Editor’s Note: Acknowledging Work in Consideration of the Whole Student

By Caitlin Salins, Executive Project Manager, Bringing Theory to Practice

Long-time colleagues of Bringing Theory to Practice (BTtoP) may know that we have historically had a complicated relationship with education and work; in fact, a fundamental part of our identity in the past few years was an assertion that higher education had “greater purposes” beyond just workplace preparation—purposes like nurturing student well-being; providing experiential, transformative, or relational learning; fostering democratic and civic commitment; and preparing students to lead a meaningful life (which included, but was not limited to, their career). We saw ourselves as a force against the neoliberalization of higher education, wherein the benefit of attending college was only relevant for its contribution to the economy and workforce, and learning was reduced to a means to a capitalistic end.[1]

However, in part due to our more recent emphasis on the connection of our mission to equity and inclusion, we’ve come to realize the importance of acknowledging the complex—and inevitable—existence of work in students’ lives. As Katharine M. Broton shows in our Feature piece, many students, especially those who have been historically underserved by American higher education, have no choice but to manage dual roles as learner and worker. And sometimes, as Natasha Lemke describes in her Student Perspective, what it means to work is not just limited to “traditional” employment, but requires navigating intersecting identities and responsibilities. In our Grantee Spotlight and Campus Highlight articles, Rebecca Fraser-Thill and Adam Weinberg explore how their institutions help students see careers as more than a source of income, but as a pathway to connect learning to purpose, agency, and self-authorship. Finally, in his Director’s Column, David Scobey ruminates on his own former “allergy”—the belief that teaching and career preparation were separate domains—and what higher education stakeholders must do now to truly teach the whole student for life beyond campus in a rapidly changing world.

As always, while we hope to offer a combination of research and on-the-ground practice in an exploration of our newsletter theme, we invite our community to think through this topic with us. Our readers may know that we release more frequent and informal communication through our biweekly email blast “Bringing It,” with selected news items, personal thoughts and reflections from our team, and news from our partners and colleagues. We welcome your input and reactions to our content and hope that BTtoP can serve as an open forum for our community of scholars and practitioners. To submit a response to this issue or offer a contribution to “Bringing It,” email info@bttop.org. To sign up to receive “Bringing It,” simply register for our mailing list on our website: https://www.bttop.org.




[1]  Linda Raimondi, “Neoliberalism and the Role of the University,” PAACE Journal of Lifelong Learning 21 (2012): 39–50.