Practical Examples for Plymouth State University

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Here are some practical ideas to go with the more theoretical vision I laid out in my 2014 talk at Plymouth State University, “Rethinking Student Engagement.”

How can we reintegrate knowledge so that the historically constructed boundaries between fields can be made porous?

  • Develop cooperative templated majors that partner multiple departments together, which students could select easily;
  • Create an centralized support system to grow the current IS-majors;
  • Reinvigorate current inter/multidisciplinary majors;
  • Centralize interdisciplinary programs (majors, certificates, minors, IS courses, INCOs, etc) to increase visibility, resources, and impact;
  • Examine and (re)define the role of interdisciplinarity in IS1111 and build a curricular framework which values interdisciplinary connections going forward from that foundation;
  • Educate faculty about the IS degree at PSU, and work to integrate IS majors into departments where appropriate in order to increase conversations around similar themes and material.

Can we insist on team-teaching in an institution that can’t figure out how to organize that?

  • Encourage team-teaching by resolving pay and workload issues;
  • Establish better cross-listing procedures;
  • Find ways to count team-taught courses in multiple majors.

Can we encourage interdisciplinary projects so students can not only get specific jobs, but so they can make new cultural shapes and create jobs that we can’t even imagine right now?

  • Create a systemic interdepartmental structure for interdisciplinary internships, practica, independent studies, projects, and service learning experiences;
  • Expand the ISC’s role to include support for such projects, including the resolution of logistical issues that arise with credits, faculty pay, etc.

Can we cohort students across majors and help them forge connections that will allow them to solve cultural problems together in the future?

  • Follow former PSU TF recommendations to expand cohorting on campus;
  • Cohort FYS and Comp and Math, and encourage faculty teams to develop curricular components that complement each other;
  • Build on FY cohorts by offering co-curricular student life programming structured on the cohorts;
  • Follow the cohorts into the upper-level with ongoing colloquia or group projects that ask students to bring distinct methodologies and expertise to bear on common challenges;

Can we open our scholarship, reevaluating tenure, promotion, and awards guidelines to reward not those who publish in elite presses or academic puppy mills, but those who disseminate their work publicly, share and collaborate, and find ways to use their work to make the world gentler, smarter, safer, wilder, more compelling, more just?

  • Offer curriculum development programs through IS that allow funding and time for faculty who want to work together across disciplinary boundaries on curricular units that will serve PSU students;
  • Host faculty discussions on the changing nature of “impact” in the academic world; develop policies informed by growing critiques of publishing culture and by new research in open access; revise P&T and Scholarship Award guidelines as needed;
  • Open an online PSU faculty research commons to allow the easy self-archiving of faculty research and to facilitate cross-department conversation and collaboration.

Can we reduce the costs of education by refocusing funds towards teaching and learning and away from corrupt publishers, carrot-dangling bell and whistle schemes to attract students, and overly complex and redundant institutional structures?

  • Does this directly help our faculty to teach? Does it directly help our students to learn? Encourage faculty to advocate for a clear, academic-driven vision for the spending algorithm;
  • Create an OER task force to develop a policy for the use of OER in courses in order to reduce the costs to attend college; educate faculty about the Budapest Open Access Initiative and other guiding policy movements; honestly assess the shortfalls in OER and work to address them;
  • In the wake of the union vote, reevaluate governance on campus; create a faculty-led exploratory committee to draft visions of a restructuring that would reduce redundancy, and place decision-making into a shared governance system driven by a clear educational mission.

Additional concrete suggestions to focus on reintegrating knowledge, engaged learning, and public access and service:

  • Craft a new mission statement focused on public access (low costs, OER and OA research, reducing paywalls, collaboration in the marketplace of ideas, public control of public education) and engagement with the region and the world (service learning, research, applied learning, problem-solving, interdisciplinary collaboration, project-based learning, customizable credit-bearing learning experiences, faculty dissemination of research, faculty-student collaboration, PSU-community collaboration, etc.).
  • redo the block schedule to increase flexibility so that courses can be structurally designed in a way that supports their curricular goals;
  • redo the credit system, eliminating seat time as sole (flawed) measure of work; consider a 4-credit model to allow for more engaged learning opportunities.

Key words: access (a public university), engagement (a university in action in the world), interdisciplinarity (a university that is agile enough to allow for innovation in its own organizational structure), and inquiry (a university that focuses as much on supporting new questions as it does in finding new answers).

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