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Felice Leonardo Buscaglia was a USC professor of education who taught a class on … love. He preached the importance of love: of self, of others, of the human race, of the world around us, and of learning. He said we love others when we “assure them that we are dedicated to their growth, to the actualization of their limitless potential” (Buscaglia, 1972, p. 161). Anyone who has chaired a dissertation knows this process – of facilitating the transformation of a student to an independent scholar. In doing so, we, as faculty members improve not just their scholarship but their lives. How many students’ lives have we improved over the years? Even if many of them do not tell us so, they are grateful.
When we work with students we acknowledge who they are – strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears. Buscaglia told the story of walking on campus one day and, as was his habit, smiling and saying hello to everyone he passed. At the end of the day there was a note in his faculty mailbox. It was from a student he had said hello to on that walk. Just a brief “hi” to someone he didn’t know. She said she had been depressed for a long time – felt invisible and unnecessary in the world. She had decided that morning that if she went the entire day without being acknowledged as a person, she would end it all. And he acknowledged her – not by name, because he didn’t know her – but he acknowledged that she was valuable enough to be recognized. He made all the difference.
Speaking as one faculty member to my peers, I hope you know that you make a difference, too, just by being available to students, sharing your wisdom, witnessing their struggles, cheering them up, and celebrating with them.
We know that we are not entirely selfless in doing this. We have discovered, as Buscaglia (1972) described:
when I did get the courage to form a relationship, I actually became stronger. I acquired two minds instead of one, four hands, four arms, four legs, and another's world. In joining forces with someone, I got twice the strength to grow, with twice as many alternatives. (p. 163)
By the relationships formed with students, other faculty, and research partners at UOP, we have all become stronger, wiser, and more aware of the world. Our work in building relationships may ultimately mean our success as scholars as we create a community of inquiry where the incredible could occur.
For an inspirational message from Dr. Buscaglia, click here.
Buscaglia, L. (1972). Love. New York: Ballantine Books.