As of early December 2011, our work thus far revealed several overlapping areas of emphasis or themes and our draft recommendations will be drawn from these emphases. These categories are not conclusive or definitive, but they reflect the wealth of comments generated locally in the various forums and discussions over the years, as well as the most recent research in a number of areas (see the history of our development process as well as our research for specifics).
Critical Skills, Competencies, Literacies
Effective living requires a multitude of literacies, skills and competencies, and our research provides the greatest overlap in these areas. The ability to think critically and analytically; to listen effectively to others; to read across disciplines and cultures; to write persuasively and creatively; to speak confidently and professionally; to utilize technology capably and thoughtfully; to develop aesthetic appreciation; to understand scientific methods; to engage in mathematical problem-solving; to think historically as well as temporally -- all of these are crucial to students’ ability to succeed in college and in life.
These foundational skills are complemented by a wide range of critical competencies: working collaboratively and independently; creating and sharing effective knowledge; understanding the value of different perspectives; developing ethical frameworks; fostering intellectual curiosity; thinking against the grain; translating knowledge to new situations. Without these critical skills and competencies, students’ pathways to success are severely curtailed. Our campus will be tasked to reimagine ways of helping students develop these skills and competencies, beyond coursework or single requirements -- beyond a simple checklist.
When we link the foundational skills and competencies to critical literacies -- media, financial, cultural, historical, scientific, aesthetic -- we can imagine learning outcomes that the whole campus can support with innovative partnerships. The task force’s learning-outcomes recommendations will rest upon the necessity of rethinking how we incorporate all of these skills, competencies, and literacies as the basis for increasingly sophisticated levels of student engagement -- in general education, in the majors, in field-based experiential learning, and in student life and activities. Partnering across the campus and with the community to create a seamless integration of effort in support of student learning will help equip our students to meet the challenges and responsibilities they will face in college and beyond.
Distinctiveness, Diversity, Community, Globalization:
Our sense of community is a very distinctive trait of SUNY Fredonia where we encourage and develop strong connections to each other and to the place in which we live. We conceptualize the idea of community to be very broad, understanding that our local community is nested with a regional and global community, and recognizing the interdependence of these communities with each other. Through understanding, acceptance and celebration of the diversity of that community, as well as active engagement within our community, we become more aware and compassionate global citizens.
Global citizenship includes a sense of belonging to and having responsibility within local, national and global communities; a sense of stewardship for the natural environment; and a recognition of one’s role in the local, regional, national and global community. This includes taking responsibility for one’s personal life choices and membership in a range of organizations and levels of government from local to global while at the same time engaging in an active citizenship with participation in public debate, political decision-making and community actions.
Like every other higher education institution, Fredonia should be a community of learning and educating in every way. We can project our work to enrich and improve other communities and to let them enrich and improve us (whether these communities are across the street or in a different corner of the world). We want graduates to value and respect different traditions and points of view. Fredonia can prepare students to live and work alongside people with different perspectives and customs utilizing a number of innovative opportunities and technologies. Greater support for providing students with international experiences, including opportunities to study abroad, to study languages other than English at a high level of competency, and to engage with students interactively are integral to helping them experience, not merely read about, global society.
We are each a member of the global society. Understanding of, and respect for, the economic, social and biological interdependence of global life is, therefore, a necessity. Such awareness instills that our individual differences are a collective strength, and also encourages the preservation of cultural histories and heritages. The perspectives, life experiences and cultures of others, as well as the transformation of cultural identities and practices, all contribute to understanding and developing sustainable communities.
Sustainability, Responsibility, Professionalism:
Developing a sense of meaning, purpose and interconnectedness with the natural world as well as the social environment fosters sustainable thinking. This includes self-reflection, personal integrity, and a sense of responsibility for others. Being active, engaged citizens of a global community requires each person to understand the dimensions of decisions -- both personal and social -- and accept responsibility for the consequences of those decisions. Our sense of community and global awareness reminds us that we are all interconnected and interdependent, thus even individual decisions can have a larger impact. We are committed to recognizing different value systems, encouraged through the understanding of different cultures, realized through the active engagement within local and global communities, and understanding the impact that those values have on people and places. From these experiences and awareness we can learn how to recognize the moral dimensions of our personal decisions, their realization on a societal level and accept responsibility for them.
