The start of the new millennium motivated us to reflect on our lives and work, and begin thinking about the future as a regional university. The retrospective part of our planning at Plymouth State began with an examination of our general education curriculum and evolved into a series of reflective questions focused on defining quality education in the context of student learning, teaching, assessment and mission. This process opened the doors for lively discussion and debate about the work we do to enhance the growth and development of people and the impact we ultimately have on our state and society.
Many new initiatives are taking place at Plymouth State University because there is a willingness on our campus to make continuous quality improvements in the way we do “business.” We looked at our strengths and used these unique characteristics as building blocks for making curriculum decisions that are consistent with best practices. One example of our willingness to respond to student needs is our recent recognition as a founding member of “Foundations of Excellence“. This is an American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) initiative seeking to identify institutions that have a meaningful first-year experience for students. Plymouth State was selected from a pool of 219 institutions and is now one of 12 founding institutions identified for its excellence in the first year. Funding from the Davis Foundation to further develop our new general education program and Frost Center for Learning and Teaching Excellence supported this same honor.
The entire campus is committed to making decisions that advance academic excellence through teaching, scholarship and outreach efforts to the community. Faculty are involved in designing curriculum that prepares students for the many challenges they will face in their work after graduation. Faculty and staff are developing new ways of engaging students in their learning. Strategies include a focus on active and collaborative activities, internships, integration of technology in the classroom and dialogue that help students make connections across disciplines. At the same time, support staff are assessing ways to promote an atmosphere of caring and concern for student lives in this very complex world.
The campus is involved in acknowledging the civic role we have in the community. Students, faculty and staff are engaged in defining the cultural role students play in the community, and how to best model their commitment to scholarly work and public expectations. Students have worked hard to involve themselves in the community through thousands of hours of community service ranging from work with the senior center to home tutoring for children unable to attend school.
We are all working to concern ourselves with best practices: continuous improvement, wise spending and community outreach.
Are we there yet? No, but we are getting closer. We are defining ourselves as a regional university that seeks excellence in teaching, supports student learning that best develops knowledgeable and skilled thinkers, and serves local communities as a good neighbor and partner.
Virginia M. Barry, Ph.D.
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