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Dr. Andrew Seligsohn

Dr. Andrew Seligsohn kicked off the last day of the Institute by sharing his thoughts about Exemplary Action, University Engagement, and Student Development. Dr. Seligsohn began his presentation through explaining the importance of reviewing these three topics and how they relate to inequalities. Emphasize was placed upon economic inequalities and how it affects involvement in the political process. Economic inequality overlaps multiple identities including race, gender, and educational attainment. Dr. Seligsohn articulated that individuals experiencing economic inequality have diminished access to education and therefore are less likely to participate in changing public policy.

From here Dr. Seligsohn engaged the audience in two stories. One of which included a kayaking trip with his father on the Delaware River. He began the story with his family’s Jewish upbringing and conveyed how his father was raised in Germany during the peak of the Nazi regime. The story continued with his father’s experience of living through Kristallnacht, a series of attacks against individuals of the Jewish faith throughout Nazi, Germany. Throughout the attacks, Dr. Selgsohn’s father, 12 years old at the time, received many phone calls from individuals expressing their concern and genuine care for his safety. Dr. Seligsohn noted that the individuals who called risked their lives by speaking out against the Nazis. The story then flashed forward back to the trip on the Delaware River with Dr. Seligsohn’s father engaging an older German man in friendly conversation. Dr. Seligsohn concluded the story by stating that even though his father was raised to fear and despise German individuals, his father treated each German person he met as though they were one of the callers during Kristallnacht. His father loved the opportunity to work with others to maintain ethical values in the community. This exemplar motivated Dr. Seligsohn to continually invest in, and genuinely care about his community.

Implications were drawn from the stories told. Dr. Seligsohn expressed that actions matter. Because his father lead by example, Dr. Seligsohn began to act ethically even before learning to articulate the principle of ethics. This point was followed by Aristotle’s view on how individuals become ethical. Aristotle believed ethical behavior is learned through habituation and the individuals within communities instill ethical beliefs and values within one another through daily interaction.

Dr. Seligsohn then proposed a hypothesis that guided his presentation: “The degrees to which universities demonstrate commitment to public goods will affect the degree to which students develop positive civic values.” Following the introduction of the hypothesis Dr. Seligsohn proposed literature findings supporting his hypothesis such as a book titled “Where is the Learning in Service Learning?” and data found through the Personal and Social Responsibility Inventory (PSRI). Dr. Seligsohn used the PSRI data set to express that students believe contribution to a larger community, perspective taking, and ethical and moral reasoning should be a major focus of institutions, but college and universities do not focus on these topics as much as students think is necessary. Additionally, Dr. Seligsohn noted that as students move into their fourth year at an institution, the gap between what students think institutions should focus on and what the institution actually focuses on widens.

The presentation ended with implications for actions for University Leadership, Faculty and Staff, and Students.

University Leadership:

  • Commit to first generation and underrepresented students. Actively reach out to this population through partnerships with K-12 schools
  • Create a sustainable campus
  • Ending Sexual assault. This will send a strong signal showing how institutions value all students.
  • Building substantive partnership with the community.

Faculty and Staff:

  • Pursue coordinated projects across department and divisions
  • Seek community impact
  • Engage students in development and implementation

Students:

  • Organize for the engaged campus
  • Use establish channels to advocate
  • Press for equality and democracy over exclusivity
  • Pursue change not for yourself, but for your successors