Anderbyrne and Youd talk new channels program
Originally published in the September 23 issue of the Round Table.
Last week The Round Table sat down with new Provost and Dean of the College Eric Boynton, who outlined several new plans developed over the summer for Beloit’s academic curriculum, including the newly appointed Mission Critical Implementation Teams. These teams will oversee the new Channels program, led by professor of Chinese Modern Languages and Literatures Daniel Youd and Director of Strategic Research and Development Ellenor Anderbyrne. The Round Table sat down this week with both Youd and Anderbyrne to follow-up on the rollout of this initiative.
The current channels under development include Sustainability, Health and Wellness, Entrepreneurship, and Doing Good and Writing Wrongs, although “the names are provisional. That means we will be working to refine them and make them consistent so that students will be able to see a pattern across them,” Youd said.
Three of the channels “are developed in the sense that there are faculty and staff together, who have kind of collected the curricular and co-curricular elements together… some of those people are already talking to current students,” Anderbyrne said, adding that the goal is “to find a way to make them real this year” with an official launch in Fall 2020 for the next academic year.
Youd and Anderbyrne said the goal is to launch up to seven or eight channels, and that students will be able to switch channels throughout their academic career. “There will also be overlap within the channels,” Anderbyrne said.
Each channel has professional groups within them composed of faculty, staff and alumni in order to “invite alum[ni] and review resumes [and produce] networking events,” Anderbyrne said. The goal is to implement channels that can be influential towards all students and instigate community involvement. “A lot of students come in and they don’t know what they want to study, but they know what they’re interested in,” Anderbyrne said, citing Sustainability as an example. Later on, when speakers or events happen on campus related to the channels, “students will know the events that are happening related to their interest.” For upperclassmen, the channels will help students apply their interest into summer internships and networking.
“This is what our students already do when they’re excited about what they’re learning,” Anderyrne said. “We’re trying to create this kind of structure so more students can have these experiences.” Youd and Anderbyrne also agreed with Boynton’s statements around the inspiration the college receives from the student body. “We realized that these channels could provide a more obvious structure to that, so we can tell our story better so that our students… when they are talking to the outside world, will have a really good tool to tell people what they’ve accomplished,” Youd told The Round Table.
Another emphasis for the Channels program, Mission Implementation Critical Teams, and the institutional learning outcomes is on the liberal arts education itself. “We live in a society that unfortunately has a counter-narrative that a liberal arts education is hard to understand,” Youd said. “We have to remember that there is a bit of a gap between how we might talk about things internally and how we want you to talk about things externally… we want this to make sense to [students’ future employers]. I think that after the financial crisis that the [liberal arts] narrative didn’t hold anymore… people have had to articulate their values more and more clearly… what is it that we’re doing? We’re preparing these students for these fulfilling lives with purpose [and] liberal arts education is about seeing things in context.”
Another new program being tested this year are the Spark courses, the replacement to Beloit’s former First-Year Initiative Seminar courses. Spark professors are the primary academic advisor for first-year students for their first two years at Beloit College, although classes are now mixed with first-year and upperclassmen students. According to Anderbyrne and Youd, “the three elements that make up a Spark course are: meeting with your professor individually outside of class; introduction to an outside office; and engaging with some element of risk-taking or exploration.” Spark courses also fall under domain requirements, so first-year students can be enrolled in a class “that is immediately going to start filling your graduation requirements,” Youd said.
Anderbyrne and Youd will be hosting the first two summits in a series on the Channels programs in Richardson Theater on Wednesday and Thursday of next week, September 25-26th, at 12:30-1:20pm and 3:00-4:00pm, to generate community feedback. More information on the Mission Implementation Critical Teams, Beloit’s institutional learning goals, and the Channels program can be found on the Beloit College website under the webpage ‘Strategic Plan.’