Hit Refresh: Locating and Revitalizing the Soul of Everything


In the serendipitous way life works, in recent weeks the "refresh" notion has threaded its way to center stage in my mind. So that's our theme, inspired by a book by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and several conversations and/or meetings I've had with many of you. 

Speaking of stage, let's set it by watching Satya talk about his new mission for Microsoft. Little would he know as he wrote his book (or maybe he did) how Facebook would soon be called to account for its own "soul" as he formulated his plan to locate Microsoft's. It's a good book, and a reminder that from time to time, we need to hit refresh, or risk losing what's important to, and for us.

The March 1st Faculty Meeting organized by David Agoff emphasized a “refresh” in approaches to teaching and class management. Discussions like this supports the questions we're all asking and trying to answer: “Are you, yourself a first-generation college graduate?” “How do we best instruct this generation of students?” “Is smartphone dependency disrupting the learning environment?”

Always, there is the follow up: So, what do we do? Which is what makes meetings like the one David organized so important.

I was only able to make the last 20 minutes of it.  I don’t have official minutes or notes, but at least one key point raised while I was there deserves careful attention.

Kim Hinrichs discussed his recent conversation with a campus counselor helping students deal with anxiety, who noted the stressful impact of constant smartphone use. The way Kim described it, the phone is, metaphorically, the “eye that sees everything, that’s always on you, that you are constantly looking back at.” It stands to reason that dealing with such a protracted gaze upon ourselves and our attention affects us significantly. Kim’s anecdote led me to deeper thought on my own classroom policies.

Please consider responding to the anonymous poll placed at the bottom of this issue, asking about your current in-class policy on smartphone use. You'll be able to tabulate responses as they happen. Hopefully they will, and responses will encourage more insight and discussion, maybe for the next blog edition.



The Last Teaching Session: We Say Farewell to Dean Judy

She admitted she hadn’t taught a classroom in a while, but you wouldn’t have guessed that to hear Judy address two of my classes on her last day at Chico State.  Many of you know that Judy is headed for New Guinea to work with AACSB to support educational initiatives for native populations. As a world traveler familiar with developing nations, Judy shared insights with my Managing for Sustainability students, who had recently studied the effects of major corporations and resource exploitation on Papua New Guinea. Addressing education is a big step toward helping everyone concerned. Her talks left me with so much food for thought that I asked her to consider keeping us updated as she “hits refresh” in her own life’s journey. Here are a few points she made that inspired the students:

  • Judy’s uncle, a former priest turned businessman in a developing country, had been a major influence in her life, spurring her interest in bridging cultures. “My uncle said, ‘these people don’t need religion, they need an economy!”  And so, he left the priesthood and built economic opportunity—a coffee farm— in his corner of the world. That’s definitely a relevant take on the old “teach a man to fish” adage. 
  • “We need to be respectful of language,” Judy told my students. “New languages force you to see differently and think in new ways." For example, we say in the morning, “I am awake.” But in Swahili, a language Judy loves, the words one says upon arising are mimi macho. Literally, “I am eyes.” Brings a whole new perspective to life, doesn’t it?  Ironically, I had just listened to  a Hidden Brain podcast on this topic.
  • Judy’s sage advice for visiting a culture with which you are completely unfamiliar: “Do it! But be prepared: Learn, more than you ‘bring.’ Notice: how the native population lives, what they value, what they want and what they need.”

I wonder if that’s how Judy came to her position here with us at the COB? Think about it—works for just about everyone in my world.  Judy warned the students “I am used to teaching statistics,”   but we are still thinking about what she said, and all that it means in terms of the vision, courage, motivation, and deep ethic it takes for anyone to carry on along the journey ahead. Be hungry for the next step, she told us.  Welcome whatever the day brings.

We’ll miss Judy and all she brought to us. Lots of lessons there, particularly the difference between “I’m awake” and “I am eyes,” which inspires us to take life in.  I hope she keeps in touch with us all.


COB News, Review, and Enterprise


Hey, I was able to corner Peter Straus on the topic of the upcoming Spring Business Concept Competition. I wanted the story behind the story. Here’s what Peter had to say from a personal perspective:

“This program offers a great chance to combine the often-scary plunge into public speaking with a chance to bring an early business idea to the light of day. And who knows— students may even win some money.

"Take the story of Peter Farsai, (pictured), class of 2016, who had just gotten a $900 fine(!) for hunting with the wrong shotgun shell. His idea was an easy-to-use app that would help hunters and fishermen keep track of the bewildering maze of Department of Fish & Game regulations. Today, his app, Outdoor Ally, is in use in seven Western states and his budding Outdoor Ally clothing line is incredibly popular.

"Another success story is that of Jon Richardson, class of 2013. He and a couple of friends had really gotten into disc golf as a bit of recreation.  Jon saw that all the bags for disks tried to emulate real golf bags – making them too big and bulky for disc golfing. Jon and friends came up with a line of recreational disc golf bags and Upper Park Designs was born.

"In both cases, these young men won the Business Concept Competition. They earned prize money, and then continued their journey by applying for and receiving seed money from our Accelerator Fund.”

These are great stories to share with students as we encourage them to come forward with their own ideas. As author Ryan Holiday has noted: in more ways what we know, the obstacle itself is the way!

VITA is a Lifesaver

In other news, congratulations and thanks to the phenomenal folks helping the taxpaying community by offering tax form assistance through VITA. As Nick Lynch noted in a recent e-mail, “VITA looks incredibly great on a student's resume and helps our students use their education in the field to give back.”

Jeff Decker adds real world impact to the value the students of VITA offer: “Our taxpayer highlight is a student, let’s call him Jose. Jose came with his friend to our Chico State site. He did not think he needed to file a tax return, as his income was below the filing threshold. However, our volunteers informed him that he might be able to receive some of the income taxes he paid back. After preparing his return, he received a refund of more than $600 and gained a much better understanding of income taxes!”

Another program of which to be incredibly proud. And as I tell our own Illinois-based CPA at tax time, every year: "Marty, you really are a lifesaver!" Primarily because he makes sure we know the current rules so we can hit "refresh" at next year's filing without too much grief :-). Hug an Accounting person next time you see him or her. They are guardian angels, if you catch them in the right light. Especially if you don't have to pay too much back to Uncle Sam.

Let’s leave on another note of financial triumph. Colleen Robb recently let us in on a fairly new discount offering at Raley’s, available to CSU faculty. Show your ID card and get 10% off your grocery bill. All you need to do is have a Raley’s Fresh Card, which likely most of us have. I even talked to a Raley’s manager about it; they hope to make that faculty discount their competitive advantage. I guess they figured out how much Marc and Linda spend on groceries. Works for me, and maybe for you too!  Now put the groceries away and please scroll down to check one of the poll options for your colleagues.