While MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) might be the trend at other colleges and universities, Colorado College aims to be SSIP (Selective, Small, Immersive and Personal). And yes, Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler made that acronym up!
Tiefenthaler kicked off Colorado College’s 2013-14 academic year by unveiling “The Colorado College Plan: “Building on the Block,” which maps the college’s strategic development in the coming years and addresses many of the questions liberal arts colleges face. Questions such as how to educate the next generation of students in an era of global change, technological innovations, continued economic challenges and increased competition for students and teachers.
The plan is the culmination of Tiefenthaler’s first and second years at Colorado College, the first year known as the Year of Listening and the second as the Year of Planning.
“Our strategy is counter-cultural,” Tiefenthaler said, running as it does against trends at other schools that include cutting back the liberal arts curriculum to focus on job training and replacing face-to-face interaction between students and professors with impersonal online courses.
Among the top priorities that will shape Colorado College’s strategic development in the coming years are:
Provide additional support to realize the potential of the college’s Block Plan.
• The Block Plan supports an active, collaborative form of learning and fits well with the learning style of today’s engaged and independent students. To support faculty and students, the college will create a focal place for academic support, to be called the Center for Immersive Learning and Engaged Teaching, which will bring together current academic support programs, as well as the offices of sustainability, community engagement and international programs.
• The new center will include an office for field study, which will support faculty as they design and implement field trips. It also will provide a home for in-residence programs for artists, scholars, social entrepreneurs, journalists, post-doctorial students, filmmakers and others.
• This new center will be housed in a renovated Tutt Library — the intellectual hub of the campus – which will offer technology-equipped seminar rooms, study space and rooms for group collaboration.
• To recruit the best and brightest students, especially those who would benefit most from a Colorado College education, the college plans to develop additional resources for financial aid.
Build a nationally recognized summer program and an inventive half-block program.
• Colorado College plans to create summer programs of linked thematic blocks organized around subjects such as film, arts, pre-med, sports, foreign languages, environmental education and geology. Along with high-level academics, students will get hands-on experience in internships and meet professionals in the field.
• New offerings during the nine-day half block in early January will concentrate on what students need to do to prepare for the future in both their academic and professional careers. These short courses and workshops might focus on basic programming code or analytics software, choice of majors, personal finances or writing workshops on fellowship proposals or resumes.
• Colorado College also will develop half blocks for students returning to campus after study-abroad programs and venture grant experiences that allow them to reflect and build on their meaningful time spent off campus.
Create an Innovation Institute.
• Colorado College has four strong programs that encourage students to be creative in pursuing their passions: the State of the Rockies Project, with its research and innovative approaches to environmental issues; the Keller Venture Grants, awarded each year to more than 100 students; The Big Idea, a year-long workshop for students interested in learning how to build a business; and the Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP), which places students in internships at Front Range nonprofit organizations.
• By developing connections between these programs, the Institute will be an incubator where students imagine, develop and test ideas— and then launch solutions. It will offer students and faculty a place to go from theory to idea to practice, while showcasing students’ cutting-edge work. The institute, which will be housed in a new academic setting of vibrant cross-disciplinary work, will provide resources, structure and encouragement to students and faculty as they investigate social and environmental challenges, understand the context in which they exist, identify sustainable solutions and put them into action.
Enhance the college’s distinctive place of learning.
• While virtual communities capture headlines and tweets, Colorado College believes that a sense of place will become increasingly important to students as they balance virtual mobility with a more enduring awareness rooted in community and the physical environment. To ensure coherence in campus design as related to aesthetics, sustainability and the educational mission, the college will develop a master plan for the physical campus to help guide and shape each new project in the coming decades.
• The master plan aims to design and create aesthetically adventurous places and spaces that encourage formal and informal learning, traditional and technology-enhanced educational experiences, curricular and co-curricular activities, intercollegiate and intramural athletics and spontaneous intellectual encounters.
Focus on workplace excellence to foster an organization that is innovative and dynamic.
• To create a campus culture that is truly creative and innovative, the college must continue to attract and retain a diverse faculty, staff and administration and foster an inclusive campus culture that truly values different backgrounds, experiences, ideas and opinions.
• Because lifelong learning is critical for individuals to reach their potential in today’s dynamic and rapidly changing world, Colorado College aims to create a top-notch professional development program that supports staff and faculty in adapting to the changing environment.
The Colorado College Board of Trustees approved the final plan in July 2013, and Tiefenthaler unveiled it in a campus-wide presentation on Aug. 27. She noted that it would take several years – perhaps seven to 10 – to implement the various facets of the ambitious plan.
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