50 A Remarkable Community | Michele Koomen

I am a strong advocate for the liberal arts: although I did not attend an undergraduate liberal arts institution, three of my children did. After I completed my doctorate, I had the option to choose another institution for my professional work. I chose Gustavus as the place to continue my career in education with full knowledge of what a liberal arts setting is and aspires to.

I believe that I work hard toward excellence in all that I do both as a teacher, a scholar and a member of the community that is Gustavus. I am critical of myself, sometimes overly so, when I do not measure up to said excellence. I have high expectations for my students as learners, future teachers and as human beings in the world. I believe that my teaching and my scholarship speak loudly to my commitment to encouraging respect for others, and sensitivity to diversity. In addition, I embrace critical theory and pedagogy in my scholarship and teaching as a way to evaluate my own advancement toward democracy and greater humanization. I have been deeply influenced by the work of Paulo Freireand like him, imagine a world “that is less ugly, more beautiful, less discriminatory, more democratic, less dehumanizing, and more humane,” a vision that I believe is completely in sympathy (harmony) with the Gustavus Adolphus mission.

I have always supported international travel as a means of broadening our understanding of international perspectives. As I wrote earlier, I traveled with 32 students to Namibia and South Africa during Jterm 2009. I was fortunate to be part of the fourth GAC faculty development Service Learning and Social Justice travel seminar in June of 2006 and during touring week of 2007, the Latino Academy in El Paso/Juarez. The experience of learning about post-apartheid Southern Africa, plight of women, access to health care, challenges of equity in education (among others), and issue related to immigration and schooling at the borders, influenced my professional and personal life and has fostered greater commitment to working in developing countries for me with our GAC students.

During my sabbatical leave (2010-2011), I will be part of professional development for math and science teachers in Namibia and South Africa. I received an invitation by the principal at the Steenkamp School in Katutura, Namibia to work with their teachers. I am committed to providing opportunities for teachers that will promote better teaching and learning for their students, but will also be sustainable by them so that there is change in place that may last. It is neither ethical nor desirable, in my mind, to do a drop in sequence of workshops and be done and leave. Their needs are simply too great.

I will conclude this section with a few remarks regarding faith and the Lutheran tradition. I am in harmony with all of the ideals of the Gustavus Adolphus mission including the core values that are considered to be Christian and faith based. I also value the Lutheran perspective that is articulated by Darrell Jodock in the Statement of Church Relatedness that suggests that the Lutheran tradition supports a commitment to excellence, genuine service involving a courageous commitment to justice, love, wholeness and human dignity, a sense of wonder and a foundation for inclusiveness. However, even though I recognize and try to emulate what I consider to be the Lutheran values, and the mission of this college, I am not aligned with any religious entity. My beliefs, so to speak, rest on my core values that are beyond faith, including, but not limited to fairness, honesty, humility, service, excellence, commitment, inclusion, and democracy.

Finally, I must acknowledge the shoulders of giants that I stand on in all the work that I do and have done at Gustavus. Gustavus is a remarkable community and I am honored to call it my professional home. I am very grateful for the many conversations I have had with other faculty about teaching and learning. My scholarship continues to focus thanks to the suggestion and careful edits of many other scholars on campus. I am so very fortunate that so many other members of the community took the lead before me in service so that I may benefit from their insight and wisdom as I stepped forward.