Faculty spotlight on Dr. Michel Coconis

Learn more below about Dr. Michel Coconis, Affiliated Faculty in the Bachelor of Science with a major in Social Work.

Q. What excites you about being a part of higher education?

A. It is a privilege to give back in the environment that provided me with so much growth and inspiration – my spirituality, my formal education, my critical thinking, my awareness of social justice in light of injustices, my emotional maturity, my understanding of the wider world beyond my hometown, and the opportunity to work with, laugh with, cry with, fight with, and engage with so many people and ideas. Again, that is a privilege. I’ve attended and worked in both large public universities within large programs with BSW, MSW, and Ph.D. programs and small, religious-affiliated universities with BSW-only programs and have loved almost every minute of it.

Q. What attracted you to become a part of the Union family?

A. Like so many opportunities, especially for women, I was asked. A Union colleague and I ran into each other at a local social justice event related to the death penalty (my field of study and professional engagement) after meeting at several professional conferences. I had the time and the interest and she said Union had an opening and I was ready to try meeting the challenges found in fully online programs – something I had yet to try with the universities I mentioned being a part of above. So, ask a woman – to work with you, to run for office, to support your campaign, to help, and after all of that, then ask in a meeting if she would like to take notes – something I have been asked many times. But being asked to join Union, was the most recent compliment and acknowledgement of my work in the social work profession to date.

Q. If you could have any job in the whole world, what would it be?

A. I should probably reply “university professor” or “social worker” for this answer but I think life is more complex because any job in the “whole” world is a different question from any job in “this” world or “my ideal” world because in the latter, frankly, I imagine we do with each other in times of need and that those times would be rare indeed. That is the world I am working towards now – one of restorative justice thinking rather than punitive thinking; one of compassion, rather than swift judgment; and one of contentment and personal and global peace rather than constant competition in a world framed by scarcity when there is abundance. So, whatever the title of that work is, that is what I would do. Oh, wait, that title is “social work college professor-advocate”!

Q. What surprises people about you?

A. How good people are if you try to catch them at it. I think people are funny, witty, clever, hopeful, optimistic, content, and good. I love that this is part of the dichotomous thinking though I do wish there were far less of that type of thinking as it boxes us all in, limits our creativity, and so forth. But I do believe people are basically good. When I hear that someone feels bad about themselves for being duped, I feel that they were good – they gave freely and when that is disadvantaged, it hurts but if it weren’t in the world at all? I think that is a much more grim view of the world. Media, gossips, and others take the grim approach and it fuels so many decisions made in our society – both personal decisions and policy choices. I choose to believe in the value of human “goodness.”

Q. What is your favorite book, and why?

A. I want to say something large and feminist here; however, I am going to go smaller because the lessons in the book are many and I think still worthwhile. The book is Robert Fulghum’s “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon thoughts on common things.” I often read from this book in my face-to-face classes but, interesting, I’ve yet to share in my courses I teach at Union so this article reminds me of the value of those readings even in our unique online setting.

*Share everything. *Play fair. *Don’t hit people. *Put things back where you found them. *Clean up your own mess. *Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. *Wash your hands before you eat. *Flush. *Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. *Live a balanced life-learn some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. *Take a nap every afternoon. *When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. *Be aware of wonder.