Written by HOD student Barton Buechner
Future Faces of Fielding: Finding Fractal Fraternity
Reflections of New Student Orientation
The spring New Student Orientation (NSO) 2013 cohort of the Fielding Graduate University School of Human & Organizational Development (HOD) began with evident embodiment of diversity. Like a view through a kaleidoscope, each turn of the lens displayed patterns not previously apparent. After a week of enmeshment with faculty and student anchors, patterns of unity emerged as well, amid aspirations and predictions of growth and new discoveries.
The faces and places of this NSO also reflected Fielding’s strategic direction and drawing power; India and Great Britain via Egypt and Dubai, crossing north and south borders of Canada and Mexico, German-New York fusion and Santa Barbara Celtic, just touching upon a few exemplars of global mélange in the room. In one exercise organized by Susan Herrmann, participants tossed a tennis ball to each other with a greeting in their first or second non-English language, and passed instructions in intersecting tongues. The common language became laughter. Later, it was music, with three talented singers and a poet in the house. The outgoing interim dean of HOD, Margo Okazawa-Rey, bestowed the title of “beloved” to the new entrants, imprinted on a maroon and gold lanyard adorning each, lei-like as yet another symbol of sprouting unity.
Anticipations of emerging reality, and realities – holding a new passport to learning. Standing at the shore of a great sea, feeling like fish. Envisioning yoga for the mind, body and spirit: stretching, pushing, balancing. Leaving behind corporate pathologies for integral healing. Bald ambition of anticipated growth. Are we evolving yet?
We learned of new HOD program direction as Dottie Agger-Gupta takes the helm: Fielding is getting lean, no more deans. What will that mean? Tackling the task of learning the “new normal” of a Moodle-powered approach to scholarly collaboration from others just learning as well, the Spring NSO cohort absorbed presentations delivered for the first time in the new format and language as Felix fades. Faculty and student anchors resisted temptation to describe the comfortable "old ways" as we made sense of the new, together. Previously unfamiliar six-syllable words entered the conversation, and terminologies of diversity. Memories of the cold water of the “deep end” of pre-NSO gave way to forward motion of being in the swim.
In small groups, the metaphoric concept of “journey” grew legs in the sharing of spiritual pathways, intellectual meandering, and driving passion. Stories of quests and conquest, mysteries and revelations, and often deep pain came forward and merged in the growing “we-space” of community. Skeptical glances and furtive, longing gazes out the window at the Santa Barbara sea, sand and skyscapes became fewer, as attention and intention came into focus. As we inquired appreciatively, gifts were uncovered, explored, and shared. Commonalities built bonds, differences bespoke latent collaborations.
Like all NSO cohorts before, the group heard from the (sometimes wild) horse’s mouths of those ahead of us on this pathway. The Funky Pelican in search of the Red Fish. Seated around the fishbowl, second-person stories of scholars yet to meet, sages with gifts yet unimagined. Legends from the misty time of Casa de Maria, rituals of the fish and dolphins, learning to see in the other’s eyes the image of the “Changing Woman” of Chumash lore. Venerable Fielding godfather Don Bushnell spoke of the deep empirically-based and well-researched meaning underlying the “Fielding” identity, and the equally profound legacy of merry mischief, embodied by his much-anticipated “bubble dance.”
Much inspired, the class of spring 2013 returned the favor with satirical skits, featuring the sincere flattery of faculty emulation. Sly caricatures were met with knowing nudges and occasional howls as suckers were savored around the circle. What began days earlier with a staid and scholarly cocktail party ended as a dance of celebration. Singing and dancing; reflective, contemplative, anticipatory.
On parting, more reflections.
The heady and liberating transition from high-powered executive to being a student again…. And finding out how to hold both going forward. Balancing the need to manage, drive, make things happen with a gentler and contemplative questioning.
Previously clear goals now in question, dissolving to make space for something greater, yet still unknown. We brought too much baggage, set some aside to make space. Travel lightly on this path, pick up the stones and feathers that speak to you.
The existential angst of password resets tempered with the comfort of no longer being alone in the digital universe. Doubts erased. Open to love and be loved. The privilege of privileged information. To see each other for the first time. Going forward, we take each other with us. Who am I among these? Somebody….
The embodiment of our companions is more than the words on paper would have led us to believe. There is wisdom in that, the opening of an eye.
With that eye opening, we somehow find unexpected comfort in resting in the mystery of not knowing….yet….
Finally, love and appreciation for Jerry, the Snow atop the mountain of wisdom we are getting ready to climb.
Barton Buechner came to Fielding because of its reputation for “activism, transformation, and scholarly engagement.” The military veteran had retired from the US Navy in 2008 and enrolled in Fielding in 2009, with a generally-framed academic agenda that has since gained shape and focus.