Our new student handbooks have arrived, and the cover asks us to think about our passion. Of course, one of my more obnoxious colleagues has already suggested that the last thing we want college students thinking any more about is passion.
But aren’t colleges all about passion? Sure, college is the time when many of us fall deeply in love and maybe even meet our future husbands and wives. It’s a time when freedom coincides with hormones.
But college is also the time when other passions are explored as well. I remember having no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I started college, so I tried everything. I took accounting, which I enjoyed but realized I didn’t want to investigate any further. I took Russian culture and Spanish classes. Since my mom is English, I took a course in British history. And of course, I took English. And it was literature that called to me in a way that no other subject ever did or ever has since. I am very fortunate that my job allows me to share my love of words on a daily basis.
When I taught, I was honored when students came to me and said they’d signed up for the literature course because it was required or because it fit their work schedule, but then they found that they really loved poetry or short stories or novels. It made me happy to think they would take something with them from my class whether or not they ever took another English class or ever did anything literary in their careers.
At our college, we spend a lot of time, rightfully so, advising students to find well-paying work they enjoy. But not every passion pays well, and some that do only pay well for a select few. For every Snow Patrol, there are hundreds of day job folks who play small bars at night. (And living in Nashville, I know of what I speak.)
So I think one of our jobs as college professors and administrators is to teach and model the various ways of putting passion in our lives. On our campus, we have no shortage of role models for this, including faculty and staff who, in their non-work time, are musicians, photographers, poets, filmmakers, master gardeners, web designers, and computer geeks.
I hope we teach our students that there are many ways to develop their passions. And I hope that they know this from simply watching how we live.