I have the good fortune to engage in many different academic settings at the present time, including studies as a scholar in the Ph.D. program that I have undertaken (which have taken me to learning places as far as Prague, Monterrey, MX, and currently to Hong Kong), another as an intern achieving a community college teaching certificate, and another as a guest lecturer at a top private university’s masters program.
Recently, in the morning I participated in my internship at a local community college for an Introduction to Business course, and in the evening, as a guest lecturer, I presented to a class of students enrolled in a top Southern California University’s masters-level elective course on the topic of independent consulting. The environments for both learning institutions based in Los Angeles couldn’t have been more extreme: the morning’s setting has been hard hit by California budget initiatives, and the evening’s classroom was similar to that of a 5-star hotel’s conference center.
The differences between student, classroom, environment, funding, and vision were rather startling. With a long-term goal to teach after completion of the doctorate, I couldn’t help but think: where would I rather teach? I often thought it would be to an MBA class to enlighten them and help soften the management practices that are notoriously quantitative, fact-based, and bottom-line oriented. I had imagined the classroom full of eager, motivated and ambitious individuals, grasping at my every word. (We’ll omit here the over-inflated ego that so many years ago thought that was what teaching was all about!)
Then, to my surprise, I see in this community college arena, an environment of significant need, perhaps even without the realization of the players who are performing there every day. I am beginning to get a glimpse of how unprepared students, many of whom are products of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), are to enter the business world in a meaningful way. I begin to wonder about such things as, how can we make sure these students stay engaged in probably one of the only educational systems they will have available to them? Who will care for them enough to ensure they receive an excellent junior college education? How will they be exposed to some of the best minds in their field of studies? Who will help to create the internal fire within themselves to become life-long learners, rapidly moving into four-year schools and beyond?
Most of us are aware of the many levels in which our brains function over our lifetimes. At a certain place in time, we begin to step back—perhaps to reinvent our own relevancy—and strip aside the lesser important issues such as, how much money will I make? Which has more prestige? Which is less “messy”? Which will be more fun? A new question begins to emerge, and that question is, what decision for me serves the greater good?
I am not in a position yet to answer this question, yet I believe it is particularly relevant with any major decision we might make for ourselves and with our loved ones. It applies to our timely and critical decision of presidential candidates; it applies to the economic decisions that we make in this downturn environment; it can be applied almost universally to decisions that matter and are life-altering.
I’ll keep you posted with my greater good decision as time goes on.