Panel discussion promotes ‘depth of thought’

Panel discusses the connection between students and professors in the classroom. Photo by Amanda Frank/

Students and professors may want to reassess how they spend time in class in the wake of “Depth of Thought, Depth of Imagination: Challenging Superficiality,” an academic discussion held at Eckstein Hall Monday. The panel addressed the challenges of time and evaluations in Jesuit higher education.

The Rev. Michael Zampelli, a professor of theater at Santa Clara University in California, led the panel as a guest presenter.

University President the Rev. Scott Pilarz invited Zampelli to speak at the first academic gathering post-inauguration to continue exploring the challenges in education set forth in a 2010 address by the Very Rev. Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Society of Jesus.

Prior to discussing superficiality as an external factor, Zampelli said it is important for students and professors to look inside themselves and see how they have been affected by globalization.

“I must confess my fault, my fault, my most grievanced fault of preaching the globalization of superficiality,” he said.

He then asked the Marquette administrators present to confess their sins and experiences of superficiality.

Margaret Callahan, dean of the College of Nursing; John Su, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the English department; and Steve Blaha, assistant director of Campus Ministry, were part of a panel for the event and all shared their encounters with superficiality at Marquette.

Blaha said he finds the most challenge in committing himself to doing too much, instead of focusing on a few important relationships and the depth of ministry.

“(My schedule) is practically a game of Tetris … I find myself saying ‘yes’ a lot,” Blaha said.

He said he wants Campus Ministry to be centered around students — not programs — but he finds challenges in doing so.

“How am I helping them to take that next step, to move to a deeper peace?” Blaha asked.

Su said he experiences the same challenge in the classroom and confessed to the “sin of PowerPoint.”

Instead of focusing on the here and now of his students in the classroom, he said he often feels pressure to finish his PowerPoint and stay on course with his lesson plan.

However, he said the conversations that slow the pace of class are often more important.

Su said he could adjust his assessments of students to provide more room and reward for practice.

Zampelli also discussed the relationship between practice and performance. He related this to rehearsal in the theater. He said that in a rehearsal, everyone is in the moment and actors do not presume they are perfect.

“We are all in it together,” Zampelli said. “We need each other and that is quite clear to everyone in the rehearsal room.”

Unlike in rehearsals, he said that in his experience teaching, he is not sure if professors and students are in it together in the classroom.

Callahan said we can use more rehearsal mentality in the classroom. She said students enter out of high school and are expected to do everything right.

“We expect so much from 18-and 19-year- olds,” Callahan said. “It’s stunning to me.”

Jilly Gokalgandhi, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, asked how the university can help students who are afraid to fail because they must be concerned about GPAs.

Zampelli said using learning communities, working in groups and practicing with assignments helped him stay focused as a college student.

Stephanie Japczyk, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said all students are concerned with grades and GPAs. She said professors and students must work to create a better learning environment to have depth in a subject.

“It’s a two-way street,” Japczyk said.

Devin Curda, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said it is difficult to focus on one class at a time. He said he wants a balance so he can have breadth and depth in his studies.

After the discussion, Zampelli said he hoped students took away the ability to make breathing room in their schedules.

Pilarz agreed, saying his greatest fear is that students do not have time to simply think.

“It made me rethink my own (teaching) strategies,” he said.