The position will "provide campus-wide leadership in applied critical thinking and will work with faculty across the university to more fully integrate critical thinking into existing and new curricula," Sheffield says.
He will be working directly with the committee for general education, the University Writing Program and faculty from different departments across campus, as well as alumni and business leaders.
This unique position was made possible by an anonymous RIT alumnus who was personally inspired by Professor Eugene Fram after a single class with him over 35 years ago. The alumnus chose to honor Fram, who taught at RIT 51 years and is currently the J. Warren McClure Research Professor Emeritus of Marketing, by establishing the chair in hopes that other students would gain advanced critical thinking skills during their studies at RIT.
Through the new position, Sheffield hopes to help students challenge their beliefs, to reflect on what they know, how and why they know, and to question their values. He feels that critical thinking can assist graduates to better face uncertainty and change, as well as to ask the appropriate questions in order to recognize what they don't already know.
"It is not just something that will help them in the classroom, but it's something that will follow these students for the rest of their lives." states Sheffield. "Learning is a lifelong process and critical thinking can help our students understand that the world can't be seen from just a single point of view, that different perspectives are vital."
While the next three years without teaching will be very tough for Sheffield, who loves the classroom and interactions with students, he has no regrets about accepting the position. He feels very honored to have been chosen, and he recognizes the importance and challenges of what lies ahead.
"If our graduates can be known as exceptional critical thinkers, in addition to their other remarkable skills and talents, then all of us will have succeeded."