I found this sign on the SAU campus today…wow! You might be asking yourself, “What the…?!?” I know I did.
This sign points the way to the Leadership Academy associated with the SAU’s Becoming a Mulerider program (BAM!).
“Nothing even comes close to all of the fun, good times, new friends, learning, and excitement that you’ll find at the Southern Arkansas University Leadership Academy…”
and that the “Leadership Academy is a 48-hour leadership experience designed to enhance your career at SAU. Southern Arkansas University is committed to providing students with opportunities to become involved with the campus and the community…Leadership Academy offers you the opportunity to begin this involvement and to continue your high school success into college life and beyond…At Leadership Academy you will have the opportunity to meet and interact with campus leaders, to explore the inner workings of university organizations, to improve your time management and team building skills, and to tap into your leadership potential.”
All this reminds me a lot of parts of My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student, an ethnography I use in my Cultural Anthropology class at SAU. In My Freshman Year anthropologist Rebekah Nathan (or Cathy Smalls) explains that university programs all over the nation are falling over themselves to create a sense of “community” along with a air of fun, spontaneity and individuality…the thought is that a greater sense of community will increase student retention.
Of course the problem is that real communities are forged on shared experiences and the modern university (wanting also to cater to your sense of individuality) offers an ever expanding set of choices to students…requiring common experiences is vastly unpopular…hardly any students share a set of classes or experiences that link them together–even in small colleges like SAU…talking with my students, the REAL communities that last are ones based on shared experiences–sports, Greek and even sometimes experiences within your major (depending on the major)…The image of Quagmire above selling “fun” and “individuality” along with “leadership” and “community” strikes me as a bit odd and contradictory…and…well…stretching it a bit…it might be better to be truly spontaneous and fun (instead of evoking an image of fun)…that might forge some university community…but then again, real spontaneity and community can be a dangerous thing in the eyes of some…maybe we better stick to Quagmire…