58 Resolving Mystery, Revealing Mystery | Pam Kittelson

“Creation is never over.  It had a beginning, but it has no ending.
Creation is always busy making new scenes, new things, new Worlds.” 

I. Kant

Gustavus Adolphus College offers the kind of environment that sustains my professional and personal interests significantly. I affirm both the Gustavus mission and its manifestations.  I am a product of a liberal arts environment whose mission it was to educate the whole student for a life where they must confront change and complexity with thought and action.  As such, I strive to provide an excellent liberal arts education for our students that is rigorous and innovative, focusing on intellectual and personal skills as well as building knowledge.  My objectives are to help students weigh evidence, read and think critically, reflect thoughtfully and express ideas with precision and grace. I help them become persons who have learned how to learn, who love connections among ideas, and who revel in the intellectual journey as much as the destination.  I help students learn about the strengths and limits of science. They come to better understand science as one way of knowing and understanding the world, but not the only way, and not one that can answer all of the questions that humans ask.

The passion for live long learning can be nurtured in our students via classroom, lab, co- or extra-curricular endeavors as well as in wilderness and abroad. Through research experiences in my classes or research lab, my students develop a habit of independent thought and gain confidence in their ability to make scholarly contributions.  They get inspired by looking for patterns in the natural world, by documenting forces of change, and by answering their questions all the while recognizing that new questions endlessly arise whenever one looks.  They begin to love the challenge and rewards of the quest, the satisfaction in elegantly addressing a hypothesis, publishing a paper, or simply learning about past and present ecological interactions. They contemplate the unknown.  Giving them opportunities to respect and express awe for the mysteries of life is as important as communicating what we know. Learning resolves mystery and reveals mystery; learning is about opportunities to explore “new scenes, new things, new Worlds” and this is one reason I love the academic life.

I also believe a liberal arts college helps students articulate a personal vision that is hopeful and inspiring, and can ultimately help to create a more humane world. I help students gain a sense of vocation.  I help students explore their deep idealism and desire to work toward a socially and environmentally just world. I advise them, challenge them, encourage travel across the globe or in the wilderness so they can observe and better understand ‘otherness.’ I try to help them recognize how the world’s issues intersect with their life choices, to recognize their own power and privilege and to work toward helping others, including non-humans, thrive. I encourage and facilitate the development of leadership skills through structured and meaningful experiences in their local communities, in wild lands and as a global citizen.

I intend to keep responding to time and changing circumstance, to create good work in collaboration with students, research colleagues and various communities. I will always enjoy sharing the beauty of this world in the context of an interdisciplinary liberal arts college dedicated toward facilitating excellent experiences and action.