How do you define Learning and what enables you to make meaning of new knowledge?

Jamie Capetillo, America Reads Graduate Assistant and Project Success Coach

As I think about Learning, and making meaning of new knowledge I think of how learning applies in a broader concept to you during your time as students and myself as a student affairs practitioner, and how often we forget about the learning we do outside of the classroom. USF strives to “distinguish itself as a diverse, socially responsible learning community of high-quality scholarship and academic rigor sustained by a faith that does justice.” Many of the offices here at USF that provide support to you as students fall under the division of student life, whose mission is to “fully support holistic student development within a social justice framework centered in preparing students to be caring, socially responsible citizens in our global and local community.” So what does this mean, and why am I bringing this up?
During my time in undergrad part of my job was to give various diversity workshops to students, staff, and faculty on our campus back in Wisconsin. When we worked with students we always had them do an activity we called Five Minutes of Me. In this activity, we simply asked students to talk about themselves, and their identity; which identities were more salient, which did you not talk about, and how did that impact the way you moved through the world? When we did this with first years, it usually got quiet within two minutes of their time, I know it did for me when I was in that same spot. My mentor always told the students “throughout these next years in your life, you will be in a community that has so many different opportunities to learn; learn about your majors, your passions, but most importantly yourself. There are always programs going on that challenge you to get out of your comfort zone, and learn something new about yourself and the experiences of others. Learn about the complexities of our identities, the privileges we have, and how that fosters the envrionment we all create on our campus. Sometimes it’ll be hard and uncomfortable, but if by the time you graduate you still can’t fill these five minutes we have failed you and you have missed out on so much more that makes up your college education.”
I think about what she said a lot, and question all the time how I will help foster this holistic approach to learning when it comes to working with my students. I know for me it means that I will constantly commit to learning. When it comes to a social justice framework of student development, it means that I will never be done learning and educating myself about what is going on in the many communities that my students make up. But it’s also encouraging you as students to constantly be learning as well. Going to the different events being put on by the cultural centers, critical diversity studies department, performing arts & social justice department, art exhibits in Thacher Gallery, or the various student organizations on this campus. There are so many opportunities to learn on this campus, but even off campus. We are privileged to be in a city where there are always organizations putting on free events, or museums putting on free days for us to go and visit. Learning is ongoing, and it can happen everywhere. It’s taking what you’re talking about in the classrooms and applying it in your everyday life. It’s the conversations you have with your CASA advisor or your peers. These new experiences, attending events, talks, film showings etc… shape the person grow to become throughout your time here, it’s impacted by this new knowledge you acquire. How you choose to make meaning of all this new knowledge falls on you, but don’t forget you have so much support here waiting to have these conversations with you! So who are you, and what have you learned during your time at USF?

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