“On Service…” (narrative)

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.  -Marian Wright Edelman


In an increasingly digital world, I believe most categories and labels are becoming increasingly obsolete and irrelevant.  David Weinberger makes that point quite clearly in the 2007 book, Everything is Miscellaneous.  In writing about the ways we have adapted to (Web) browsing instead of finding things, he writes, “[t]o get as good at browsing as we are at finding—and to take full advantage of the digital opportunity—we have to get rid of the idea that there’s a best way of organizing the world” (p. 8).  In that vein, I believe that in the increasingly digital world in which we now live, a world where information can be published and/or accessed by anyone anywhere at any time, we will need to greatly reconsider the expectations of professors.  That is, like other “categories,” the distinctions between teaching, scholarship and service will be blurrier than ever.  For me, the category of “service” is now the most amorphous.  There are activities I undertake on a daily, almost hourly basis, facilitated by Web-based technologies that can be construed as teaching, scholarship and/or service.  For example, when a fellow participant in a education-themed social network asks for help locating research on a topic of interest and relevant to her work as a school principal, and I point her and anyone else who can see our communication flow to an appropriate source, what have I done?  I was able to be of service because of my scholarly skills and dispositions, while also teaching professionals in my field about an important source of information.

Those complexities notwithstanding, my commitment to service has been multi-leveled and multi-faceted.  At the Universities where I have been employed, I have served the Department, the Unit as well as the University.  Additionally, within the communities where I have traveled, I have served at the local level and the national level.

NEXT: Service to the university (narrative) →

September 6th, 2010 by Jon Becker