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spacer spacer spacer spacer spacer May 21, 2009

Viewpoints: Academic excellence, experiential learning and the quintessential run at RIT

by Jeremy Haefner


There’s nothing like the proverbial ‘quintessential run’ outside on a beautiful sunny day. The Erie Canal path is one of my favorite places for such a run. For me, the quintessential run is the convergence of having fun, work and the satisfaction of tackling challenges that have real weight and impact. And this is what I think of when people ask me if I’m having fun in my new role as provost; I think of the quintessential run—a mixture of fun, work and satisfaction.

The RIT magnetic pull for me has always been from three sources—the vision for RIT to become a national, indeed international, university; the academic excellence of our programs; and, of course, the people who have made those programs what they are and who will help RIT achieve this vision. No one wants to settle for working at an institution that is comfortable with mediocrity. With its left-brain and right-brain programs, the presence of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and its highly successful co-operative student experience, RIT is poised to achieve the vision of becoming an international university. There is no mediocrity here.

To get us to this vision, the Board of Trustees and the president have set goals for the campus—goals that, once realized, will mark us as a truly international university.

Unsurprisingly, the Division of Academic Affairs plays a central role in all these goals. To connect these goals with our daily work, I often speak of eight—five institutional and three divisional—priorities. If we, as a division, work to advance student success, inclusivity, scholarship, innovation, international education, academic operations, academic program success and faculty success, we will ensure that the campus hits its targeted goals. Throughout this year, we have been working diligently on a number of initiatives that tactically support these priorities. And thanks to the hard work of students, faculty and staff, I am very happy to report that we have made substantial progress on all initiatives and many have been completed.

But it is fair to ask the question: After all the talk of vision, goals, priorities and initiatives, what will RIT look like as an international university? While no one can predict the future, it is my hope that RIT will be a preeminent 21st century leader for experiential learning. A place, or rather places, that the world will recognize for how students will absorb advanced knowledge and embrace life-long learning practices through experiences that transcend the classroom. Our co-op program is integrally woven in our RIT brand and we will make sure that this remains a foundation to our experiential learning of the future. But it is also the case that the institution of the future that excels in experiential learning will also provide undergraduate research, innovation and creativity, international and community learning experiences for our students. We have already begun to build foundations in these areas. Moreover, each of these five experiential learning domains—co-ops, undergraduate research, innovation and creativity, international education and community learning—map nicely across our goals and priorities. It is my hope that RIT will excel with a five-prong approach to experiential learning and in doing so find its place among the excellent national and international universities.

All of this requires hard work from everyone. But the excitement of the vision will keep it fun and our progress on this challenge will make the work satisfying. Sounds like a quintessential run to me. See you out ‘there!’

Haefner is provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at RIT.


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