Saint Mary’s series highlights perspectives of discovery
Katelyn Waldschmidt | Friday, February 10, 2023
Thursday afternoon, Saint Mary’s Division of Mission hosted the second installment of a talk series called “Landscapes of the Spirit: Profiles in Mission”. These talks feature different faculty members speaking on their experiences of different topics pertaining to the Saint Mary’s mission.
Thursday’s talk featured philosophy professor Patti Sayre and associate director of student equity Christin Kloski who spoke on Stories of Discovery.
Vice president of mission Julianne Wallace opened the lunch with a prayer based on reflections from Pope Francis, before introducing the two speakers.
Kloski spoke first, opening her speech with a quote from Pablo Neruda. “Someday, somewhere – anywhere, unfailingly, you’ll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life.” She then went on to talk about how she wants to look at discovery as ongoing, rather than “something found or completed.”
She then recounted her memories of her time as a Saint Mary’s student and in the South Bend community through three categories: discovery of herself, the universe and her place in it.
Kloski began her recount by laying out her situation when she first came to Saint Mary’s as a first year. She was a first generation student from a low income salary.
“What I didn’t know was even when you are away from home, you can never separate your college experience from your family,” she said.
She commented that her first memory of discovery came from receiving letters from student affairs and campus ministries after her grandfather passed away during her first semester.
“The discovery that I wasn’t just another student in the system, I was a person. A person who was seen and supported without any hesitation.”
In addition, Kloski volunteered for what is now known as the Office for the Common Good.
“In my first year, I volunteered in the college academy of tutoring program, though now known as the Office for the Common Good.”
Kloski discussed the program that gave her another moment of discovery and ignited her passion for giving back to her native South Bend community.
“I was reminded of my love for education, but also reminded how often we do not allow for communities to find and explore this love,” Kloski said.
Kloski spoke about how she thought that she had to go somewhere else to effectively help communities, but when a professor offered her an internship locally, she stayed. She began working at the Center for the Homeless.
“Before I knew it, I discovered another ‘aha’ moment; that even if I hadn’t left my hometown, I didn’t have to leave my community to find some where else and to serve somewhere else,” she said. “When I think about my slice of the universe, I think about my local community.”
Kloski talked about how she was questioned as to why she wanted to stay in South Bend.
“Instead of engaging in talks about moving or ideas to leave the city, I’d often bring up ideas that our city were starting,” she continued by saying, “It took me a while to celebrate my own hometown,” Kloski said.
Kloski stayed in South Bend and continued working on community projects. She talked about having hope for change when meeting with other community members with similar interests and ideas for improvements.
“I finally opened myself up to the idea that I could continue to call this place home,” she said. “For decades the west side has been seen as a bad neighborhood and was overlooked by those who even bothered to see it.”
Kloski then discussed her involvement in community outreach, especially focusing on the west side with West Side Lunches, a program dedicated to highlighting what the west side has to offer. In 2016, the first West Side Festival was hosted, which is now an annual event that continues to grow.
“In my discovery on the universe, I truly learned how to embrace my hometown and how to commit my livelihood to its betterment,” she said.
Kloski commented on how this led her to know that she is in the right place in life with her role in Saint Mary’s College, helping students as she wanted help when she attended college.
“I understand some of their experiences. I understand that the weight from family pressures and academic stress is heavy to take on alone,” Kloski said.
Kloski then asked that as everyone walked away today, to think about their place in Saint Mary’s and the universe.
Sayre followed with a slightly different approach to the idea of discovery. She started by talking about how most philosophers agree that there is no logic of discovery.
“There is no algorithm to discovery, there is no rubric or list of boxes that you can check off and if you check them all off properly and move through the sequence of things to do will guarantee you discovery,” she said.
“It’s sort of magical.” Sayre remarked. She then joked that she would probably disagree with Sister Madeleva’s famous quote “I promise you discovery”, as discovery can not be promised or guaranteed to happen.
“Madeleva is a poet so that means we probably shouldn’t read her all that literally,” Sayer commented.
Sayre says that it is probably closer to the idea of promising the spirit of discovery and space for it to be honored.
She then went on to discuss how she doesn’t understand why learning outcomes are so heavily focused upon in our curriculum as they guarantee learning things but also give boxes to check off which eliminate discovery.
“Despite the talk of learning outcomes, I think there is plenty of room here at Saint Mary’s still for the spirit of discovery,” she said. “I’ve noticed a change that it is harder for students to do creative, out of the box work.”
Sayre discussed how students are now able to move through rubrics well, but have done so for so long that they are dependent on learning outcomes to guide them in their thinking, instead of creative free thinking.
Sayre reflected on how she still sees students have discoveries in introductory courses through senior theses. She told stories of different classes that she had at all levels that all discovered something different, sometimes even discovering different things about the same text.
Sayre’s son is a ballet dancer and she compared the look of ballet dancers leaping and seemingly floating in the air to the same feeling of discovery. But just like ballet dancers spend hours training, academics spend hours thinking, discussing, writing “and you hope one day you fly,” she said.
The event wrapped up with a question and answer session, along with some small group discussions to have the audience reflect on the speaker’s stories and other opinions of discovery.
The next installment of the Landscapes of the Spirit series is March 29 and will focus on Stories of Women. Speakers will include director of athletics Julie Schroder-Biek and maintenance coordinator and assistant cross country coach Jess Biek.