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Sep. 27, 2011
Faculty, students, others take a comprehensive look at re-defining liberal arts
By Lisa Jasinski
SAN ANTONIO - Immediately following his arrival on campus in January 2010, President Dennis Ahlburg initiated a comprehensive strategic planning process to set the course for the future of Trinity University. This effort, named Trinity Tomorrow, will enable the University to anticipate and respond to changes in the higher education landscape and the world as a whole.
After initial information gathering in September 2010, the Trinity Tomorrow Committee assembled, including tri-chairs chemistry Professor Nancy Mills, Vice President for Faculty and Student Affairs Michael Fischer, and Trustee Chair Walter Huntley. During the 2010-11 academic year, the committee met regularly, conducted in-depth research about current programs and practices, and identified key growth opportunities. Formal presentations were made to the campus community, the Board of Visitors, the National Alumni Board, and the Board of Trustees.
In May 2011, the Board of Trustees approved a statement of Mission, Vision, Values, and Objectives to guide the remainder of the planning process. Using this framework, four subcommittees will develop concrete plans and action steps to achieve the stated objectives. These subcommittees - comprised of faculty, staff, a current student, alumni, trustees, and local leaders - will collaborate during the 2011-12 academic year, providing updates to the committee, Trustees, and the University administration at regular intervals.
The vision for Trinity is to "define the new liberal arts experience." The first step in moving toward that vision is to "create a leading edge liberal arts and sciences curriculum to define the new liberal arts, integrating professional and pre-professional programs, striving for excellence in faculty research and teaching, and enabling productive collisions among different disciplines."
The process of re-envisioning something as complex as a University's curriculum will be long and involved. A group of faculty from the University Curriculum Council, Trinity Tomorrow Committee, and campus at large has developed a road map for this discussion. This process will be led by Mark Brodl, Brackenridge Distinguished Professor of Biology, and supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
This multi-year discussion will envision what a Trinity education might look like and develop ideas for how to achieve the vision as it is incorporated into a Trinity curriculum. The review process is designed to be inclusive, to take in as many viewpoints as possible, and to facilitate creative solutions.
To launch the visioning process, 300 members of the Trinity community attended a symposium in early September featuring three innovative thinkers on liberal arts education. One week later, on Friday, Sept.16, Trinity held an all-campus retreat to envision the educational experience for Trinity graduates of 2022. To encourage attendance, Ahlburg cancelled classes and University events - and the event drew 355 participants - 70 students, nearly 80 percent of full-time faculty, and 80 staff members.
Building on this momentum, the Coordinating Committee for Curricular Review will host campus dialogues to deepen the shared understanding of broad topics. In January, these concepts will be further refined in a two-day facilitated workshop called an "Ideas Lab" designed to promote intense creativity. From the Ideas Lab will emerge several curricular models that faculty will further refine, develop, and revise in the spring.
Critical for the success of the comprehensive effort is regular communication among the various elements and committees. Faculty will review proposed curricular models as soon as May 2012. The Strategic Plan will be finalized next summer and presented to Board of Trustees for approval in September 2012.
To learn more, click here.
Lisa Jasinski is the special projects coordinator for the Trinity Tomorrow Committee.