Beyond the Surface

The Association of American Colleges and Universities frames integrative learning as “the process that benefits from unique perspectives and yields multiple solutions.” This process usually begins with reflective work or self-assessments, but it often goes beyond the paper to address real world examples like the Department of Facility Services at Geneseo. At first glance, the facilities staff only provides a beautiful campus, but when the focus is narrowed, it is revealed that without that facilities staff working behind the scenes, the students and faculty would not have the means necessary to develop and continue an academic partnership. The facilities website tells us that without the heating plant unit “regulating heat and water twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week”, most of the things that people consider necessities on a campus would cease to exist. How is a student expected to shower without access to hot water? And how is a professor expected to teach a lecture with no heat in the building? These questions are vital to understanding the campus dynamics at Geneseo, and yet they are ones I would not have asked if not for the process of integrative learning. Although a broad scope can be enlightening, it lacked the specificity necessary to develop more details about the staff’s dedication to the furthering of academic partnerships. Through T’Gatoi’s unseen role in binding Tlic and Terran together, Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild” demonstrates how the value of members in our community may go unnoticed. Ultimately, integrative learning reveals the value of members within our communities.

T’Gatoi’s role in “Bloodchild” was essential to maintaining the relationship between the Tlic and the Terrans. Butler made the readers aware of an agreement that took place between the Tlic and the Terrans that was facilitated by T’Gatoi because of her role in the Tlic government. When discussing the importance of T’Gatoi on page 5 it says, “Only she and her political faction stood between us and the hordes who did not understand why there was a Preserve” and outlined on page 12, “the law still stood-for our protection… there were stories of Terran families being wiped out” This demonstrates that the agreement between the Tlic and Terrans had been long established, and although the members of the society were unable to take part in the agreement process, they were all protected under its provisions. It was only after Gan narrowed his focus that he realized the Tlic and Terrans coexisted because of the role T’Gatoi played. As readers we must follow Gan’s lead and look deeper at T’Gatoi’s role within her society. She was often misunderstood by not only Terrans who felt “caged by her” but by the Tlic who felt the Terrans didn’t deserve her protection. It requires going beyond our surface interpretations to see someone’s true value. That fundamental misunderstanding of T’Gatoi’s role was one that kept people from looking deeper and in turn, her role truly went unnoticed in her society. Although T’Gatoi’s role went unnoticed, she persisted and created a safe environment where the Tlic and Terrans could coexist.

T’Gatoi’s experience parallels the Geneseo facilities because without them working behind the scenes, the students and faculty would not have the means necessary to develop and continue their academic partnership. Located behind the MacVittie college union, the heating plant unit stands tall within their smokestack building. According to the heating plant website, their staff is comprised of highly trained engineers who are responsible for providing utilities in an efficient yet safe manner. This staff is “on site twenty-four hours, seven days a week,” so we may not have to see the emergency maintenance work done at three in the morning to know that the students have hot water every morning or that lecture halls are heated. This fact, provided by the heating plant website, displays the dedication of the workers. Sacrificing their nights and weekends so that students and faculty don’t have to worry about heat and hot water. The heating plant unit is essential because without them, students and faculty wouldn’t have the basics necessary to foster a health academic relationship. I must admit, prior to visiting their website, I was unaware of exactly what the heating plant unit did for the Geneseo community. But now I realize, even the people we don’t necessarily see can be working together for the betterment of our academic relationships. Although the heating plant staff “works behind the scenes” as stated on their website, their responsibilities impact students and faculty every day, mirroring the life of T’Gatoi who maintained the delicate balance between Tlic and Terran.

At this point, you may be asking yourself “How could all of this important work by the Geneseo facilities staff and T’Gatoi go unnoticed?” Well let’s begin with the facilities staff, whose work also consists of emptying the trash around our campus and general beautification. This part of the job closely mirrors that of your typical janitorial staff, a job that sometimes carries a negative stigma in our society. This negative stigma is one that was also experienced by T’Gatoi, who was seldomly liked in “Bloodchild” because of the tension between the Tlic and Terrans. When people have a misunderstanding of the importance of someone’s role, they may only look at the surface. It isn’t until we allow ourselves to look deeper and go beyond the surface that we gain a true understanding. So, how do we look deeper? Well, that’s the entire process of integrative learning, allowing ourselves to see a different perspective, put away our assumptions, and see how a member’s role in our society can impact our lives.

In a world where our distinguishing factors are essential or non-essential workers, the value of members in our communities have been called into question more now than ever. Let’s be honest, becoming a healthcare professional has always been sought out in our society because the job is well-respected by many. With their skill set, it did not come as a surprise when they were considered part of the world’s essential workers. But roles like cashiers, fast-food employees and warehouse workers have often been overlooked. Prior to the pandemic, these roles were sometimes only perceived as entry-level jobs that anyone could do. Jobs that were reserved for the people lower in our society, either because of the age of the workers or for socio-economic reasons. It wasn’t until the pandemic that we as a society were forced to truly put integrative learning into practice, take a step back and assess the value of the members in our communities. Narrowing the focus of what people need during this time only highlighted the role of these workers. That process forever placed a lens on how we view jobs like cashiers and fast-food workers. As a society, we realized that we can’t function without grocery store workers and the people who deliver our packages every day. I hope that from this experience, we stop the stigma surrounding certain jobs in our society, and we see the crucial role we all play to this world go round.

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