I am Vivian, a lead TA for the L&I course. I am responding to your tweets on my personal blog, because I wanted the space to address your concerns without the 140 character limit, and the ability to do so in a public space to show that you are heard.
I hear you on your frustrations with this course. When I was a student in this course last year, I felt similar frustrations. Even as a TA now, some of these questions still arise. For example, is it really possible to teach leadership and innovation in a classroom? Is there a standard that exists in which we can effectively and uniformly measure these outcomes? And lastly, does it matter?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. No matter how much preparation and research we put into designing this course, these questions will continue to resurface. And in all honesty, I hope these questions never subside because they only serve to push this course forward.
What I do know, is that both Professor De Pinho and Dean Delva are extremely receptive to student feedback and have incorporated many changes from last year to improve on this course. I know this because all the ideas that I’ve pitched to them have been adopted into the course this year. They’re not necessarily MY ideas, but rather an accumulation of the feedback from last year’s students.
Of course, change can never come fast enough and there are still kinks to work out.
I listened to the Ted Talk that you shared. It is a great talk, indeed, and I hope that you apply those key insights to this class. In particular, she asks, “How are you distilling this into understanding potential discontinuities, and then making a decision to do something right now so that you’re prepared and ready?” For me, that meant getting involved directly in the planning and design of this course so that we can make effective changes.
Certainly, this class will not be canceled anytime soon. You tweeted an article on “The Most Important Question You Ask Yourself Today.” And that question was— what pain do you want? For you, this class may be painful to sit through. But sometimes the most rewarding and happy experiences come through a lot of struggle. Could it be possible, that maybe… just maybe the ‘pain’ you endure through this class can produce excellent outcomes? I won’t promise that it will. But the choice is yours to find out.
Once a week, I get the chance to lead a 21-person section on leadership & innovation to first year masters of public health students.
In class today, I asked them to define creativity…
Based on these definitions, I asked, “raise your hand if you consider yourself a creative person.”
I got timid stares until one student bravely put her hand up. A couple more half-hands followed suit—you know the ones that are raised high enough to be noticed, but still low enough to jump ship in case you change your mind?
I expected this. If their experience in the biomedical/health community is anything like mine, then they were probably told at some point that they are not creative. So I offered them this definition instead…
Being creative means having the patience to sit with a problem and the tenacity to work within your constraints to come up with a solution. Creative ideas are not born out of thin air, they’re born out of relentless effort.
When scientists pore over thousands of genomic sequences to identify an aberration, and doctors examine the relationships between organ systems to diagnose a patient—that is creativity. When public health professionals map out the social, structural, and economic determinants of health—that is creativity.
So why are some of the most creative people I encounter so convinced that they aren’t creative?
I think it’s because society creates a false separation between the sciences and the arts. When I chose to study the sciences, a mental wall erected to keep the arts ‘where they belong’. Out of my mind.
The consequence is an idea-cide. The killing off of ideas before they even get a chance to thrive.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to create a classroom environment that saves these ideas. To nurse them back to health. I know I won’t be able to get them all, but if I can save even one… half… two… I believe there are endless possibilities of what can come out of these ideas. And given the talent in my classroom, the potential is ridiculous.
So with this new definition, I asked, “do you consider yourself a creative person?”
3/4s of the hands went up.
vent -> let go -> create
EDUCATION = EVOLUTION
conversations with Dr. Bob
Hackers disagree. They say there’s no perfect time to share our work—any stage can be the best. The earlier we share, the more chances we get to iterate. And when our product is finally presented, don’t stop there either. Open up your sources, let other people hack and build and hack and build and hack and build on top of what you created.
It’s my grandmother’s funeral replaying over and over again in my mind. It’s the feeling of my stomach drop to the floor when the phone rings and I hear the silence between your breaths. It’s the exhale of my breath that robs all the energy I have left.
I can’t formulate my words when I think about cancer. It simply, sucks. But when I talk about CANSWER, I know I can make a difference. Whether it’s because we want to, or because we’re forced to, we can create meaning in the most helpless situations. So today, in honor of World Cancer Day, I choose to go bigger.
Thank you everyone for making this D4C workshop so sp
In 2006, I was told 3 terrifying words that no one should ever have to hear: ”You have cancer.”
8 years later, I am thankful to be alive, but still haunted by those words. Recently, I was told 4 words that are even more frightening than before: ”You have cancer… again.”
My doctor’s assistant called me on Christmas Eve just after 5pm. I was on my way home from the local market picking up last minute Christmas party groceries. I took shelter from the icy Astoria breeze in a pay phone booth on Steinway Street as she spoke more in depth about the results. I begin to hear everything she said in chunks because I was in shock. Cancer…. Thryoid…. Treatment. I thought to myself, “Is this really happening right now?” Thyroidectomy… Radioactive… Cancer…. The chances were so small of my lump being a follicular carcinoma. My doctor even allowed me to head back to New York because he was so confident that it was “nothing.” That this lumpy “thyroid nodule” was only a little bump in the road, and that I could be back to my life in New York in no time.
