New Provost and Dean of the College Eric Boynton Talks New Channels Program and Plans for Academic Engagement
On June 1st, the Beloit College website announced the hiring of former Allegheny College chair and Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Eric Boynton in the role of Provost and Dean of the College. According to the Beloit College website, under the newly-created title of Provost and Dean of the College, Boynton “will oversee all college operations directly pertaining to academic programming, faculty, and academic administration.” The Round Table sat down with Boynton to discuss his plans for upholding a high academic standard at Beloit and the new “channels” programs currently under development.
Boynton described the job of the Provost as setting “the vision for the institution and the trajectory for the faculty and staff” and how this will show up for students “in the kinds of courses that are offered and the ways in which staff will speak to students.” Boynton also shared that “one of the things I was hired to do was think about the integration of academic affairs with student life” and that he hopes to help students see “the ways in which the things [they’re] doing outside of class – work study, study abroad – are folded into the kind of experiences they’re having in the classroom.” Boynton is hopeful that Beloit students can understand how the skills they develop outside the classroom should “link up” with the skills they learn inside the classroom, which he says “are not mutually exclusive.” Another positive aspect of the liberal arts education, Boynton said, is how Beloit is able to think about each student “as a whole person.”
When asked to compare Beloit with Allegheny College, Boynton said “they’re very similar. In some ways they are very much sister schools; [they have the] same kind of approach to liberal arts,” although Allegheny is slightly larger, with a student population of around 1,800. “This kind of education will bear fruit again and again in the future,” Boynton said, “if we allow students to think well, develop writing skills, and be able to collaborate with peers and other people you’re working with.” Boynton said he aspires for students to “be dexterous” and to “see the value of their education mattering to their future lives in profound ways.” Boynton also discussed how students should be able to “triangulate [extracurricular experiences] with current courses” and can hopefully “develop a narrative arc” of how they have developed while students at Beloit College.
Boynton discussed some of the work that was completed over the summer, which included “strategic planning with ten colleagus, both faculty and staff” and the conception of “a new Mission Critical Implementation Team focused around the learning experience… so it’s work study, internship, study abroad, [and] research.” This team will be spearheaded by professor Daniel Youd and alumni and Director of Strategic Research and Development Ellie Anderbyrne.
Another idea developed over the summer, Boynton explained, were “four learning outcomes that cut across the whole of the educational experience at Beloit” which aim to help each student “be a creative problem solver, be a productive collaborator, be an effective communicator, and be intellectually and professionally agile.” The idea behind this, as explained by Boynton, is to provide students with a way of showing employers the attractiveness of a Beloit graduate.
Boynton is very clear on the “beating heart” of this educational mission, and said, “it’s all about you – you students… it’s totally student focused. All that the faculty and staff who work want to see is the students flourish. So we just come together around that student focus.”
Another new academic program under development is being referred to as “the channels” and will be focused on creating “broad, theme-based inquiry” which would have “a bunch of majors” within those themes. The hope will be to have “professional groups” within those channels including alumni, the Beloit community, faculty, and staff. Some of the channels under development include Sustainability, Health and Wellness, Entrepreneurship, and Doing Good and Righting Wrongs. Boynton says those four will be “up and running soon” with an online rollout on the new Beloit College website, and with a goal to add more in the future based on the “enthusiasm and talents” in the Beloit community. “We’re going to channel your inner Powerhouse,” Boynton said.
The Round Table will be reporting more on the new channels, learning outcomes, and Mission Critical Implementation Team in future issues.