January 28, 2002
Gregory seminars urge reflection on mission
By Michael Terrazas firstname.lastname@example.org
Marshall Gregory, Harry Ice Professor of English, Liberal Education and
Pedagogy at Butler University, is spending this semester in residence
at Emory leading a series of seminars for staff that explore The
Idea of the University, sponsored by the University Advisory Council
on Teaching and Emory College.
Consisting of three groups of 12 participants each, the seminars seek
to inform the Universitys non-faculty employees about the distinctive
nature, mission and values of the modern university, in hopes that staff
will better understand their roles in a broader context and thus improve
their performance through this understanding.
We are all so busy doing our part of the universitys mission
that we have little time or incentive to reflect on the university mission
as a whole, reads Gregorys syllabus. Most of us inside
the university find ourselves in the curious position of doing our dead-level
best to advance its mission while having only a vague sense of how that
mission differs from the mission of any other large corporation or bureaucracy.
But working for Emory is not the same as working for Enron.
The 36 professional staff members who participate in the seminars hail
from across the University, each were nominated by their respective departments.
Each group meets four times during the spring for a catered lunch and
a two-hour conversation; Gregory provides handouts that serve as the seminars
The seminar is a rare opportunity for professional staff to reflect
on the role of their work in the life of the university and to participate
in a staff development program with an intellectual context, said
Catherine Howett Smith, interim director of the Carlos Museum and a participant
in one of the three staff seminar groups.
Recruited by former provost Rebecca Chopp to spend a semester in Atlanta,
Gregory leads similar projects at Butler. He encourages his seminar groups
to consider issues relevant to education that may not directly bear on
their respective jobs but instead fuel their appreciation for the institution
that employs them.
Today we were talking about liberal arts education in the staff
seminar, Gregory said, and that doesnt have anything
to do with what anybody in the room does every day. Liberal arts education
is not something any of these people have to think about, but they really
enjoyed the seminar.
Gregory is taking a similar approach in another seminar on pedagogy he
is leading exclusively for faculty from Emorys professional schools.
Rather than attempting to relay teaching tipsA tip about how
to teach a particular type of painting in an art history class isnt
going to be very useful for someone from chemistry, he saidGregory
instead urges faculty to be as reflective about how they teach as they
are about what they teach.
Every teacher who walks into the classroom has a certain, even
vaguely metaphorical idea about how the mind operates, Gregory said.
Is the mind a box? And its the teachers job to stock
the box? Is learning more like digestion, or is it more like inscribing
Another example is that I invite teachers to think about the ethics
of teaching, in the sense that its impossible to entertain the objective
of changing what people know without facing the possibility that in changing
what you know, youre changing who they are, he continued.
A lot of teachers have never thought about that.
Gregory stressed that his utility in improving pedagogy never stems from
the fact that he is the best teacher in the room, but from
the fact that he knows how to orchestrate and diagnose a 20-hour conversation
on the subject. That comes in when I realize that this person is
having a problem, while this person has already solved that problem, and
I orchestrate the conversation so that they teach each other,
There also will be a reception for Gregory held Jan. 30 from 46 p.m. in Cox Hall. Following the spring semester, Gregory will lead a second seminar on pedagogy for the Center for Teaching and Curriculum, directed specifically toward Emory College faculty. For more information, call 404-727-6410.