But we were all wrong. Life is just not that easy. And, I guess, I am just not that normal…?
It is so easy to get caught up in the “what ifs” and the worries of it all….
What if it had spread to other parts of my body? What if there are complications with my next surgery? What if my body reacts all crazy when the rest of my thyroid is removed? My scar is gonna freak people out… How is this treatment going to affect my long-term health? This cancer most likely occurred due to the high dose of radiation I received to my chest to treat my first cancer. I will most likely get breast cancer by the time I am 30… or maybe lung cancer by the time I am 40 because there is so much second hand smoke in New York….
The voice inside my head overwhelms me like a spinning wheel that can never stop…
But I am learning to let ALL of that go. All of it. For it does not serve me now. and it never will. What serves me is being powerful in facing my biggest fears.
This world can be a cold, unfair, insane, and unpredictably sucky place. However, I’ve grown to be accepting of it, and I find peace and beauty in its crazy moments. Like now! There is so much junk going on that is completely out of our control, but we must fight to live the life we want to live. I cannot control the fact that I have cancer again. It is a super crappy and inconvenient situation because it is my dream to be dancing in New York City, and this silly cancer is kinda putting that on hold for a while. I could get angry at the world. I could be scared about death. I could be pessimistic about my health. But those emotions do not serve me, nor do they help me propel me forward to the high places that I dream about. The only thing I can control in my life right now is how I choose to be. and so…
I choose to be strong. I choose to be brave. I choose to be inspiring. I choose to be positive. I choose to be bigger than my fears.
When I started calling myself a cancer survivor, the 1 thing I feared most in life was relapse or a reoccurrence of cancer in my body. For every CT Scan, blood test, MRI, or X-ray, I literally crossed my fingers, toes, and eyes for good luck. No joke.
Presently, my biggest fear in life has become my reality. But surprisingly, I am okay. In fact, I feel great! I feel physically and mentally stronger, as if I have discovered a new source of inner power that I did not even know I had. A power that can empower and inspire others to do what they love to make a difference in the world. So while I may be “sick” in the eyes of my doctors, I feel more powerful than ever before. It is such a strange concept…
So, yes- life is sometimes crappy. and yes- we can never get what we want. and yes- everything can spin out of our control. But the beautiful part is that you can control you. Choose to be something. Anything.
Fill in this blank.
Today, I choose to be _________.
Today, I am choosing to go bigger- to face my biggest fears with power and a positive mind.
We’ll see how this little journey of mine goes…
Dear Austin Kleon,
You said imitation is not flattery.
That we should steal, but make our own.
You said to show appreciation.
And get new work out of it.
So here’s my stuff, mixed with yours.
On the most memorable quotes from your book.
Thank you for the inspiration.
Thank you for sharing your work.
On rethinking the 5-year plan…
I have a friend two decades my senior. When I was born, he was graduating college. When he got married, I was barely learning how to drive. And despite the differences in our timelines, we sing the same mantra. When we dialogue, it’s like the gap doesn’t exist nor does it belong.
Over dinner one day, he asked if I have a 5-year plan.
With those words — “5-year plan” — I could feel the ground split, the table drive between our seats. Maybe it was the illusion of wine and dim lighting that created the closeness, because with the uttering of those words, there it was. Our 20 year gap that brought a host of differences between experienced and experiencing, haves and have yet to-, settled and in transition.
I wanted to impress him, to tell him about my studies in graduate school and the potential opportunities they hold. But the reality is that I have no idea what my life will be like in the next 6 months. And until I can figure out what to do during this incubation period, anything I say about a “5 year plan” is bluff.
So instead of acting like a hot shot, I met his question with an honest,
"I don’t know."
I have goals for the future. But no matter how I try, they don’t fit in a series of “first this, then that.” Doing so feels like I have to value the future state of my life more than the current, or that there is an end state that determines when I’ve made it.
What if I don’t have these things, and instead I only have an idea of what I want to be doing? A kitchensink of handpicked things from my role models and an endless drain reserved for the things yet to be discovered. I study my mentors’ paths and can’t find a pattern. I can’t pinpoint a moment when they thought, “this is it.”
So is a 5-year plan outdated or am I just so hell-bent on being unconventional that I can’t commit to anything traditional?
I’ve spoken to many GenY’s about this, and none of us seem to believe in the 5-year plan. We acknowledge that there are good lessons to be learned, that we should set goals and work hard. But the time stamp seems to drive our anxiety levels haywire. We like the idea of being settled down, but we much rather appreciate the choice of freedom. That we can pack up our lives and chase after an adventure whenever we want; we just have to want it. We are the eternal wanderers that choose the journey over the destination, and a 5-year time stamp feels more like a chain that ties us down than a path that sets us free.
I suppose it could act as both, and the only way to truly know is to retroactively fit our actions into a timeline. But for the time being, I am a collection of dots unconnected. Each dot is a passion I pursue with equal vigor as the others. When time permits and opportunities arise, they will connect and overlap, revealing to me the illusory 5-year plan. Until that magic happens, allow me to exist as is—