Category Archives: Habits and Virtues

This category discusses habits of mind and intellectual virtues that core curricula instill and develop in students.

Honor, Star Wars, and You

Thank you President Krueger, for your generous welcome. And now I address you, regents, faculty, parents, and family here gathered, and especially the graduating class of 2019. We rejoice with you this day as things begin – a commencement is a beginning, an initiation, a start, an origin, the first step of things to come, things that commence from this point forward. We are all about origins, being a people who are not averse to the risks entailed in digging into the  questions of origins – the origin of life in the medical sciences, the origin of the world in our theological formulations, the origins of the English language and the modern state, the origins of my personal psychology and my motivations to think the way I do, the origin of that wrinkle, that age spot, that ache in my aging bones. And today, that origin of a life outside of undergraduate education, the life that some call the real world, the life of vocation, the higher and honorable calling of being a wise and honorable and cultivated citizen, in your home, your family, your business, your church, your city and community, your state, your life that commences today, day one. Continue reading Honor, Star Wars, and You

What Do You Believe?

What do you believe? This is not a question that we ask each other too often. It is a question that we admittedly shy away from. It carries a weight of intimacy and judgment, interest and criticism. Or at least it does out there. At Concordia University Irvine, we’ve been asked that question since day one. What do you believe?

A Harvard graduate, speaking at his own graduation a few years ago, had a very accurate observation about the state of our society. Continue reading What Do You Believe?

The Gift of Reading

“Not being a sound sleeper (for book-loving men seldom are), he elected to use as a bedroom one of the two chambers which opened at either side into the library. The arrangement enabled him to beguile many a sleepless hour amongst the books …” — E. G. Swain, “Bone to His Bone”Box of BooksRecently, my daughter and son-in-law took their extended family of twelve on a trip to our home country of South Africa. I went through my library and gathered up about forty- five books, ranging in genre from memoir to fiction, but all with the basic theme of having been written by African authors. Continue reading The Gift of Reading

Today You’re at Bree

Middle Earth Map

President Krueger, honored guests, distinguished faculty, staff, and administrative colleagues, friends and family members, and most of all to you, the Concordia University Irvine graduating class of December 2017:

I stand here acutely aware of two things:

  1. I am the last thing standing between you graduates and your diplomas; and
  2. Because of item 1, it is extremely unlikely that you will remember anything I say here today.

I’ve been a member of Concordia’s faculty for more than 25 years.  I’ve attended every commencement ceremony organized by the university during that time except one, and to be honest, I only really remember two graduation speeches: Continue reading Today You’re at Bree

Turning Statues of Stone into Humans with Hearts

Pygmalion and Galatea by Giulio Bargellini (1875-1936)
Pygmalion and Galatea by Giulio Bargellini (1875-1936)

This address was delivered by C.J. Armstrong at Concordia University Irvine’s graduation ceremony on May 7, 2016.

President Krueger, it is an honor to have been asked to deliver the commencement address this year. For this I thank you. And I repeat the welcome to our distinguished guests, our honorees, the regents of our university, my fellow faculty, the parents, family and friends of our graduates. But above all my hat is off to the Concordia University Irvine graduating class of 2016.

It’s a special honor for me because it wasn’t too long ago that my hat was on here, when I walked across this stage at the Bren Center, graduating from University of California, Irvine after a lengthy study of the greatest poet ever born on earth, Ovid, who died on this very day, give or take a month or two, one year shy of 2000 years ago. You know Ovid: he’s the poet who told all those wonderful mythological stories in the Metamorphoses about people turning to stone through divine retribution or bad luck, and even a couple who change from statues into real human people. You know, like the story of Pygmalion, who didn’t like any of the girls in his class so he made a statue of a woman and prayed to the gods that he might love someone like his ivory girl; he kissed the statue and it came to life. What a story!

I might ask, what does a classicist like me, someone who reads mythology and talks to dead guys like Ovid all day long, have to share with you graduates? Continue reading Turning Statues of Stone into Humans with Hearts

Avoiding Lopsided Vocationalism

This is the final post of a three-part essay on the vocation of a student.

What we have examined so far is that college students are first and foremost called to study; this is directly implied in the title “student.” Yet, college students arrive on the doorstep of the university already having grabbed hold of multiple vocations. They have families with whom they are very involved. They have jobs that provide them the ability to pay for some of their daily needs. They have friends that mean more to them than many in older generations can imagine. Many of these students participate in sports and athletic endeavors, and are highly loyal to those social organizations. In other words, even as students arrive at college, they are loaded down with multiple responsibilities that will, inevitably, influence their academic pursuits.

Often times, these pursuits will come into conflict. Continue reading Avoiding Lopsided Vocationalism

How Can You Serve Your Neighbor As a Student?

This is the second post of a three-part essay on the vocation of a student.

How can a student serve her neighbor? You might immediately jump to the idea of service projects or mission trips. True, these are ways to love others while being a student. But a person can do those quite apart from being a student. So the question still remains: how can a student love others through her calling as a student? Continue reading How Can You Serve Your Neighbor As a Student?

What Does It Mean to Be a Student?

This is the first post of a three-part essay on the vocation of a student.

What does it mean to be a student? Several responses can be given to this simple, yet complex, question. The place to begin with is the observation that to be a student—like to be a daughter or a son, brother or sister, friend or citizen—is to have a vocation. This is apparent in the fact that a university has accepted a person’s application for enrollment. In doing so the university calls the applicant, placing upon her the honorable and holy vocation of student.

It might sound strange to say that being a student is honorable and holy, but it is. It is much more than, as many people think, a path to a profession or financial well-being. Continue reading What Does It Mean to Be a Student?

Why Is College Valuable?

There has been a big push in the past few years—mostly from politicians, op-ed pundits, and tech venture capitalists—to make sure that college is valuable to students and their communities. This is understandable as the cost of a college degree can be expensive, the last educational investment before launching into a career. So, what makes college valuable? It depends on whom you ask, but not all answers are equally valuable. Continue reading Why Is College Valuable?

Making Higher Grades and Better Progress toward Graduation with a Merit-based W

Progress (2)This is the last post in a three-part series on a merit-based W.

In two previous posts I argued that making the W merit-based helps students take their classes—including liberal arts courses—more seriously as “real world” work with real consequences and helps them develop the vital virtues of responsibility, merit, and integrity. In this final post, I will show that a merit-based W also helps students raise their grades and make timely progress toward graduation, which saves students money.

One would think that by instituting a merit-based W that more students would receive Ds ad Fs, which would lower their GPA and hurt their scholarships. The fact is that the opposite is true.   Continue reading Making Higher Grades and Better Progress toward Graduation with a Merit-based W