In a “Get Schooled” post last week, Robert Maranto, the 21st Century Chair in Leadership at the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, said that higher education lacks a higher purpose.
Take a look if you missed the column as it was a great piece. If you did read it, you may want to look at it again to better understand this response piece by two officials from Georgia Gwinnett College.
(By the way, Dr. Maranto sent me a note about how much he enjoyed your comments. He wrote, “The readers left unusually thoughtful comments, both pro and con.”)
In response to the column, Dr. Jim Fatzinger, associate vice president for Student Affairs, and Dr. Anita Vorreyer, director of New Student Connections, sent me this letter:
By Jim Fatzinger and Anita Vorreyer
Thanks to the AJC for sharing Robert Maranto’s suggestion that “Higher education is missing a critical element: A higher purpose” as it provided the opportunity for reflection on how Georgia Gwinnett College, an “open access” institution, is re-imagining higher education’s “higher purpose” for some 9,500 undergraduate students just 35 minutes northeast of Atlanta.
The institution’s approach, opposite of that suggested by Maranto, creates an “integrated educational experience,” which emphasizes collaboration between all members of the institution – faculty and non-faculty alike – in an active learning environment that negates the need for colloquy of “regimes” and “faculty takeovers.”
In fact, Student Affairs directors are required to have a doctorate or enroll in a doctoral program, thus preparing them for potential credentialing with faculty rank as well as administrative responsibility. Conversely, faculty members do more teaching and mentoring than suggested by Maranto with student engagement representing a significant criterion for evaluation and career advancement.
To meet its “higher purpose,” Georgia Gwinnett College calls for the development of students beyond those with “nice clothes and spring break in Cancun.” Instead, GGC as stated in its mission, develops contributing citizens “prepared to anticipate and respond effectively to an uncertain and changing world” – a stark contrast to Maranto’s reference to the “old Communist systems.”
At GGC, this preparation, synonymous with student development, is measured across seven integrated educational experience outcomes shifting quotidian higher education emphasis on participation in clubs, recreation, and sports teams, to the outcomes associated with involvement in each.
Student success at GGC is of paramount importance; therefore, all new students attend an orientation that is grounded in student development theory and involves teaching faculty in key roles. Orientation’s purpose is to help integrate students successfully into academic life.
Every faculty and staff member at GGC recognizes that as a Team, regardless of title, faculty and administrator alike, work to ensure students graduate with basic skills including the ability to clearly communicate ideas in written and oral form, demonstrate creativity and critical thinking, demonstrate effective use of information technology, collaborate in diverse and global contexts, understand decision-making from multiple perspectives, demonstrate an understanding of moral and ethical principles, apply leadership principles, and demonstrate effective quantitative reasoning.
Unfortunately, this integrated approach, while transforming lives to meet higher education’s higher purpose, has not transformed the “snarl” of traffic representative of GGC’s student demand. If Maranto’s essay is somehow reflective of the current higher education belief system, I call on contributing citizens across the United States to in fact, “ask for directions” – directions to Georgia Gwinnett College.
–From Maureen Downey,for the AJC Get Schooled blog