Campus / Featured / News / September 11, 2012

Dean Breitborde discourages ‘educational tourism’ in convocation address

Dean of the College Larry Breitborde kicked off Knox’s 175th academic year, his last in that role, with a speech stressing the value of experiential learning.

Breitborde drew upon his work as an anthropologist as the “common thread” of his understanding of “the best teaching and learning.” The current Knox educational focus, shaped in no small part by Breitborde, “rests on learning that is both academic and experiential,” Breitborde said.

Establishing the importance of his fieldwork in Liberia in shaping his view of the world, Breitborde went on to warn students about being a “tourist.”

“We should not function as educational tourists,” Breitborde said. “We should not simply enjoy ourselves by viewing different ways of knowing and going home when it’s over — not if we want to learn, not if we really want to educate ourselves, not on this campus.”

He stressed the importance of checking preconceived notions at the door, of suspending any “lenses” that could lead to the filtering of truth.

In order to fully immerse oneself in the Knox education, Breitborde encouraged questioning personal presumptions one may hold.

“Don’t just learn to question the assumptions of the people you read and take apart their arguments; question your own assumptions and explore the role they play in what you think you understand,” Breitborde said.

President Teresa Amott introduced Breitborde, mirroring the feelings of the entire college in saying goodbye to Breitborde, the Dean of the College and Vice President for Academic Advancement since July 1995.

Amott touched upon his instrumental administrative dealings with the college, following with a list of Breitborde’s professional and academic accomplishments. Unable to quell the swell of emotions completely, Amott was visibly choked up while eventually welcoming Breitborde, “the best liberal arts college dean in America,” to the podium.

Breitborde’s imminent departure, along with his contributions to the college, according to Amott, made him a logical choice when considering convocation speakers for the main address.

While hushing an emphatic applause, Breitborde said, “I want to thank President Amott for reading that introduction exactly as my family read it,” emphasizing the close nature of even the most professional relationships at Knox.

“Teaching and learning at a small residential community: that’s what my professional life has been about,” Breitborde said.

Recently appointed Chair of the Board of Trustees Duke Petrovich ’74 opened the hour-long convocation with a lively account of his years as a student and his business accomplishments since.

Touching on the changes he has witnessed and personally experienced, Petrovich then focused on the constants: “The one thing that hasn’t changed is the Knox experience … my love for Knox.”

Before passing the podium to Amott, Petrovich detailed a “defining moment” in which Professor Wilbur F. Pillsbury warned him against setting his sights too low. He warned the healthy mix of first-year students and upperclassmen in a similar fashion in saying “reach for new heights.”

And the winner is…

A few faculty, staff and student awards were also presented during the ceremony. Following are a few of them.

  • Philip Green Wright/Lombard College awards for distinguished teaching: Jeff Grace (theatre) and Nick Regiacorte (English)
  • Faculty Scholarship prizes: seniors John Cusimano and Anna Meier
  • Janet C. Hunter prizes: Director of Multicultural Student Advisement Tianna Cervantez and custodian Barb Stevenson

Note: Anna Meier is editor-in-chief for The Knox Student.

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Julian Boireau
Julian Boireau is a senior majoring in international relations and minoring in French. This is his fourth year working for TKS, having served as co-news editor during his sophomore and junior years. He has been involved in journalism for seven years, serving as opinions editor of the newspaper and editor-in-chief of the literary magazine at Palisades Charter High School in Los Angeles, California. In September 2012, Julian received press credentials to attend the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, where he reported on remarks by President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He is also the recipient of back-to-back first place awards from the Illinois College Press Association for front page layout.

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