Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Creating Your Purpose

Then, Living with Purpose

Tom Asaker, who blogs on business and marketing, takes a look at the difference between finding your purpose and creating it.

He says:
[P]urpose isn't discovered.
It's created.
It isn't a carefully considered and crafted image.
It's a bold statement.
A way of believing and behaving that grows and evolves and enhances people's lives.
Purpose isn't something we pull out of our brands.
It's something we passionately build into them.
Out of our experiences and values.
                            * * *
Purpose means progress.
It's movement towards a more ethical and meaningful way of being.
Purpose creates a new world.
I teach at a purpose-driven school.  We exist to create opportunities for Appalachians who are often the first member in their immediate families to attend college or professional school.  On to that purpose, we have layered  our commitment to community service and to producing graduates who will return to their communities to provide leadership and public service.  Add to that, our purpose of changing the problem-solving paradigm by teaching students Alternative Dispute Resolution, while continuing to offer courses that will make them fearless courtroom advocates.

More recently, we have built a Natural Resources Law program that rivals any program east of the Mississippi River.  In doing so, we mindfully created a program that encouraged broad discussions from many points of view about coal, fracking, renewable energy, and environmental issues surrounding any decision we make in this area of law and policy.  These conversations can be lively.  Many of our students have family members who have worked in coal production.  One of our first students was a disabled coal miner.  We have graduates working for gas production companies.  They bring their work experiences back to campus during some of these classroom conversations.

My Dean gave me a great opportunity to bring several aspects of our school's purpose together in my Environmental Dispute Resolution course.  I am teaching it for a second year.  The students are learning group facilitation/consensus building skills, values, and processes.  We focus on several difficult local issues, most recently whether to site a wind farm on a ridge of the Appalachian Mountains about an hour from campus.

In that simulation, I have used 2L students to serve as neutral fact-finders for the 3L students in the course. Those 2Ls have given presentations on the risk of wind farms to crop dusters, bats, and birds.  They have discussed the risks of wind farms to cultural sites, to aviation safety, and to communication systems, including TV, radio, cellular, and aviation radar.  Most recently, two students discussed the economic impact of the proposed wind farm on the local tax base, tourism, and property values.

Last week, we talked about the difficulty of holding all this information "gently" while the group begins to see how all the puzzle pieces might fit together.

Last year, students gave the course good evaluations.  This past Thursday, this year's students provided evaluations.  I hear several of them provided long written comments.  I look forward to reading them after I submit grades for the course.  I want to make the course better because it expresses my purpose for teaching and it expresses the purpose of my little mission-driven school.

Photo: 2013 students listening to a presentation about the archaeological, historic, and Native American cultural sites in the area.

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