Possible Next Steps for Clusters

Do you like the idea of an integrated model for a university, but worry that we are too tired, confused, and/or distracted by organizational wheel-spinning to actually facilitate the exciting teaching and research that clusters promise our students and their families? This proposal attempts to be an unfussy way to tie up loose ends that are sapping our energy; immediately launch cluster majors and projects that are visible to students and designed around our real past successes; and provide limitless opportunities for continued development of new curriculum, new connections to General Education, and new learning experiences for our students.

Outline of Key Steps

  1. Slightly revise clusters to provide a new cluster for cross-cluster or otherwise nonconforming collaborations. Change Exploration & Discovery to SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY and add an eighth cluster: OPEN EXPLORATION, for collaborations that don’t conform to the seven existing themes. immediately
  2. Establish a Cluster Council: 8 faculty from across various disciplines and areas (including the sciences, the humanities, the fine/performing arts, the social sciences, professional studies). One person is the Cluster Coordinator and chairs (4 credits of release per semester). Modeled after IDS Council. Service work, but paid stipend for first semester’s extra start-up work. 1 month
  3. Establish 8 Customizable Cluster Majors: one for each of the 7 themed clusters. Cluster Coordinator convenes faculty groups from across AUs to create the major descriptions. Structure of the major follows IDS template, with courses selected by students; includes Foundations (2 credits), Cluster Learning Springboard (2), and Senior Sem (4). Each Customized Cluster Major approved by Cluster Council. Stop counting students in majors and start counting credit hours taught. IDS becomes the 8th Customizable Cluster Major (for Open Exploration). Build advising/administrative resource plan if Customizable Cluster Majors grow past 25 students. Build staged plan to explore core modules and option development in Years 2-3. 1 semester
  4. Build University Cluster Majors (Climate Studies, Forensics, Video Game thing, etc). Following approval by Curriculum Committee, approval by Cluster Council can add them to official list of Cluster Majors based on a rubric they develop. Cluster Council povides a starting template as a non-restrictive guide. Cluster Council facilitates conversations about supervision of interdisciplinary majors (ie- by Councils, by IDS, by Cluster Council?) ongoing
  5. Launch 8 Open Labs each year, one for each cluster. Open Labs are year-long projects that faculty apply for, which are selected annually by the Cluster Council, based on proposal they develop. They have budgets, can be homed in specific lab spaces if desired, are open to all students, and are required in cluster majors. They generate credits and are in-loaded to the faculty lead, but can also link to many other courses (especially TWP & INCAP) and events on campus. launch F22
  6. Shift administrative approach so that people and programs are no longer housed in clusters; clusters are a working place for curriculum development, scholarly and professional events, research, and projects. AUs remain (or become) the key space for the administrative faculty work of the university. Clusters center on majors, open labs, professional development events (like design sprints, workshops, and curriculum working groups), and academic events (like colloquia, keynotes, panels, and reading groups). launch F22


Create a more functional and informative Cluster Website to feature Cluster Council team, Cluster Majors, information about and examples of Cluster Learning, Open Lab projects, and other initiatives as they develop (minors, colloquia, events, lectures, etc.). This is already almost done for Cluster Learning, but wouldn’t it be great to put something clear together for the whole thing? launch F22

Need more info? Confused? Learn More in this Lightning Talk! This stuff was prepared by me, Robin DeRosa, but anyone can use these ideas, revise them, and move them forward. There are a lot of details to work out together, but I have draft plans for most of them, and you probably have even better ideas about how we could do it than I do. Let’s get it done.