Exit Through the Ivory Tower

A Systemic Story of Street Art and Vandalism

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

Faultless Misalignment

Over the past year (and as I wrote about recently), I’ve witnessed the emergence of a number of metaphoric elephants within the room we call higher education — undeniable, yet seldom addressed truths that have both captured my attention and now moved me to take what many might consider to be rather defiant action. Long-standing, hierarchical organizations are inherently maladaptive, especially for those looking to quickly craft diversions away from tradition and “the way it’s always been.” Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately depending on your view), I’ve always been interested in unapologetically catalyzing cracks in social norms, curiously prodding at the unexplored, and creating ripples of disruption in systems of legacy and tightly structured power. Turns out this innate (almost reflexive) impulse of mine is much like pouring water into the existing viscous oil of institutionalized education. I look towards my inner Kipling in wondering if never the twain shall meet.

Bittersweet Contentment

There have been many moments of late when I shouldered a majority of the blame for my soon-to-be jobless discomfort. I acted selfishly. I overvalued the intangibles. I didn’t focus enough internally. My time management sucked (ok, it kinda did at times). But as I walk away (at least for now) from a professional reality which I truly did (and perhaps one day still will) respect, admire, and love, I’ve all but disposed of any lingering notions of self-doubt. In just a few years time, I worked tirelessly (and perhaps also naively) hoping I might play a small part in shifting one of the most entrenched cultures humans have ever created and known. So regardless of the ultimate outcome, I can now say with complete confidence that it was not for a lack of trying.

  • I personally overhauled and brought renewed life to a previously stagnant (now regionally anticipated and respected, though also now likely to evaporate in my absence) professional development event, the Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium.
  • I provided strategic guidance and wrote a significant portion of a grant which led to MSU Denver receiving $100,000 to help promote the adoption/adaption of Open Educational Resources.
  • I conceptualized, crafted a proposal and white paper, and curated a team in support of FlexchainEdu, which became one of 10 winning projects selected by the Department of Higher Education for the Edu 2030 Challenge (a project receiving ongoing national interest and publicity).

Towards Discovery of the Otherwise

So as I exit through the gift shop of a still rigid ivory tower, I hope my story shines a light (however dim) on the need to support the courageous street artists (armed and ready with their cans of paint); those audaciously pushing back against our structured systems. We certainly need to support and empower the students who show interest and resolve in standing up against authoritative oppression and inequities, but perhaps more importantly, we need to support the foundational scaffolding that surrounds them (i.e. faculty and staff). It’s difficult to know what horizons we might reach by offering motivated freedom, legitimate re$ource$, and political air cover to those truly interested in exploring (creating?) the future, but rest assured that continuing to build towards yesterday will be the easiest way to never know.

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Edu • Web3 • Culture • Travel • Identity → #BUIDL a rational mental map one neural node at a time. // Systems thinker; work in progress; thoughts derivative.