It Takes Rather More Than a Village

August 25, 2017 - 2:03pm -- Jennifer Arin

    “This is the final lesson of the late bloomer; his or her success is highly contingent on the effort of others.” Malcolm Gladwell defends this idea, in his essay “Late Bloomers” (The New Yorker, October 20, 2008), by delving into the life of the award-winning American writer Ben Fountain; Fountain was financially supported for over a decade by his wife Sharie, who “believed in her husband’s art or perhaps, more simply, she believed in her husband ….” Gladwell explores, too, the career of the French painter Paul Cézanne, who was bankrolled by his well-to-do (banker) father, and guided in other and extraordinarily patient ways by the writer Emile Zola, painter Camille Pissarro, and art dealer Ambrose Vollard: all played key roles in allowing Cézanne to sharpen his artistry, then market it.

    I have often thought about the many resources invested in our students as well, and how, in our academic advising, we often rely on the larger academic community. This is especially true when working with struggling students, on whose account I have consulted with deans, department chairs and school directors; students’ current or recent professors; academic office coordinators; the staff of our Disability Programs and Resource Center, Veterans Services, and Developmental Studies; and colleagues in the Registrar’s Office and Admissions. What sometimes follows is to further link students to members of our campus, such as specific faculty, tutors, or psychological counselors, who help set these students on the right path.

    More than the concept that “it takes a village,” a caring but also, at its core, numbers-based notion, this is the reckoning of the vital role of expert faculty, staff, and administrators who are both compassionate and well-informed about campus policy, and who hail from all sectors of our campus community. It is an (academic) village akin to the one that Gladwell credits for Cézanne’s success: “He had a dream team in his corner.” And it is a community for which I’m immeasurably grateful, as it allows us all to do well and do right.