Making Extraordinary Connections

From the beginning of our education, everyone knows of someone who always asked the question, “When are we gonna use this in the real world?” Admittingly, I have been that student before. No matter how annoying it might be to a teacher, this is a valid question. It is important for students to understand the purpose of all the work they put into learning a subject. It’s absurd to expect someone to put their all into an assignment when the purpose appears meaningless. As a student, I can confidently say that I tend to feel more inclined to learn when I can recognize the importance in respect to my life outside of the classroom. Leading education organizations have realized this and made it a goal to accomplish this through integrative learning. One of these organizations is the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U). According to them, integrative learning is key in “developing the ability to make, recognize, and evaluate connections among disparate concepts, fields, or contexts…” To put this in simpler terms, the goal of integrative learning is to give students a way to connect what they learn in a classroom to the outside world. Incorporating integrative learning is extremely important to reveal how “seemingly disparate” things connect. In particular, the impact of students’ relationships to the facilities services, the heating plant, and Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild” to our academic success. Ultimately, a students’ success coincides with their ability to connect their academics to other parts of their lives.

After analyzing the provided information on the Geneseo Facilities Services web page with integrative learning in mind, I have had a serious reconsideration of the effect of the Geneseo staff on my academic success. While, don’t get me wrong, I have always had a great deal of gratitude toward the staff, I struggled to understand the extent of their effect on my education. This was because I lacked the imagination which integrative learning promotes, to think outside the box. Fortunately, the well-made video on the Facilities Services’ web page put it in perspective. The men and women of Geneseo Facilities Services go above and beyond to establish a safe and clean environment for us to learn in. The video points out that the staff of the Geneseo Facilities service “plays a significant role in advancing SUNY Geneseo’s mission by providing quality maintenance services across campus infrastructure to ensure that the college runs smoothly.”. Trust me, students already have enough stress as it is. Having a well-organized school lifts a weight off our already overworked shoulders. Their contributions, which include the maintenance of study areas, dining halls, and academic buildings, creates an environment where students can better focus on their education with limited distractions. Picture this, you are studying in a smelly room, the garbage is overflowing, there is a light flickering, and the room is an utter mess. Are you gonna be able to pay attention to your work? No. Instead we are provided with clean, safe areas maintained by the staff who take pride in their job. Their work is far more involved than simply providing an aesthetically pleasing campus. They also save us a huge amount of time. Not having to worry about cleaning bathrooms, taking out garbage, and many other things like this adds up to hundreds of hours of saved time over the course of our education. If something breaks, simply put in a work order on their web page and someone will take care of it. It’s the little things like this that make our lives easier, which ultimately makes school easier. Even though the facilities services staff do not directly help us study for classes, their work indirectly affects our grades. This is why they have a huge impact on our academic success.

Using an outlook similar to the one used in the previous paragraph, the Geneseo Heating Plant also heavily impacts our education indirectly. Using the information given on the Geneseo Heating Plant webpage, the staff’s responsibilities present a benefit that cannot be seen without making unconventional connections.. Their work, which includes providing “high pressure steam, heating hot water, domestic water, and natural gas”, affects every single building on campus. These amenities provide us with the tools to succeed that professors simply cannot. The comfortable environment provided stimulates the effectiveness of students. This includes everything from the ability to take a hot shower to studying at a comfortable temperature. Even professors seem to teach better when in a comfortable environment, which leads to students doing better in classes. According to a study conducted by Loyola University,  learning at an uncomfortable temperature negatively impacts a students memory, which in turn will negatively affect their grades. Next, as stated in the webpage, the staff also have a duty of supplying the services “in an economic, efficient, safe, and timely manner.” This is important to our academic success because the money saved by the staff can be implemented into technology for teaching such as new projectors. Considering the extent of the impact of their job on the campus, I find them just as important to advancing our education as the teaching staff. Their work merely affects us in a different way than professors do. Without making the connection between the Heating Plant and our academic success, their influence can easily be missed.

After rethinking the story “Bloodchild” by Octavia Butler through the “integrative learning” scope used in the previous sections, I was opened up to an entire other part of the story. The initially vague connections between my academics to both Geneseo maintenance facilities were found by exploring less obvious options. The scope used to explore how this ties into “Bloodchild” was the impact of the non-traditional main characters on Gan’s attempt to gain knowledge on how the world works around him. While the main impression “Bloodchild” left on me was the relationship between T’Gatoi and Gan, there are a number of other characters that affected Gan’s journey that seemed to be overshadowed by T’Gatoi. Similar to how teachers overshadowed the facilities in respect to the impact on our education. Characters such as Qui, Gan’s brother, represent the facilities in this example. Qui is the character being overshadowed.  Even though his character was not present for most of the story, his impact on Gan’s decision was huge. Qui went through a traumatic experience of witnessing what happens when a birth that doesn’t go as planned. What he witnessed changed his life, in turn, changing Gan’s outlook on the situation at hand. Qui is a background character when it comes to the birth, yet he still provides Gan with the proper information necessary to make his decision. This conclusion was made through the endless possibilities of applying integrative learning.

Naturally, when I think of integrative learning, I think of getting out of the traditional classroom and, for example, conducting an experiment. However, I can see how when it comes to writing techniques, it can be difficult to find a hands-on approach that isn’t writing an essay or paragraph. Fortunately, there are endless possibilities of ways to implement learning into the real world. For a writing class, it is more than simply utilizing different types of grammar; it also includes applying the different ways to think about a real world topic. The writing of the previous parts of the essay are a perfect demonstration of this. For instance, in class this semester, there has been a stress on making connections between things that seem to be unrelated; however, as you dig deeper, you can start to find subtle connections. In my analysis of the Facilities and Heating Plant services, I made connections between their work and my education. On the surface, it would seem the Facilities Services responsibility of giving us “safe, reliable, aesthetically pleasing building and ground” would have very little to do with my ability to learn about plant functions in biology. However, by applying the techniques of making connections, I was able to recognize that they provide us with an environment that fosters my ability to learn. This connection was made by applying my knowledge from class to the real world, which is the goal of integrative learning. It is important to understand that integrative learning comes in all shapes and sizes, even if it takes a little imagination.

Overall, it can be said that making the connections previously discussed is not always easy and often requires a certain degree of imagination. Connecting the Geneseo facilities services and heating plant to our education seemed like a stretch. Fortunately, when utilizing the lessons learned from integrative learning, we are encouraged to find subtle similarities, specifically between the classroom and the outside world, that our minds can put together. Furthermore, when applying integrative learning specifically to INTD-105, all semester we created these comparisons before even knowing what it was called. Comparisons which opened our minds to a form of innovativeness that was unbeknownst to us before the class. When applied correctly, it gives students a sense of purpose. That being said, it can easily be concluded that students will become more willing to be involved in their education when able to connect it to other parts of their lives. These associations allow the student to find purpose in their education, something that is often lost in their minds. For this reason, integrative learning is incredibly important to our education.

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