This Week in Clusters

A lot of people gave me feedback on my last blog post. Those conversations have been really helpful for me in understanding how design thinking could help us in our cluster curricular revisions as well as in our reorganization of the University. I’m working on a blog post with some further thoughts about design thinking. But in the meantime, I received some comments about the design of my blog and so have revised a few things to make it easier to read and easier to follow. I like the changes!

Although the entire guide team didn’t meet this past week, it was a busy one for me and the other guides. Here are some things we worked on.

The deadline for the first round of cluster project funding was September 30. The guides had until October 13 to make decisions about the projects. In the Arts and Technologies (A&T) cluster, we had 3 projects that requested funding and 1 project that required no funding. We reviewed them, wrote up our feedback and our decisions about whether to endorse the projects or not, and passed all of that on to the next level in the process. As a reminder, level 1 funding requests are less than $1000 and require no course release. The A&T cluster did not have any of these. Level 2 funding requests are $1000-$5000 and require no course release. A&T received two of these and our recommendations have now been passed on to a cross-cluster group of guides who will look at all such requests and make decisions about which to fund. Level 3 funding requests are any that request more than $5000 or that request course release for a faculty member. A&T received one of these. The recommendations for these go to that same cross-cluster group of guides who will make a recommendation to the deans. The deans will then determine whether the project will be funded. I look forward to finding out which projects across all clusters get funded. We will make that information public when the decisions are finalized toward the end of October.

The Arts and Technologies cluster sponsored a student focus group to look at our mission statement. We solicited the names of participants from the department chairs who have programs housed in the cluster. We (the A&T guides) met in the open lab in Lamson 031 with the 13 students that the chairs recommended and explained the cluster initiative to them. We then showed them the A&T cluster mission statement and asked them to react to it from their disciplinary perspective. I was so impressed by this group of students. They were excited about clusters and how the initiative will impact student experiences. And they had really smart things to say about our mission statement. We (the guides) haven’t had a chance to revise the mission statement yet but it will be a much better one because of this feedback from our students.

It was a busy week for me personally because of the development of some external partnerships for the A&T cluster. I met with a high school teacher from Plymouth Regional High School with whom I’ve been working for about a year. She is creating a Running Start program for her students to receive college credit in the Media Arts area. Katie Martel and I (well, mostly Katie) gave her a tour of the open labs in Lamson and then the teacher and I talked about curriculum and other aspects of setting up the partnership. She and I will meet with Dean Vascak sometime soon as well as with our Film and Video Production instructor (Ian Halter) to discuss the details of an articulation agreement. It is a great partnership. I also had a conversation with a woman on the board of an organization in Waterville Valley about creating a partnership with her organization for A&T students (as well as some others) to do internships. This was a very preliminary conversation but it sounds promising. Finally, I agreed to attend a meeting with another external partner this coming week to discuss projects that our students might work on.

The General Education (GE) Working Group worked via email to come up with a list of goals for our GE program in relation to clusters as well as a list of goals for the working group. We will be discussing these lists at our meeting on October 24. The First Year Seminar (FYS) Working Group meets October 17 after having come up with a similar list of goals for the FYS. The research that I’ve been doing related to design thinking was prompted by my work on the FYS. I’m really excited about what I’m learning and plan to share a book with the group that I think might be helpful.

This is a list of just my work on clusters in the last week. I know the other cluster guides are engaged in similar conversations. At the Communication and Media Studies department meeting on Friday, I asked everyone to tell us what they are working on related to clusters. A couple of faculty members were apologetic that the work they’re doing right now is thinking about how they might get involved. I don’t think anyone should be apologetic about that. We’ve been talking about clusters for a year but it really has only been about 8 weeks since our kickoff University Days events. In other words, we are not very far into our transformation. We have accomplished a lot! I’m encouraged by that.

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