In order for our people and our world to endure we must think long term and operate within the natural laws. By all measures our current socio-economic system is not sustainable. We have to learn how to live well in our places without undermining their ability to sustain us over time, and the foundations of our knowledge, skills, and habits of mind are cultivated in our schools. Change begins with a change in thinking because thinking drives behavior and behavior causes results. In order to foster a the fundamental concept of sustainability students must learn to think critically about the world, find ways in which to identify and solve problems given available resources and be active, engaged citizens of the local-to-global community.
Our students will benefit from a rich and reinforcing culture on our campus that helps them develop this kind of thinking. They will be strengthened by having a high level of cultural and international awareness, knowledge and competence. They will benefit from being able to recognize, understand, appreciate and sensitively bridge cultural divides. We will serve our students more effectively if we help them develop an awareness of the national and international challenges associated with current economic, political, and social systems. Possessing the ability to analyze the complexity of systems when engaged in decision making and to understand and work with complexity, uncertainty and risk will benefit our students in the marketplace. Students will also become cognizant of professional ethics and standards specific to their field of study as well as awareness of how to remain current. Such thinking can positively influence the future while designing and creating sustainable communities. Ethical reasoning in action means that students will have the tools needed to help them make ethical decisions in their chosen profession and in living in a challenging, complex world.
Creativity, Innovation, Entrepreneurship:
In an ever-changing world, an openness to and a comfort level with change is a basic disposition for lifetime success. Our students have lived with substantial changes in technology and are, to varying degrees, comfortable with it. But will they be as open to what will be the "new" in their adult lives, whether it will be new in terms of technology or in terms of ideas or processes? Will they be able to be (and continue to be) creative, innovative, and show ingenuity in what they do in their lives, including, of course, their occupational lives? Students will enjoy greater success if they possess the ability to apply and transform knowledge for useful and creative purposes and to keep on learning as conditions and circumstances change. Organizational competence and the ability to work creatively with others in collaborative settings are additional strengths we see as critical for student achievement.
Creativity and innovation can take on many forms: the artist or engineer who figures out how to recycle a waste product into something functional; the participation of individuals in the visual and performance arts with broader social, cultural and theoretical frameworks. Artistic expression and innovative thinking are integral aspects of a sustainable functioning community.
Providing experiential learning opportunities for students with business leaders and innovators offers additional opportunities to connect student learning with sustainable, functioning communities. Entrepreneurial experiences in co-curricular activities and experiential partnerships foster professionalism and ethics, help students learn across differences, build their leadership potential and reinforce the impact graduates can have on their world, starting at Fredonia with the local community.
Campus Models of Integration: Several campus have incorporated aspects of our areas of emphasis into their own frameworks:
Alverno College: The largest Catholic women's college in the U.S. is nationally recognized (#1 in US News and World Report for doing the "best job of educating undergraduates") for its student- and learning-centered curriculum. They have an 8-point "abilities curriculum" and narrative grades rather than a standard letter-grade, GPA-measuring transcript. And a lot more. . . take a look.
Fisk University (a historically black college): This institution integrates a multicultural, interdisciplinary focus via core curriculum experiences. Notice how these are written to emphasize learning that could be inside as well as outside the classroom.
Hartwick College: Innovative diversity statement which is linked to their mission and philosophy. An interesting model that focuses on "mission, values, purpose, character" of the institution as well as the faculty/staff and students.
SUNY Stony Brook’s unique Living Learning Centers: The centers offer opportunities to link academic and residential life; each center sponsors academic events on campus and in the residence halls, and students can minor in one of these areas, such as community service learning, media arts, science and engineering even if they don't live in the residence hall. Stony Brook also has a website chart outlining the way a public university enhances a region.