Standards addressed in this chapter
11 — Educational Offerings
12 — General Education
13 — Related Educational Activities
Geneseo's academic programs, general education curriculum, and co-curricular learning opportunities all reflect the institution's long-standing commitment to transformational learning, as the final report of the college's Six Big Ideas task force on Bringing Theory to Practice demonstrates. Geneseo will continue to develop transformative experiences for students as the college explores new approaches to organizing general education, finds creative ways to provide opportunities for undergraduate research, and expands international study. Geneseo has several "incubators" for such developments. The Edgar Fellows (College Honors) Program, Great Day, Humanities Abroad and Humanities Away, residential college houses, and the Teaching and Learning Center have brought about curricular change, focused undergraduate research, expanded the college's offerings of study abroad opportunities, integrated academic life with student life, and promoted opportunities and strategies to provide students with high impact educational experiences. The college recognizes that its academic mission will be met only if we focus on the "whole student." Geneseo asks students to embrace the liberal arts tradition, emphasizing critical thinking skills and a broad and deep pursuit of knowledge. At the same time, the courses and programs produced by the college's incubators help students situate their education in ethical reflection, concern for the broader community, and a healthy respect for their own physical and mental well being.
In this chapter we explore three questions. First, how well do Geneseo's academic offerings, including general education and academic programs, form a well-integrated developmental curriculum? Second, how effectively does Geneseo take advantage of the educational opportunities that arise from an integration of curricular and co-curricular experiences to address transformational learning? Finally, how effectively do learning resources and support services (for example, library and college information technology) complement the college's formal learning programs? The theme that runs through our research is student experience: how students experience Geneseo and how those experiences in turn transform the students. To analyze these experiences and their effects, we divide them into categories that correspond to our questions: academic experiences, co-curricular experiences, and experiences with out-of-class learning resources and support services.
Geneseo's academic programs are the heart of the college's impact on students and of students' experience of the college. Whether or not students declare a major upon arrival at Geneseo, the academic programs immediately spark their passion for learning, and this learning continues through major and general education programs. For some students, it continues through a modest number of graduate programs.
Students begin their general education experiences in the first year, but general education continues throughout students' undergraduate careers. The general education requirements are as follows (see the Undergraduate Bulletin for more details):
- One course that focuses on critical writing and close reading, taken in the student's first year at Geneseo (Intd 105 is the only course that fulfills this requirement; it is taught in many sections every semester, each section organized around a different theme)
- One course dealing with non-western cultures (courses with an "M/" prefix satisfy this requirement)
- One course dealing with United States histories ("U/" prefix)
- One course dealing with numeric and symbolic reasoning ("R/")
- Two courses in the fine arts ("F/")
- Two courses in the social sciences ("S/")
- Two courses in the natural sciences, each with required lab ("N/")
- Two courses in western Humanities (Western Humanities I and Western Humanities II, each 4 credits) ("H/")
- Proficiency through the intermediate (201) level in a foreign language
General education as an integrator of curriculum
The general education program integrates the Principles and Goals of a Geneseo Undergraduate Education into the curriculum by preparing students with "theory and methodologies ... in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary contexts" such as natural science and social science; by fostering an "awareness of diversity and commonality among human cultures" with foreign language and multicultural courses; by heightening aesthetic awareness through fine arts; and by preparing students to "participate ethically and intelligently as informed citizens" through the rigorous humanities sequence and US histories requirement. Through critical reading and writing and through symbolic processing skills (Intd 105 and the "R/" requirement), students develop "enduring habits of intellectual inquiry." General education's foundation for a liberal arts education is discussed at length on the general education website.
Several aspects of general education serve as integrators of the entire curriculum:
- The common experience of Intd 105, in addition to fostering the critical writing and reading skills needed by all students, provides significant exposure to methodology and research skills for inquiry, accomplished in part by a uniform library-based requirement (Intd 105 Library Goals and Objectives).
- The humanities sequence provides a template for the investigation of the major questions of the human experience through the integrated perspective of history, philosophy and literature. Sections of humanities courses are frequently taught abroad or in other off-campus locations distinctively suited to the subject matter. Examples include Humanities in Rome, Humanities in Oxford, and, new in summer 2011, Humanities at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.
Other aspects of general education are well integrated into more specific programs:
- Students majoring in the natural sciences, most of the social sciences, childhood education, and business satisfy the numeric/symbolic reasoning requirement through the related requirements of their major. Students in the sciences or psychology satisfy the natural science requirement similarly.
- The non-western traditions requirement can be satisfied by courses in the major or by courses taken for other general education requirements.
- Recently, participation in performance ensembles has become a way of satisfying the fine arts requirement (2008 Revision of Fine Arts) thereby integrating what is often considered to be a co-curricular activity with general education.
