A Model for Hope

A meeting of the minds proves what a special place Madison is

As I write this, the semester is half over at Edgewood College where, for the last dozen years or so, my friend and colleague Judy Adrian and I have co-taught a class in what was once the Human Issues Department. It is now considered a COR class. More on that in a moment.

Edgewood College is just a wonderful place to teach (and learn, I trust). And the current atmosphere on campus may be the best for teaching that I can remember. And I think I know why. First, back to COR. The name comes from Edgewood’s motto, cor ad cor loguitur, which is Latin for “heart speaks to heart.” Rooted in the Dominican tradition, COR is “the heart of the Edgewood general education program. COR encourages students to examine the connection between learning, beliefs and actions in order to build a more just and compassionate world.”

COR classes span all four years of a student’s life on campus and serve as that indispensible connection between academic pursuit and the surrounding world Edgewood graduates will one day serve. Kris Mickelson is the director and she is outstanding. And of course Edgewood’s terrific president Dan Carey’s support, vision and leadership are critical to COR’s success.

The class Judy and I teach is called “Madison: A Model City?” One hundred and one years after John Nolen published his visionary plan for Madison—called Madison: A Model City—we ask the question, is Madison a model city? And if not, could it be? We ask our students to tell us what they like—and don’t like—about cities, and we explore urban life through Madison-focused issues like the quality of our lakes, public safety, transportation and density, health care, schools and neighborhoods. We devote one class to media issues and we force them to read this magazine. Judy is a real teacher, by the way, and I like to think we complement each other’s interests and teaching styles.

Anyway, we both like to expose our students to folks whose jobs are to work on these issues. In addition to the trip to Raymond Road to meet with WISC-TV3, Madison Magazine and Channel3000.com reporters, editors and managers, guest lecturers over the last couple of years have included then-mayor Dave Cieslewicz and then-county executive Kathleen Falk, city planning director Steve Cover, Urban League president and CEO Kaleem Caire, former police chief/now Rev. David Couper, folks from St. Vincent de Paul and the Goodman Community Center, participants in the Voices Beyond Bars program and the amazing and inspirational survivor Jackie Millar. What strikes me as significant about all this is the willingness of every one of these folks to give the students their time, knowledge and wisdom. These are busy people with big responsibilities. And to a person they have generously agreed to spend a few hours with fifteen young adults from Edgewood College.

To be sure, Edgewood welcomes these community leaders. The college has become something of a model itself for the diversity of its student body and for including non-teacher teachers on the faculty. The result is a dynamic and mutually beneficial sharing of curiosity, knowledge and life experiences. But it wouldn't happen without the commitment by some of Madison’s smartest people to share their time and talents. And in return we get—hope. Former governor Jim Doyle co-teaches a class right after ours with political science professor Bill Duddleston. As we were talking before his class one day, Doyle allowed as to how much he enjoyed the experience. “I just find it hopeful being with these young people,” he told me. Exactly. It’s a meeting of the minds that proves what a special place Madison is and how special it can still be.

Neil P. Heinen is editorial director of Madison Magazine.

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