Making connections

— Jeanne M. Slattery


Cook Forest. Photo by Chris Sanfino.

I was recently at a presentation by Phil Terman (English) and Jamie Wyatt, a graduate of the English program here at Clarion and now finishing her MFA at Chatham University. Susan Prezzano (Anthropology) and Suzie Boyden (Biology) pull together this excellent series, which I never have enough time to go to, but generally attend anyway and am glad I do. Phil and Jamie were a delight, smiling as they shared recent poems that they hadn’t yet heard from each other (like this one of Phil’s), then passing the torch to their compatriot.

While this post could be about them, instead it is about the sidebar conversations that occurred in response to the poetry reading, and which surely exemplify what good teaching is about. Kathleen McIntyre (History) discussed her use of poetry and music (e.g., Guantanamera) in her Latin American History courses, as poetry has been central to many protest movements. Suzie Boyden described how she uses poetry to foster an understanding of ecology and her beloved forests. And then, Suzie and Phil suggested creating a set of linked courses with Mark Franchino (Art), where students would spend the first part of the semester exploring nearby Cook Forest, then the latter part writing about and drawing it.

Hansen (2012) describes a liberal arts education as having five characteristics: (a) encouraging students to explore difficult issues, (b) in a focused and engaged manner, (c) while active and participating, (d) within a close-knit community, (e) that allows and encourages contradictions. Isn’t this exactly what Suzie, Kathleen, and Phil were modeling? Isn’t this exactly what they were suggesting might be an invaluable First-Year course? Hurrah, all!

I wish that I had taken a photo of these interactions, but great teaching and learning happen all the time, even when I don’t expect it.


Hansen, E. T. (2012). Liberated consumers and the liberal arts college. In E. C. Lagemann and H. Lewis (Eds.), What is college for? The public purpose of higher education (pp. 62-85). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Thanks to Melissa K. Downes for her thoughtful feedback on an earlier draft of this piece.

Jeanne Slattery is a professor of psychology at Clarion University. She is interested in thinking about what makes teaching and learning successful, and generally describes herself as a learner-centered teacher. She has written two books, Counseling diverse clients: Bringing context into therapy, and Empathic counseling: Meaning, context, ethics, and skill (with C. Park), and is writing Trauma, meaning, and spirituality: Research and clinical perspectives. She can be contacted at

This entry was posted in Teaching and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s