Dear friends – and students – and new Bronco alumni!

It’s graduation season, and I love the privilege of watching my students cross the stage in caps and gowns.  (And I get hugs too).  I’m so proud of these wonderful young people, and I truly believe they’re going to enter the world and accomplish great things.

The commencement ceremony marks a rather strange moment in time – it’s an ending, and a beginning.  It’s a time of accomplishment, but also a launching pad into the unknown.


During the ceremony, students are told (and this language will also appear on their diplomas) that they are granted their degrees “with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities pertaining thereto.”  The rights and privileges are pretty easy to understand, but the responsibilities?  A degree comes with responsibilities?

Yes, it does.

A degree from our institution marks you as a public intellectual.  It’s a public statement that you have received instruction in a variety of subjects, and have attained a certain level of proficiency.  One of my professors in grad school explained it this way:  It means you now have a responsibility to take part in your community, to use your knowledge for the betterment of your world, to speak out.  Having a degree gives you credibility, with institutional backing.  You abdicate your responsibility to the rest of us if you take your new knowledge, and go hide in a cave.

I hope our new alumni will embrace this responsibility, along with the rights and privileges that come with those brand-new degrees.  Congratulations!  Now go and take part in your world.


Dr. Hamel



Life update

Dear friends,

I spent most of this week working on my book manuscript.

Why?  So many reasons.  Because I can write, because this stuff matters, because I have a contract, because the publisher keeps sending me reminders.  Mostly because I want my students to be able to connect theory with a well-lived life.

It’s a huge privilege to have something to say, and an outlet through which to say it.  That fact is not lost on me.

We WILL get this published for fall.  Yes.




Put down the camera and engage

Dear friends,

It’s become a common sight at concerts, events, celebrity appearances – even kids’ recitals.  Expect to see it a lot at this summer.  I’m talking about this:

Image result for audience holding up cell phones

I’m “old school” – a member of the last generation who will remember life before the internet – but this particular social phenomenon dismays me.

I remember attending “Skate America” prior to the Sochi Olympics, and “Stars on Ice” later that year.  Many audience members chose to watch the performances through the viewfinders on their phones, rather than directly with their eyes.  I understand the desire to capture the moment so you can relive it later, but I’m sure many of these folks also wanted to record the performances to show to friends – “I was there.  I was in the room.”

What troubles me is how this removes us from the moment when it’s happening.  Not only are we one step removed from the experience when watching it through a viewfinder, but we’re objectifying the performance and the person, rather than enjoying a feeling of connection.  There’s an element of humanity we’re missing here.

(I should note that I have similar feelings about autographs and “me with celebrity” selfies.  I’d much rather have a handshake, a hug, a conversation).

Image result for audience holding up cell phones

It’s fun to be “in the room” and to be able to relive that moment and share it with others.  But for me, it’s much more gratifying to be “in the moment,” and to feel it all – a connection with others, an appreciation, a sense of wonder.

I encourage you to be “in the moment” during your upcoming holidays.  Connect with people.  Life authentically.



The end of binary thinking

Dear friends,

I am so thoroughly sick of binary thinking – the kind of either/or, black/white logic that says:  We either do x, or y will happen.  It goes something like this:

We either arm teachers, or kids will continue to get shot in school.

We either institute punitive border policies, or “undesirables” will come flooding in.

We either do things our way, or all hell will break loose.

I try – on a daily basis – to develop my students’ critical thinking skills.  I teach them to question the status quo.  If, after careful thought, they still think the status quo is right, I’m fine with that.  I just want them to question things.  I want them to be skeptical about either/or thinking.  I want them to look at the things they take for granted, and poke ’em with a stick.

My hope for us all:  Don’t blindly accept what you’re told, even if it comes from “your” side.  Think deeper.  Question.  Decide for yourself, not because someone says so.  Test everything against your own education, experience, and the spirit within you.

I have faith in you, in myself, in us.





Dear friends,

Today I’m pondering the various understandings we have of “belonging,” and how that can change throughout our lives.

I think there are two kinds of belonging:  The kind where you’re craving acceptance and longing to “fit in,” and the kind you can relax into, knowing that you are accepted for who you are.

In the first kind of belonging (shall we call it “belonging one?”), we are willing to change ourselves in order to be accepted into the “mainstream,” whatever that might be.  Most of us remember behaving this way in our school years – we had to wear the right thing, use the right slang, hang out with the right people in order to “belong.”  In “belonging one,” you dare not show your true self, for fear of rejection.  It’s an act, and doesn’t bring real peace, even though it seems like it should.

Image result for robert palmer simply irresistible

In time, many of us mature into “belonging two” –  we still long for a sense of community with others, but we’re not willing to sacrifice our own uniqueness.  Instead, we long for our uniqueness to be embraced, even celebrated, by a few select others who understand us on a deep level.  “Belonging two” is a comfortable place, where we are free to be authentic without fear of rejection for superficial things.

Image result for big hug people

When you truly belong to someone, they also belong to you.  It’s not about possessing someone else, but rather, recognizing that we are part of one another, and assuring each other that we are safe.  You don’t have to give up anything, any part of who you are.  You can bring it all to the party.  You’re worthy as you are, right now.

This kind of belonging is hard, until it becomes easy.  I think we have to get “belonging one” out of our systems before we can truly enjoy a life of “belonging two.”  It doesn’t happen for everyone, but I hope it happens for you, and that you can gather a tribe around yourself that gives you a safe place to land, even when you aren’t perfect.

Especially when you aren’t perfect.


Winnie and the Professor

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Life at the moment 4-12-19

Dear friends,

As we approach the end of the semester, life here at the university gets crazy-busy.

Right now, I have a couple of hundred of papers to grade, three grad students and one undergrad honors student going through thesis defenses, along with events and meetings galore.  Next week is the last week of classes, the week after that is finals.  Then the summer session starts (and I’m teaching then, too).

I’m also writing a book that’s long overdue to the publisher, so I’m plugging away on that.

Last week’s conference set me back a bit, but was a hugely rewarding experience.

What’s going on in your life at the moment?



Image may contain: Annette Hamel, smiling, eyeglasses and indoor