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I've followed the emerging rules for higher education by the U.S. Department of Education with interest, but also trepidation. While I'm all for accountability in higher education, my concern is that what can be documented is not always the real learning and growth that a student experiences. This past year I've seen two powerful examples of great college learning that are very different from the norm. My first experience took place earlier this year when I was as visiting professor at the Stetson University in central Florida....
Diagram courtesy of Nancy Southern.
Much of my time is spent talking about sustainability to people who think like I do. We have a great time discussing the problems and the needs as well as confirming our own beliefs and actions. As like-minded people often find each other, I imagine this is the case for many people dedicated to making a difference in creating a sustainable world. Real change will come when we can talk with others who don’t think like us.  I’m surrounded with people in my workplace and community who don’t think about sustainability and...
Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Press.
Organizations have been engaging in networks for a long time.  Most common are networks of suppliers associated with providing various parts to produce an end product known collectively as a supply chain. Clear examples of supply chain networks include the making of a PC where parts come from across the globe or Amazon.com where a host of service providers are linked to create a seamless delivery of goods to my doorstep. While this type of arrangement benefits all parties and fulfills a common goal—it builds a product or provides a...
Photo of Jessica Goodell courtesy of NPR.
A segment on NPR's Fresh Air caught my attention recently, bringing to mind organizational life and the complexities of the helping human systems process. On the show, host Terry Gross interviewed Jessica Goodell, a U.S. Marine who served in Iraq with the Marine Mortuary Affairs Platoon in 2004. As Goodell talked about her memoir, Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq, giving several accounts of her experiences serving in the Marine Mortuary Affairs Platoon, I was deeply moved by what it took for her to be able to do the work she had...
Systems thinking as a method of inquiry deals with complexity from the perspective of the whole, not the parts.  Most methods of inquiry follow the traditional path of reductionism as established by our sciences.  We have learned to answer life’s difficult questions by dissecting our subjects into parts with the idea that they are easier to study and understand.  Reductionism has worked well for closed or mechanical systems.  However, in the earlier part of the 20th century scientists started to question whether...

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