CLA faculty brainstorms ideas for future

by Jennifer Niemela

When he became the dean of the College of Liberal Arts in October, Steven Rosenstone promised to engage his college’s professors as partners in shaping CLA’s future.
He began to fulfill that promise Wednesday, inviting about 150 professors from across CLA to a symposium about the future of the college.
“This is not business as usual,” Rosenstone said. “We’re taking a break to think about the skills we need to build a vision for the future of the college. There ought to be more occasions like this on a regular basis when we can talk about something besides administrative chores.”
The symposium took place Wednesday afternoon at the Metrodome Radisson. After listening to Rosenstone’s opening remarks, the professors broke up into six small groups to brainstorm new directions for the college.
The small-group topics were: Technologies Across the College, Creative Thinking, The Urban Setting, Research in the College, Educational Implications of Diversity and Science and the Liberal Arts.
The symposium was hailed a success by many of the professors present. A large number, in fact, said this was the first time they’d had an opportunity to meet so many of their colleagues from other departments.
“It’s a good initiative,” said Classics and Chemical Engineering Regents’ Professor Emeritus Rutherford Aris. “It seems to be bringing together people from all departments in a cooperative spirit.”
The Technologies Across the College small group discussed using World Wide Web sites as interactive course material for CLA classes. M.J. Maynes, who taught an introductory history course winter quarter that used a website, said professors must keep in mind that new technology can either enhance or diminish the educational experience. One of the ways the educational experience could be diminished by using a website is if it is difficult to access the site because of overuse, she said.
“You need to make sure the technology is there, that you’re not ahead of the technology. You don’t want to produce a frustrating experience,” she said. “This is intended to enhance, not replace, individual interaction.”
Most of the professors in the small groups hadn’t used a website before as an instructional tool and had technical questions about how to allow all the students access to the sites. Workers from the Digital Media Center were on hand to answer many of the questions.
Rick Asher, a professor of art history, brought up the topic of copyright issues in using website material.
“It varies from field to field,” he said. “If you want to use a painting from a museum, the museums are charging massive fees.”
Maynes said that using a pass-word-protected website makes getting copyright easier.
“(The material) is used as if it’s in a classroom,” she said. “It’s used like an overhead.”
The Creative Thinking small group focused on encouraging creativity as a learning tool in their classes. They spent the first part of the session reminiscing about past professors who had inspired creativity in them.
“I had a humanities professor who … the day after we handed in our papers, came into the room and wrote V-O-M-I-T on the board,” said Barbara Reid, a theatre arts and dance professor. “‘You vomited up what I gave you,’ he said. It was a mandate to think for myself.”
The group then focused on strategies for using creativity to inspire students.
“I lament the loss of the kooky students, the ones who took what they saw and turned it into something completely different, the ones who challenged the professor,” said theater arts and dance professor Lance Brockman. “Students want to give themselves a role. We need to try to break that role.”
Rosenstone, who attended the creative thinking small group, said discussion of the future of CLA should continue even after the symposium Wednesday.
“I’m serious about making this the mantra of the college,” he said. “I would suggest that the leaders here maybe take some responsibility for pushing this conversation.”