Sensing Journey with Phoebe Heretz

Eddy Sensing Journey by Sarah Wyman, Director of the Faculty Development Center and Associate Professor of English 
with Phoebe Heretz, Physics Major and Sustainability Ambassador
April 15, 2021 

  1. Listening to others: to what the people you meet are offering to you: we walked in the Mill Brook Preserve for an hour on a Mind, Body, Spirit day. 
  1. Listening to yourself: to what you feel emerging from within. 

Desire or impulse to find connection by sharing my similar experience, but holding back and listening until the end. Emergence of shared fascination with when people are ready to learn, how and why that openness and curiosity come to the fore. Phoebe and I both seem to appreciate this in ourselves (when it happens) and want it to happen for others. 

  1. Listening to the emerging whole: to what emerges from the collective and community settings that you have connected with. 

A shared reverence for the speed of skunk cabbage growth; enjoyment of the texture left by beaver teeth, streams and stone walls (Earth is our community). An acknowledgement of paths that turn and shift, literal and figurative. 

Phoebe’s move from music composition to astrophysics – thinking beyond limits or expectation. 

Recognition of some positive pandemic outcomes: recorded lectures, remote learning. 

Acknowledgement of scale – our miniscule but important lives in the grand scheme of things (cosmos). 

Phoebe’s nice van full of her boyfriend’s energetic chaos (skateboards, tools, tires, music gear, etc.) 

Sensing journey questions: 

What personal experience or journey brought you into your current role?   

Phoebe, an older undergraduate working on a second B.S. degree, talked about her erlebnis event watching a Carl Sagan re-run where he showed a view of the earth from space, the “pale blue dot” “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam” and crying while her partner slept on the couch. She discussed her first undergraduate experience at SUNY Purchase as a Music major. During that time, she was not academically grounded due to youth and social anxiety, yet how now she is extremely focused on her studies in Astrophysics. I could tell she liked saying that word astrophysics and I admit I was surprised to hear it after her stories leading up to it when I was picturing a northern Taylor Swift like my own daughter. 

Phoebe’s current roles, which took a while to define: older undergraduate Physics student, Sustainability Ambassador, En-roads presentation co-coordinator, thanks to Andrea Frank’s wonderful model grounded in the body and mindfulness practice, working with Lisa Mitten, educator, leading her own astronomy event for the public. 

What issues or challenges are you confronted with?    

Lack of adequate time. Student apathy about their own learning.  Difficulty learning Calculus at first; then success. Phoebe works 70 hours/ week and takes 12 credits.   

Why do these challenges exist?   

Students are not aware of the why are we doing this? Or they are not able to care about it. Pandemic. 

What challenges exist in the larger system?  

Educators do not always make the purpose or goal of learning evident to the students. Time. Money – cost of tuition and of living expenses. People do not know sustainability work can be woven into mainstream, money-making jobs. Fear caused by global pandemic. 

What are the blockages? 

Phoebe seemed to be in a peaceful space, and we did not quite make it to a “helicopter view” on the SUNY NP system discussion. 

What are your most important sources of success and change?  

Returning to school has been very positive. Her age made work in the music industry more challenging, but academic learning more manageable. The social anxiety that made college very difficult the first time around, is now mostly gone.  She is much more motivated by opportunities for ACTION rather than “doom and gloom” stories when it comes to working for greater sustainability. 

What would a better system look like for you?   

People feel connected and heard. People know, like she does now, that even for-profit companies can be deeply involved in sustainability projects.  

What initiative, if implemented, would have the greatest impact for you?  

For the system as a whole? Recorded lectures should always be an option. (But we are still thinking about institution-level initiatives). 

If you could change just a few elements of the system, what would you change?  

She would encourage educators to help make students aware of why they are learning the things they are learning. 

Who else do we need to talk to? 

I forgot to ask this, but Phoebe asked towards end about the Eddy and I explained about the “stakeholder interviews” and sensing journeys. 

Sarah’s debrief: 

  • What was most surprising or unexpected?  

The very large-scale (to me) connection between astrophysics and sustainability. I felt like we were zooming in and out between the universe and the dust motes or trout lily leaves I was proud to identify from an earlier visit. 

  • What touched me? What connected with me personally? 

Resonating with a remembered moment of finding myself, Roxbury NY, as Phoebe did, leaving NYC for New Paltz – setting out alone and the importance of that landing place – her house with an attic window overlooking the woods; mine in a Catskill farmhouse in 1988. I did not share this, as I tried to maintain deep listening and minimal reflection.  

Phoebe reminded me of one of my daughters (physically, needing more time to evolve and grow, as probably all of us do, musical) so I found an additional personal investment in this conversation learning from models, looking at possibilities about 8 years further along from my own child’s journey. 

Some sense of loss or pain over past difficulties that still deserves attention and processing. 

Learning from and wanting to resonate more strongly with her positive attitude and sense of relief. 

Consciously letting her lead by walking a bit behind on the narrow path. 

  • If the social field (or the living system) of the visited organization or community were a living being, what would it look and feel like?  

I would like SUNY NP to be a version of the Mill Brook Preserve, all connected and safe feeling. But Phoebe, who first lived right beside it when she left NYC for New Paltz, said these woods and swamps are creepy at night. She could see the forest from her attic window on Mannheim Blvd. 

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