University of Saint Joseph Professor of English Catherine Hoyser’s recent research about the ways circles of connection develop creativity has resulted in publication of a book chapter titled “Stepping off the Edge: Circles of Connection and Creativity for Wellbeing in the Academy,” Hoyser, C. E. (2022), in N. Lemon, Ed. “Creative Expression and Wellbeing in Higher Education: Making and Movement as Mindful Moments of Self-care.” Routledge.
Professor Hoyser said “The importance of creativity is that it is renewing. Stepping out of one’s routine, making connections with others, enlarges the circle of connections and fresh ideas that renew that creativity.”
Professor Hoyser explained that her research started in just such a serendipitous way. She presented at a professional conference about what she does with her students to encourage them to reflect on a text—to reflect on what they feel about the text before going to the analytical level, “because the benefit from recognizing one’s response to a text this way is a combination of mind, body, and spirit. From that initial conference presentation, I met several colleagues from other institutions who were also interested in holistic education, and this enlarged my circle of connection further.” These connections resulted in a co-edited collection with Maureen P. Hall, Professor of Education, UMASS—Dartmouth and Associate Professor of Art Education Jane E. Dalton, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, (2019) “The Whole Person: Embodying Teaching and Learning through Lectio and Visio Divina.” Rowman & Littlefield.
According to Professor Hoyser, stepping off the edge means encouraging people to try to do something different, encouraging others in the profession who feel stuck or discouraged in class or with the values of their institution to try their creativity.
“The process helps them cope with that dissonance and encourages them to connect with others.” She credited educational theorist Palmer Parker for his work on issues in education, including holistic education and burnout in the teaching profession.
Professor Hoyser’s circle of connections has continued to bear fruit, including another publication—this time with Associate Professor of Art Education Jane Emily Dalton at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Together they published an article “Creative and Collaborative Expression as Contemplative Self-care,” in N. Lemon, (Ed.), “Healthy relationships in higher education: Promoting wellbeing across academia,” pp. 13-26. Routledge.
Professor Hoyser’s work is flourishing on other fronts, too. A poem, “The Poetry Institute Library,” is forthcoming from Mid-Atlantic Review, Winter 2022, and she is developing creative workshops combining Lectio Divina, a four-step process, with a generative poetry response that helps participants respond to texts in more mindful ways.
Just as with the holistic approach to reading a text, Professor Hoyser’s USJ students have responded positively to the four-step Lectio Divina process. One of the steps in the process of responding to a text directs each pair of students to create a story based on the other’s response to a text. Although the students had done group work in the class already, the work had seemed transactional to them. Professor Hoyser shared that one student told her she had not consciously considered the humanity of the person sitting next to her in class until they were paired up in the Lectio Divina workshop.
Professor Hoyser said “I’m grateful to USJ for providing the essential faculty development funds to be able to go to conferences and to take workshops, as I did at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Those opportunities have been essential to developing this work that I bring back to the classroom and to the academy.”