MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Thursday, September 4, 2014

September 4, 2014: Fall Forward: FSU Strategic Planning

[As I did a couple years back, I wanted to start the fall semester by highlighting a few of the things I’m working on and looking forward to this fall. I’d love to hear about what you’ve got going on for the final few months of 2014 as well!]
On the university service work that presents a pair of meaningful opportunities.
Every five years, Fitchburg State University, like every institution in the Massachusetts state system, has to create and submit to the state a new five-year Strategic Plan. The first step in that process is to break into subcommittees (working groups) that develop particular portions of the plan (which will then be reworked by the Steering Committee into a cohesive overall plan), and in the spring I volunteered to be a member of the Academic Values working group. We’ve begun our conversations over the summer, and those conversations have already yielded significant insights on two topics that extend far beyond FSU’s individual needs:
1)      We began our discussions by focusing on one meaning of Academic Values: how we, as an institution, define and value the criteria by which we evaluate faculty (teaching, advising, research/scholarship, and service). While the basics of those criteria are determined by our contract, there is lots of room within those definitions for an evolving sense of what each element comprises and how we evaluate them. To cite one example that’s obviously salient to my own work: should and how do we include and assess online scholarship and writing, work that’s likely not peer reviewed, as part of the research category? I believe that we should certainly include such work, but that would only be a first step toward defining and evaluating it in clear and consistent ways, and I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have on any aspect of those questions (or any other elements of faculty evaluations and performance).
2)      While I very much hope those discussions continue, in and outside of this working group, as the summer progressed our specific working group charge shifted, to a focus on the university’s Liberal Arts & Sciences curriculum and how it does or does not reflect what we see as our academic values (and what we can do to revise and improve it moving forward). Having served as our LA&S Council Chair for a couple of years, and having helped us develop and deploy our first assessments to measure the new LA&S program’s effects, I likewise feel a strong connection to this new charge, and to doing everything we can to define and strengthen the liberal arts component of an FSU education. To cite one issue about which I’m particularly passionate: our current LA&S curriculum does not include any language requirement, which means that many of our students graduate with a BS rather than a BA (which includes at least two semesters of a language). I believe that multilingualism and all it brings with it should be part of our core academic values, and look forward for the chance to make that case. And again, I’d love to hear what you would emphasize about an LA&S curriculum and the values it communicates.
Last fall plan tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What's on your autumn agenda?

2 comments:

  1. Multilingualism is a not only an asset to the student but is a core 21st Century Skill (a term I'm slowly growing to loath as this is often just equated to technology based education, but at core is a decent term). However, I would argue that attempting to educate a student in an additional language at 18, 19, or 25 (which is the average age of the FSU student) is like closing the barn door after the horse escaped. Multilingualism needs to start at a childhood endeavor. If you are hoping to inspire a love of another culture, great multi-cultural tolerance (another word that I just despise...if the best you can offer your fellow man is tolerance, you aren't doing a good job at being human) or if FSU's goal is simply to introduce students into a multicultural view of America then there are better way than asking someone to sit through Spanish I & II.
    I worry that I'm coming across a belligerently ignorant in this love to not educate. I would have loved to learn another language, but (and I really hate admitting this as people will think I'm stupid...well, stupid-er!) I'm learning disabled and learning languages is really difficult. Colleges and universities by and large do not have plans in place for students who, while determined and hard working, still have difficulties with processing. Trust me, I know. This comes from a lifetime of working twice as hard just to be a C+ student.
    Language courses could be are a great way to start a student looking at America as a non-English primacy world. But there are other ways to do this without compromising their curriculum or alienating processing deficient students. Perhaps, if the goal is multi-culturalism and not multi-lingualism then a new class or series of classes could be created to satisfy this.

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  2. Thanks for this thoughtful and important take, AnneMarie. I agree that one-size-fits-all approaches are problematic and likely to leave out particular communities of students (although such overarching approaches are also part of an LA&S curriculum, I suppose), and that it'd be important to consider and perhaps include multiple tracks/paths to address those different constituencies.

    Thanks again,
    Ben

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