and ever-growing interest and engagement with the world can show students how to hope for things they may have never known were possibilities for them.

To bring these thoughts down to earth and to a close, I really appreciate the way participants at today’s workshop were serious about efficiency and resonance. We want to make good use of our time and our students’ time. But we also want to create spaces where students can experience the adventures of a liberal education and the adventures of growing into a more confident and accomplished person.