53 Helping Students to Explore, Discover, and Create | Michelle Twait

When I was offered the opportunity to return to my alma mater, I was thrilled.  While pursuing my graduate education, I knew I wanted to teach at a liberal arts college.  Many of the same reasons that made Gustavus appealing to me as a student – small class sizes, strong commitment to teaching excellence, emphasis on service and lifelong learning, and the Scandinavian and Lutheran heritage – drew me back as a faculty member.

Personally and professionally, several parts of the Mission statement resonate with me.  Gustavus expects its graduates to have “a capacity and passion for lifelong learning.”  I am grateful for the opportunity to share my passion for lifelong learning while helping students develop the skills that will equip them to pursue their interests.  Librarians teach students to be information literate; they teach students to define their information needs, find the appropriate information to address those needs, make qualitative judgments about the information, and finally, how to use the information appropriately and ethically.  Whether they are deciding which candidate deserves their vote or finding a cure for AIDS, I hope that students apply these skills in all areas and aspects of their lives.

I believe a liberally educated person should learn to evaluate information critically and also be aware of the social and cultural aspects of information.  Gustavus’ Lutheran tradition “insists upon freedom of inquiry and criticism in the pursuit of knowledge and truth.”  Helping students gain these skills is vital for a healthy democracy.  At the reference desk and in the classroom, I hope to help students understand the role that information plays in our society.

Building a strong collection is an important responsibility, as it provides the College with the means to fulfill its mission to promote “the independent pursuit of learning.”  As I select resources and materials for our students, I am keenly aware of how these tools enable them to explore, discover, and create.

The teaching and learning at Gustavus occurs “within a general framework that is both interdisciplinary and international in perspective.”  My work reflects this.  While I am a generalist, global and interdisciplinary perspectives are woven into my research, teaching, and service.

I am honored to be part of a community that aims to prepare students for “fulfilling lives of leadership and service.”  Effective leaders need to be savvy consumers of information.  I have incorporated service learning into my courses, so that students might better understand the communities to which they belong.  I sincerely hope that students’ lives are fulfilling and my commitment to vocational reflection and mentoring is a testament to that.

The core values of Gustavus: excellence, community, justice, service, and faith are values that I hold as an individual and that led me to where I am today.  I have pushed myself throughout life to excel and expect the same from students.  Part of my identity is being a valued member of several communities, including the Gustavus community.  I practice servant leadership in my daily life and work.  I am guided by high moral principles and my concerns related to information inequality issues reflect a concern for justice.  I am a person of deep faith who values the gifts and challenges Gustavus’ religious heritage presents.  It will continue to be my goal to act as a role model for students by exemplifying the mission of Gustavus.

The past several years at Gustavus have been the most challenging, but certainly the most rewarding, of my professional career.  At Gustavus, I feel I have found a place where I can teach and learn to the best of my ability.