I’m on fire but don’t put me out, just let me burn

FireI saw something last week that almost literally and certainly figuratively set me on fire. It was Guilford College’s Convocation.

The president, Jane Fernandes made a stirring address. It was high minded – about values. And it was well done. Fully the equivalent of what I heard when I started college in 1964. The Guilford College Choir led the singing of the alma mater.

What was new to me though was the rest. Students and faculty convened at a small college. The faculty and upperclasses inviting new students to research – to research and learn about what turns them on.

Professor Melanie Lee-Brown lit the fire. She was up there literally setting things on fire and flinging them into the air. (I am assured that what she was doing complied somehow with the fire code.) Real research is for everyone, students and faculty. Faculty will be there to help every student, one-on-one. Every one. Students are not required, but invited to do this.

Older students were showing what they did last year: Science (things were smoking), music (things were smokin’), history (Raphael and Pope Leo X). A really good jazz group, the Blue Roots Jazz Band, doing research and featuring a graduate of the famous Westtown School.

New students were invited by the community they were joining to follow their passions – and join everybody else who’s already doing that.

They were not told, “We will convey to you what you must know.” They were encouraged to go after it for themselves and assured that the faculty will help. It was personal.

Very cool. Sign me up. Let me burn.

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