Dr. Joel Mann

Director of the Honors Program

From the Desk of the Director


I was informed by our Chief Editor, Janelle Knick, that possible topics for this installment of From the Director included the new semester, my new haircut, and our recent Honors Global Seminar to the Philippines.


The three are inseparable, of course, so I will discuss them all.


First, the haircut, which was done in the Philippines because of the Philippines. It is considerably warmer in the Philippines, which is very near the equator, than it is in Northeast Wisconsin. Short hair helps. The Philippines is also considerably more conservative, culturally speaking, than the United States. In the event that Fitz or Rick—um, I mean, an Honors student—happened to find him or herself in hot water, I’d like to make sure that I’m as credible as possible when I negotiate a…solution. And, as it turns out, longer hair is harder to deal with during a volcanic eruption: more to catch fire, harder to wash ash out of, and so on.


Of course, sometimes one needs a change. One needs to try something different. One learns about oneself, regardless of whether the change in question is, in the final reckoning, a failure or a success.


The Global Seminar itself was pretty incredible. We learned a lot about taste; we learned a lot about waste, namely, the many forms that waste takes when producing something for mass consumption. We can waste money. We can waste space. We can waste resources. Most tragically, we can waste the lives of real people.


This waste happens because we conceive of so many of our experiences as acts of private consumption divorced from the world in which we all live. This is true not only of coffee or chocolate or coconuts, but of classes, lectures, social groups, health care, entertainment, and just about everything else. That’s “natural,” of course, especially in a free market system. We’re encouraged to think of ourselves as rational agents making discrete choices about what to acquire and control for ourselves. And, frankly, to really consider the water and soil we are consuming with that cup of coffee, the manual and intellectual labor that went into producing your favorite Netflix Original Series, and the years of education that made even a single class lecture possible…that would be overwhelming.


And yet, we, as Honors students at a Catholic, Norbertine, liberal arts institution, are called to be overwhelmed, because we are the ones who can handle it. You can handle it. You have to. Because you’re all we’ve got.


To an overwhelming new semester!


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