Credit where credit is due

Posted on behalf of Professor Michael Heathfield. 


Huge credit is due to Dr. Margie Martyn and the team that pulled together an excellent State of the College meeting on Friday of last week. I loved it. It is good for all of us to communally listen to the authentic and diverse voices of our students sharing how they navigate their own particular journeys of success.  As was beautifully articulated, they do this with vital support from the many stellar employees at HWC.  It’s good to know we are also doing impressive things to reduce our carbon footprint.


Just imagine if Jim, Gabrielle, Anna and Nanmin were asked to share their real stories with the Board of Trustees and Chancellor Hyman.  My doctorate is in Educational Research and in qualitative research, authenticity of voice is very important.  You can get people to say all kinds of things, even in life and death situations, sometimes clearly against their own interests, but the authentic voice is the gold standard; “world class” if you like.  In the criminal justice world, the verbal confession used to be the gold standard of evidence, but it is no more.  DNA evidence has swept all before it and released numerous wrongly convicted men from jail despite their earlier “confession” of guilt.


I noticed Executive Vice Chancellor Laurent Pernot was there briefly, feverishly making notes, but my guess is that his notes will not capture the pride and confirmation that this State of the College generated in the hearts and minds of many in the room.  Of course, these student stories were a reinvigorating reminder that this is the quality work HWC has been doing for decades.  We should all be very proud of the longstanding work we do together in providing transformational opportunities for our students.  HWC is an exciting and innovative place to work and we rightly guard this downtown gem with much passion and love.  This is, and will remain, a very special place to work.  Passion and love are very hard to capture as data, so it is of little interest to Campus Zero and their world of mythical metrics.  So let’s give our HWC Administrators the first ever Aspen Award2 for knowing that in times of great challenge, we must frequently be reminded of the strengths, gifts and capacities that public educators use for the greater good. Political narratives use dirty data to spin stories of triumph or disaster and should have no place in public education.


Since we are moving heavily into the zone of less easy to capture phenomena, I wanted to share with you what happened in my new Social Science 105 class.  I have just graded their first assignment in which they told me a little of their lives and then explored three American social issues. They had to connect broader social issues to their own individual experiences. A full half of the class chose to write about the cost of education and the recent rise in the cost of their tuition. Got to love our students, using opportunities of choice and freedom, to tell it like it is.  We have yet to reach their textbook chapter on “Education”.  What a lovely lesson in the difference between book learning and life learning.


When love is in the air, it always is wrapped up with challenge and vulnerability.  Love has never been an easy ride.  So as a challenge to all those I love at HWC, I would like to offer the prize of the first ever Aspen Award3 to the first HWC employee to correctly identify which, if any, of the wonderful students sharing their success stories at the State of the College is, or will be, a contributor to our much-lauded IPED’s graduation rate?  You will need evidence – we don’t give these awards away without proof.  Love bites!


“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”

Jimi Hendrix


Mike Heathfield


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