Culture immersion lecture by honors professor

Abby Wojcik

Editor in Chief

The Honors Student Association held their Last Lecture event in Grupp at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 25. Dr. Timothy Wadkins gave a lecture on international culture immersion and the modern effects of higher education.

Dr. Wadkins is a Religious Studies and Theology professor in the Honors Program and originally came to Canisius in 1992.

“I’ve appreciated so much over the years being a professor in the honors program,” he said. “It is the best thing about being at Canisius College and working with honors students has been a tremendous fulfillment for me over the years.”

His lecture was structured as two stories. The first was brief generalization of the history of the modern world and then he gave his own “disenchantment” as a professor and educator.

Dr. Wadkins looked at how the modern world of increasing data and technology has facilitated a drastic change in organized education.

“Education became largely divorced from nature,” he said. “It became an indoor activity. It focused on an idea about things, rather than a physical encounter with the things themselves. For example, I could teach a whole semester on the untouchable caste of India without ever going to India.”

It also became about information rather than illumination, he differentiated. “An educated and smart person today is not one who is necessarily wise, but is one who does well on standardized tests and by virtue of these higher test scores can get into the more selective institutions of higher learning.”

He gave a personal story about his son who recently committed to a university. He recalled overhearing his son and his peers talking about which universities were the most selective and had the highest GPA requirements. He wanted to emphasize to the students in attendance that these things are not equated with wisdom.

He gives his position that immersing yourself in new environments and cultures are what can truly illuminate you about the subject you are learning about. This is why he’s developed various courses and programs that take students around the world.

His Seminar Series unusually takes place over one month during the summer where he leads Canisius students to a country in the Global South to conduct field research and analyze history and expressions of Christianity in that area. Such countries include the Philippines, Mexico, El Salvador, Southern India, and East Africa. Through the Institute for Global Engagement Dr. Wadkins also assists in the development of similar courses in other places.

Dr. Wadkins acknowledges the financial hardship and other obstacles in the way of these immersion experiences. While he encourages students to immerse themselves in different worlds, he is confined to the classroom and lecture halls.

“I feel trapped in a context that creates a vast canyon between the expert teacher and student learner,” he said. “I am troubled by the fact that the information my students take in will be flattened out into abstract propositions and framed according to my interpretation.”

He advises students to go somewhere, spend extensive time there and really become a part of that environment. Dr. Wadkins lectures this at the Last Lecture for the honors program.

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