Engagement?

Editor's Notes: Engagement?

Engagement is an abstract word, and like all abstractions, it’s not easy to pin down. The Wall Street Journal recently named Dordt College the nation’s top college or university in the category of engagement, a measure of teaching quality and students’ involvement in the learning process.

These lists are greeted with great fanfare in the press, trumpeted across the webpages of the worthy and well-ranked. But rankings, and the news stories that come with them, quickly drop off newsfeeds and out of memory, leaving the real work of teaching and learning to go on as it has and will, often without much acknowledgement. It’s the ordinary work of the classroom, performed diligently by the professors and students who meet each other there.

What matters about something like “engagement” is what it looks like on the ground, in the flesh. Engagement, in the lives of students at Dordt, is a wild, growing, joyful thing—not something easily quantified. And like all kinds of learning, it can involve the pain of re-thinking, of letting go, of re-building.

The stories we tell on our pages are, ultimately, stories of engagement. Whether it’s students in this fall’s Agroecology course, trudging through wet pastures and learning from farmers, or it’s humanities majors exploring career options in Sioux Falls, or it’s students doing summer research alongside their professors—transformative learning continues, list or no list, ranking or not.


Aleisa Dornbierer-Schat