Over the past year or two, it has been interesting to look at the university from a different perspective. When I was in my undergraduate program, I didn’t really think about the university as a whole and all the different parts that make up that whole. I saw the parts that impact me on a day-to-day basis. I took classes, I followed a very specific curriculum, and I got a piece of paper at the end when I graduated. I interacted with faculty in class, but I didn’t really see the other aspects of the university. I didn’t think about the role of the university, the role of faculty, or my role as a student.
When I started graduate school, I still started with that same mindset. I had to go to class, check off all the boxes, work with my advisor, and hopefully graduate after 4, 5, 6 years. This time around, education was a little more fuzzy. It wasn’t as well defined. And it was a little overwhelming at times.
But then I switched to the Engineering Education department for my PhD. I started learning about the history of the university, the role of the university, and all these different ways that we can try to improve education. I was amazed. The way engineering was taught always frustrated me a bit, but here were people who wanted to make changes, make things better, and make improvements to individual classes and the university as a whole. It was really exciting to start dreaming about how things could improve.
Watching the 2013 TIME Summit on Higher Education was really interesting. I was very skeptical at first, but it was interesting to hear different perspectives on higher education. The ideas of the first speaker intrigued me. He talked about making the admissions process more multidimensional so that we do not evaluate and select students based on one or two dimensions. He argued that we should consider students more holistically. He talked about re-imagining college campuses to be more flexible and adaptable. And he talked about bringing back the humanities, which should be a part of everyone’s education. The next speaker talked about changing the culture of the university to be more student-centered as opposed to the current system which is faculty-centered.
It is great that we are having these conversations and hear from people who care about making improvements. It is important to think about what we want the university to be instead of just continuing with the status quo. And these types of discussions are a great way to start.