Provost's Newsletter – January 2019

Teaching & Learning

Across Campus

Additional Articles

Honors College celebrates success, invites faculty to get involved

The Purdue Honors College has celebrated its fifth anniversary and is looking ahead to the next five years with new goals, many of them with opportunities for faculty to get closely involved with students and curriculum.

The Honors College, which enrolled 562 students in its 2013 inaugural year, welcomed more than 2,500 students for the 2018-19 academic year. The first-year retention rate for Honors College students is a record-setting 98 percent. Of those who graduated in the first four years of the program, 60 percent went on to pursue advanced degrees; the University average in 2016-17 was 23 percent.

The graduation statistics for Honors College students are "extraordinarily high," says Dean Rhonda Phillips. "Add in fellowships, Peace Corps and similar opportunities, and it's even higher. Three out of four students pursue other academic experiences."

Part of the early success of Purdue’s Honor College results from its emphasis on community and connectedness, starting with peer mentoring and the Honors College and Residences, where most first-year students have lived since it opened in 2016. Its learning communities forge bonds around complex, challenging topics. Its Science and Society learning community, for example, is mixing humanities and STEM in a course where students separate fact from fiction in a case study called "Mars Alive!" In line with Purdue’s Integrative Data Science Initiative, a Big Data learning community is in the works for 2019-20.

The Honors College offers nine study away/study abroad courses this year that are academically engaging and creative, historical and contemporary, and thought-provoking and inspirational. Students might choose to study “Contemporary Reflections of Civil Rights” in Memphis over the fall break, explore the social and economic roots of jazz in New Orleans over spring break, or spend the Maymester in Germany and Sweden studying “The Middle East in Europe: Migration, Transnationalism and Belonging.”

Last year, the Honors College launched a visiting scholar program and two lecture series. Moira Gunn, the host of National Public Radio's “Tech Nation” and “Biotech Nation” radio shows, spoke for the Aronson Family Science and Society Honors Lecture Series. Gunn, a Purdue graduate, addressed the topic of fake news and how to find trustworthy news sources. Capt. Scott Kelly, who spent more than a year on the International Space Station, will speak at Purdue at 6:30 p.m. March 5 in Fowler Hall. Kelly's lecture, part of Purdue's Ideas Festival, is free and open to the public.

"Everything we do supports one or more of our core values — or pillars — which emphasize interdisciplinary academics, undergraduate research, community and global experience, and leadership development," Phillips said.

As the Honors College continues to mature, it will be reaching out to faculty seeking even greater support. Undergraduate students partner with faculty on research or scholarly projects, a requirement for the honors diploma.  The college also is hoping that faculty will collaborate to create more honors classes campus-wide.

To receive the honors diploma, students must earn 24 honors credits. Twelve of these can be earned taking classes taught by the eight Honors College faculty members, but the remainder should be earned in Purdue courses taught within the academic colleges/schools. Currently, 36 honors courses are taught outside the Honors College — open to any student with at least a 3.0 grade average — and many more are needed, Phillips said. Alternatively, faculty could offer honors credit to individual students who sign a contract to do more in-depth work in their traditional classes. This year, 39 faculty offer honors contracts.

Phillips also would like to start a “mini-sabbatical” program for faculty from across campus to join the Honors College for a semester. Currently, the Honors College opens “Request for Course” proposals each fall for the upcoming academic year.

"Imagine designing and teaching an innovative interdisciplinary course, something you wouldn't ordinarily be able to do," Phillips said. "I suspect many of us would love to do that. It's a great way to refresh teaching and learning interests."

The college, for example, has offered courses on superheroes, monsters in literature, and Leonardo Da Vinci. The Da Vinci class mixed English with engineering, took the students to Italy to study his designs and writing, and built five of the contraptions he imagined, including a bridge without supports and a catapult.

Although admission to the Honors College initially was by invitation, now any student can apply, even those already enrolled at Purdue as long as they have four semesters remaining. Admission to the Honors College is based on a holistic review that considers not only academic history but also service, leadership and goals.

"We decided starting for the 2017-18 school year that we would no longer admit by invitation only," Phillips said. "We want students who are highly motivated and want an out-of-the-box educational experience. Our model doesn't fit all students. There are different kinds of learners. Some want to focus on content or prefer large classrooms where they don't have to interact. Others want variety, seek small classrooms and want to know their faculty well. Our college is designed to meet the learning style of this (latter) group of students.

"Our goal is to turn out leaders and problem-solvers. They are not just preparing for their first job. They are readying themselves to apply and transfer knowledge, to be lifelong learners prepared for jobs that don't even exist yet."

Across Campus

Getting to Know Gen Z

“While some still talk of college students as ‘Millennials,’ we are seeing a generational shift underway,” said Beth McCuskey, vice provost for student life. Generation Z, born in the mid-1990s onward, now comprise the majority of today’s traditional-aged undergraduates.

"While Generation Z shares many characteristics with their Millennial counterparts, they are also very different," she said. 

This month we begin a short series that will help us get to know GEN Z.  

First up: Money Matters.

Gen Z was deeply affected by the 2008 financial downturn. They tend to be fiscally conservative and adverse to student loan debt. As a result, they may be more focused on finishing their degrees as quickly as possible. This helps them avoid the cost of extra semesters and gets them into the workforce sooner. 

Linked to their fiscal conservatism, this generation is very career focused. It is important for them to see linkages between what they ARE doing — in the classroom, through co-curricular activities, and in jobs and internships — and what they perceive they WILL BE doing in their future careers. This may play out as students challenging the status quo or asking why. 

 “With a greater focus on career preparation, we must balance the student’s desire to be ready for the first job versus prepared for their career, said Frank Dooley, senior vice provost for teaching and learning.  A new generation of students also means we must revisit not only our curriculum to ensure it captures important professional skills, but also to consider new instructional technologies and innovative pedagogies.”

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