the journey toward perfection: a status report

On Sept. 1, I posted a blog entry about the speaker at Fall Commencement, entitled food for thought. In it, I discussed speaker Michael Ruhlman's words, both during his speech and in his book, which was assigned as a common reading for all entering first-year undergraduates in August of 2007. The book is entitled The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection. One week later, an article about Fall Commencement was published in the Case campus newspaper, the Observer -- Soul of a Chef Author Addresses Case.

One week before, Mano Singham had also written about his reactions to the book, as a professor who teaches first seminars here at Case. He tells a bit of the story of how Ruhlman's book was selected as a common reading for Case first-year students, and outlines how he dealt with his initial lack of enthusiasm for reading the book. Professor Singham makes two important points which may be helpful reminders for students in MGMT 250: (click through to read more)

"Often you need to learn things that are artificial and contrived because they highlight important basics that you can then use for real-life complex problems. Many of the things you will do as students may seem arbitrary ... but they have a deeper purpose that may not be apparent at first."

"All knowledge is obtained by taking the words that are 'out there' in books and other sources and combining them with our own life experiences to construct our own meanings. This is why the discussions that you have in seminars and with your friends and companions at other times [are] so important to learning, because that is how we best figure what we believe and what books are saying to us. If your experience at Case ends up as a four-year-long in-depth conversation about ideas with other students and faculty, then you have got a real education."

Andrew Dotta's Observer article reminded me that Ruhlman's speech had focused on the journey toward perfection as well, and included a story about the lengths to which Ruhlman went, while he was researching his book, to convince his master chef that he was serious about learning to cook. (He was so serious that he drove through a blizzard to get to a cooking class.) At this point in the semester, the huge differences between my students in the lengths they are willing to go to in order to learn management are impressive. Most students are putting in long hours, both individually and in study groups or project teams, and are really investing in their education. I look forward to the last month of classes with great anticipation, because such investments foreshadow the promise of impressive rewards.

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