Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Making a Difference: The Professor

By now you have all seen this on facebook, but i want to preserve it for posterity so i'm posting it here too:

The Professor was featured in our local newspaper! A colleague jokingly commented to him, "When i saw your name and picture in the paper, i got really worried! It's usually a bad sign to have your picture in the news!"

Thankfully, The Professor has not become a mass murderer. Instead he is inspiring his students to change the world. Every semester he has his Ethics classes complete an assignment in which they perform an ethical deed. The results range from tear-jerking to pathetic. While one student spent a day helping a man with Multiple Sclerosis, another decided to smile at each person they saw while out walking.

When this article was published, The Professor was the big man on campus for a day. Tons of faculty and staff that he didn't even know gave him their congratulations. It generated a lot of dialogue about ethical actions. The janitor who cleans his office told him that she and her husband had a long discussion about the article and enjoyed coming up with ideas for good deeds they would do if they were in his class.

It really has been neat to see how this class project has changed the perspectives of many of his students. Now through the article, even more people have been challenged to meet the needs around them.

College ethics class asks students to test impact of acting ethically
Updated: 24 November 2012 | 4:23 pm

For three semesters, K***** College instructor "The Professor" has charged his ethics students to do something they would consider ethically right.

The Professor, a philosophy instructor on the Cornstalk campus, said he felt what he had been assigning in the past was too much memorization and “too much on the objective knowledge instead of really trying to see the impact, not just theoretically, but in their lives.”

The ethics project, which is 10 percent of the students’ grades, could be something large or small, but it had to be something they wouldn’t have done otherwise, without the assignment.

About 30 students in The Professor’s ethics classes last fall and last spring and about 25 students this fall semester took those parameters and returned with projects that inspired their teacher, with stories of helping elderly neighbors, picking up trash in the park and donating time to charities.

“I think much of what I see from the students is very encouraging, very inspiring,” he said. “It definitely confirms to me that there’s value in this kind of project.”

One student volunteered to help arrange 500 vases of flowers to be delivered to cancer patients. Another student reported she could see and hear how grateful an elderly couple was after she anonymously paid for their dinner at the Olive Garden. A Cornstalk City student last fall, Boussina, taught her friend, a Sudanese immigrant like herself, how to drive so she could find a job.

Heather wanted to do something long-lasting for her ethics project. Heather, 24, is a first-year K****** student studying horticulture.

She signed up for the bone marrow donor registry for her project this fall. And because getting on the donor list took a little longer than she expected, she also donated blood, which she wrote about for the class.

“I wanted to do something a little above and beyond,” Heather said. “Everyone is getting so apathetic. I think the ethics project is a great way to get people off their couches and off their stupid cellphones and into the community. I was pretty excited about it.”

Heather also had a cousin who had leukemia and needed a bone-marrow transplant, so she thought joining the donor list “was like paying it forward.”

For her project last spring semester, Stephanie found an elderly man seeking assistance with home chores on the website Craigslist, after his son was hospitalized and could no longer help him. She enlisted some of her friends and they helped the man with his yard, house cleaning and walking his dog. The man offered to pay them, which they declined. At the end of her paper, Stephanie wrote that the man was so happy and grateful.

“He said he was glad to see there were actually genuine, caring people left in the world, as he had almost given up hope,” she wrote.

The assignment, The Professor said, was inspired in part by Aristotle.

“I hope that this assignment helps students to live well and also, by extension, to benefit the surrounding community,” he said.

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