Reinventing Undergraduate Education

Live Conference Blogging – a first for me!

I have the privilege of participating in a conference sponsored by The Reinvention Center at Stony Brook Transforming the Culture: Undergraduate Education and the Multiple Functions of the Research University . This conference has a unique theme of connecting classroom learning with other academic activities on campus. The program features library connections in many sessions, including an all-conference case study panel presentation about the collaborative Mellon Project at the University of California, Berkeley. No concern about librarians not having a place at the table this time!

James Moeser, Chancellor at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in his keynote address shared his institution’s process to implement a new undergraduate curriculum (including longitudinal measures of student learning) and initiatives that focus on connections in many dimensions. Being focused on connections requires vigilence and continued effort as it is very easy for people to slip back into separate silos. His remarks challenged me to think about how faculty-librarians collaborations can be so difficult to initiate and sustain. Perhaps our own silos are so comfortable we don’t allow ourselves to be changed by our collaborations and so they remain superficial and thus easy to neglect over time.

The panel from Berkeley presented an inspiring case study of the impact that robust campus collaboration can have on student learning. I think particularly effective was having a librarian, campus administrator, and faculty leader on the panel. The Berkeley Mellon project can’t be just taken and applied to every campus – for reasons both financial and cultural. What is key is that we start the conversations about what is possible on our campuses and inspire participation of our own.

Author: Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe

Lisa is Head, Undergraduate Library, Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction, Office of Services, and Associate Professor, Library Administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

One thought on “Reinventing Undergraduate Education”

  1. This looks like a great project, Lisa! Our neighbor, Carleton College, also did some interesting work with faculty / librarian collaborations funded by a Mellon grant.

    It’s interesting to think about how “silo-ed” academics can be – particularly when the library is often the one place on campus where all those subject areas are brought together. And that in our general education programs we assume that breadth of knowledge is A Good Thing, but in practice academics want to bow out of unfamiliar territory with “gee, that’s not my area of specialization.”

    When we did a workshop for faculty redesigning courses to include a developmental information literacy component, we gave them a simple but effective exercise. They had to write down a topic an undergraduate might tackle in a research project in one of their courses. Then they had to trade topics with someone in a different field and try to come up with five good sources using the library’s resources. They were humbled by how challenging that is when you’re taken out of your field and expected to cope. But that ability is something we all want for our graduates.

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