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Office of the President

Salon #1: February 6, 2014

Reading: Derek Bok, Higher Education in America, Princeton University Press, 2013

Conversation Summary:

There was:

  1. Serious and pleasurable appreciation for the opportunity to read, think, and engage deeply, and at a high and principled level, with the question of what a university is, what our university is, and about how best to ensure that it realizes its essential goals.
  2. Far-reaching consideration of what those essential goals are, and the degree to which they are being, or will continue to be achieved by present curricular commitments.
  3. Honest and open questioning about whether present strategic planning might be at risk of retaining outdated, collegiate- and silo-driven conceptions of "career", without addressing the accounting and administrative impediments to creating much more flexible constructions, cross-disciplinary majors, cross-disciplinary cap-stone projects, and more flexible and hybrid notions of "career."
  4. Wide ranging discussion of what "career" will mean in the increasingly mutating, networked, and creative contexts of the future—i.e., considerable focus on whether the career-oriented language, as found in RIT's strategic planning drafts, branding, and culture, captures adequately:
    1. a concern for the depth of academic engagement students need most ("career-   education does not equal depth");
    2. whether our conception of "career" is being integrated effectively with and understood in the context of the goals of the general education curriculum;
    3. whether "career" is being reconsidered in light of the many related qualities of learning—adaptability, cross-modal critical thinking and analytic skills, written and other communicative and presentational competencies, etc.—that students will need most after they get their first job and hope to realize aspirations of growth into positions of leadership.
  5. Concern for whether the relative speed of the present strategic planning process will facilitate sufficiently deep questioning or serious re-envisioning of what RIT needs to do.
  6. Some questioning of, even some mirth in response to, the retention of  the "left brain, right brain" metaphor to capture the range, collaborative potential, and cognitive sophistication of the many intellectual and creative dimensions of RIT.
  7. Much exploratory conversation about whether and how the basic tripartite curricular structure (major + gen. ed. + electives) works, either as political compromise (it keeps the present system in place) or as an educationally integrating experience (would our stakeholders affirm that it achieves the goal of integration and supports the future development of graduates).
  8. Much positive brainstorming about and cataloguing of ways successful cooperation, collaboration, integration, and relationship-building have occurred, despite the feeling that our present accounting practices and admin. structures often impede them. Constructive sharing of the kinds of domain-crossing and silo-crossing activity that has occurred and that is difficult, not so much to initiate, but to sustain.
  9. Much enthusiasm to continue the vigorous and positive discussion.

We very much look forward to seeing you on the 20th; we look forward to welcoming those who couldn't join us last week!