Student ownership of Colorado College’s developing strategic plan is important, so I feel compelled to respond to the article titled “Reinvesting in the life of the mind” that appeared in last week’s Comment and Debate section of The Catalyst. In the article, author Joe Jammal raises some very legitimate concerns about the goals of the strategic planning process. However, he also makes a couple of points that miss the mark.
First, I construed his arguments as suggesting that a re-imagination or innovation of the Block Plan is not currently being considered by the year of planning sub-committees. He is incorrect. Year of Planning Goals #2, #3, and #8 (all conveniently found on President Tiefenthaler’s website under “The Year of Planning” tab) all seek to do exactly what Mr. Jammal said should be the primary goal of the strategic plan: innovate the Block Plan. Goal #2 asks us to “create new avenues of inventiveness, flexibility and connection by re-envisioning the Block Plan”, while Goal #3 suggests we “provide and support the framework to cultivate and build a bustling center of interdisciplinarity, critical inquiry, and innovative teaching and learning methods.”
These two goals are focused on improving upon some of the “traditional and rigid” classroom experiences that Mr. Jammal references in his article. Further, Goal #3 seeks to give our professors, not to mention staff and administrators, the means to help our students realize their own unique intellectual adventures. Innovating the Block Plan is a goal of the strategic plan, but there are important reasons why it isn’t the only goal.
The 13 goals of the strategic plan are designed to be broad and seek to address a wide array of topics that affect this campus. There is considerable overlap amongst several of the goals, but the majority of them do not, as Mr. Jammal purports, focus exclusively on recruiting new students and faculty. The goals seek to leverage a number of our core strengths, which include our unique academic schedule and our location at the intersection of the Rocky Mountain region and the American Southwest.
The broadness of our goals is useful because it provides some guidance about where to house certain initiatives without imposing rigid limits on the creativity of those contributing ideas. In sum, I disagree that the goals of the strategic plan are wrong. Are they perfect? Absolutely not. While it is fair to call for prioritization of goals, to dismiss the work of 70 campus community members who’ve received input from thousands of their peers as “wrong” is misinformed.
Further, I do not see the renovation of campus infrastructure and a reinvestment in the life of the mind as mutually exclusive. Personally, some of my most powerful educational experiences have occurred outside of the classroom. Beside the fact that the renovations to Mathias Hall, the El Pomar Sports Center, and Slocum Hall were scheduled without the influence of the strategic plan, these improvements are meant, aside from functionality, to be conducive to substantive student interaction.
Also, Mr. Jammal implies that the block plan is broken. I disagree. Certainly, there are ways in which we can rejuvenate our classroom experiences. There are also suggestions we can make to improve our livable spaces to enhance our residential educational experience.
Mr. Jammal is right in saying that we, as students, need to be more involved in the educational process. His ideas for increasing student research opportunities and supplementing class work with internship opportunities and other experiential learning are the sort of useful suggestions that the members of the Strategic Planning Committees want to hear.
Members of many committees (the Engaged Teaching and Learning, A Distinctive Place of Learning, Extending Our Reach, and Institutional Effectiveness) have held scores of outreach meetings this academic year to make sure that the voices of CC’s community are heard as we work together to develop a shared vision of what we’d like to see our institution become in the next 7-10 years and beyond.
Additionally, the Student Government Association and President’s Council have worked to organize town hall meetings each semester to try to engage students. While students have had ample opportunity to add our contributions to the strategic plan, I encourage the student body to make a final push to come up with initiatives before the four committees submit their recommendations to the Steering Committee on March 15.
Our college years are some of the most inherently selfish years of our lives. Everything about this experience is about us, from the hundreds of staff members who hold our hands when the printer is broken and clean up after us, to the numerous phenomenal faculty members who want to teach us because they believe in the educational mission of the College.
Strategic planning offers you an opportunity to reflect on your time here and offer suggestions for how Colorado College can be improved for current and future community members. I’m sorry if you’ve felt kept in the dark about pathways for student input in the strategic plan, but there is still time to lend your advice.
If you don’t like to submit information electronically on the President’s website and prefer human interaction, please feel free to contact any and all student members of the Committees, including myself, Jessica Meyer ’13, Charlotte Kaye ’13, James Silvester ’13, Charis Whitnah ’13, David Wright ’14, Garrett Benisch ’14, and Elliot Mamet ’15.