The MacJannet prize winners from Bard College, Ms. Erin Cannan, the Dean of Student Affairs, and Elizabeth Castle, the student representative of the Bard Palestinian Youth Initiative (BPYI), presented an interesting and inspiring workshop today for the students present at the conference. The workshop, appropriately entitled “Meaning Making,” was designed to encourage students who lead their own projects to reflect on their projects in various aspects: the relation of their project to themselves, to their affected communities, and to their own communities.
Both Elizabeth and Dean Cannan said that this idea was born from the recognition that while many students create and pursue incredibly valiant and valuable efforts, often times they forget why they are doing it in the first place – and even humbly acknowledged that this was true of their own students working on their own project, the BPYI. Elizabeth said that when she went through this process of “meaning making,” it was actually a year-long process, but that she was going to shorten it for the purposes of today. The end result of this “meaning making” is supposed to be a book. But in this blog post, I’m going to undertake the challenge of making a super abridged version so that all of you readers can get a sense of what the process of “meaning making” looks like.
Elizabeth and Dean Cannan presented 9 steps in the process, but I am going to try to abridge these steps into 3 major ones for the sake of this blog post. Think of it like a 3-minute Ramen noodles cup– it’s never as good as the real stuff, but it’s certainly a quick fix!
3 steps to the super abridged version of “Meaning Making”:
1) Generate topics & questions on those topics, related to your project.
The great thing about these topics and questions is their inevitable ripple effect: one question always leads to another. This encourages you to explore more about his or her project and possibly discover new things to question! Perhaps, “what are the actual goals of this project?” or “what are the effects of this project on the community?”.
2) Ask and answer the questions about your project and your own life.
Now it’s time to take it back and think about how this project relates to YOU. Sometimes this integral step is overlooked, but this step forces you to think about how this project affects you or relates to you.
3) Identify the intersections between the answers.
A brilliant point that Elizabeth made is that the beauty of these intersections lies not necessarily in the similarities, but rather in the dissimilarities. What an amazing irony – to repeat: it’s not what’s the same, but what’s different that leads to the most interesting discoveries. Dissimilarities encourage you to investigate and dig deeper than the surface.
Hope this blog did at least some justice to the amazing workshop I experienced today. Looking forward to the next 2 days of the conference!