Note, however, that the natural science, fine arts, and social science requirements cannot be satisfied by courses within a student's major; for instance, a sociology major is required to take both S/ courses outside sociology. The purpose of this stricture is to ensure breadth of knowledge, though its effectiveness in doing so, and the total benefit of enforcing it once the cost to the student's flexibility has been subtracted, remain open questions.
Geneseo's general education program is well integrated with major programs. In a recent survey of faculty,
- 75 percent of all respondents agreed or strongly agreed that, "The fact that Geneseo students take a general education program strengthens my major."
- 67 percent agreed or strongly agreed that, "The fact that faculty teaching in my major also teach courses in Geneseo's general education program strengthens my major."
These numbers include faculty who did not respond to the individual questions at all; when only respondents to the questions are counted, the rates of agreement or strong agreement rise to 84 percent and 77 percent respectively.
Many general education courses that do not satisfy the requirements of any major are specifically designed to enrich the non-specialist. For instance, Math 160, "R/Elements of Chance" presents the principles of probability and statistics from the viewpoint of the current news of the day; its students become "informed citizens." The list of courses of this type is large, ranging from Music 100 ("F/Understanding Music") to Physics 105 ("N/The Nature of Light and Color"). (See General Education Curriculum and Courses.)
Geneseo has a strong language requirement through the 201 level, with offerings in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian, and Spanish. Besides fostering an appreciation of the "diversity of human cultures" through the cultural component of each language course, the requirement complements and enables a strong and rapidly growing study-abroad program, a central component of transformational learning and internationalism.
Effectiveness of general education
Responsibility for planning and assessing curriculum within each general education area lies with an area committee made up of faculty members from that area. These committees approve the addition of courses to general education, define learning outcomes for each area, and conduct periodic assessments of each area relative to its outcomes. Assessment follows a three-year cycle, with one-third of the general education areas being assessed each year. In each area, assessment involves scoring student work against a rubric to gauge whether students are exceeding, meeting, approaching, or not meeting defined expectations for each outcome (or, in areas with a large number of outcomes, for groups of related outcomes).
Broadly speaking, the general education program is achieving the outcomes it seeks, and it has been doing so consistently over time. General education assessment results are available on Geneseo's academic assessment wiki. The latest round found approximately 70 to 80 percent of students meeting or exceeding expectations for most outcomes. However, there are a couple of exceptions:
- In the area of critical writing and reading, just over 50 percent of students were meeting or exceeding expectations,
- In humanities, 54 percent were meeting or exceeding, and 18 percent were neither meeting nor approaching, expectations on the outcome that students will "consider moral, social, and political issues from an interdisciplinary perspective."
Comparisons over time are sometimes difficult because outcomes are revised between assessment cycles and so may not perfectly match those previously assessed. However, where comparisons are possible, the assessment results for the previous cycle are similar to those for the latest; past critical reading and writing results are slightly lower than the current ones, suggesting that the area is improving.
Faculty have mixed feelings about how well specific general education courses support other programs:
- In the faculty survey, 50 percent or fewer of the respondents said their major programs could rely on students' having achieved the stated learning outcomes from Intd 105.
- Between 20 and 33 percent could rely on outcomes from the humanities sequence.
- 25 to 33 percent said their major would like to rely on students' having met the Intd 105 or humanities outcomes but could not.
Open-ended responses suggest that the reasons for these views include inconsistent achievement of outcomes between course sections of Intd 105, lack of coordination in the timing of the humanities sequence with major programs, and inappropriate content or ineffective delivery in both areas. None of these criticisms reflect a majority of the faculty, but all should be taken seriously. Fully half of the open-ended responses in both areas said that the general education curriculum generally supported the goals of majors programs.
General education going forward
SUNY defines a minimum set of general education requirements system-wide. Geneseo's general education requirements are a superset of these. In 2010, SUNY issued rules designed to simplify transfer between SUNY institutions, including requirements that an institution receiving a transfer student from another SUNY institution (including two-year colleges) accept as completed any general education area marked as such by the sending institution, and accept for credit towards general education any courses that carried general education credit at the sending institution. This rule has taken effect in the 2011-12 academic year. To ensure that future Geneseo graduates meet Geneseo's general education expectations regardless of how they enter the college, Geneseo plans to redesignate those of its general education requirements that exceed the system-wide ones as "local graduation requirements." As is currently the case, students who transfer courses equivalent to those in Geneseo's local requirement may count those courses towards satisfying that requirement.
Task force on curriculum review
In 2007, Provost Katherine Conway-Turner charged the Task Force on Curriculum Review with studying Geneseo's general education curriculum in the light of two questions: First, does it serve the needs of Geneseo students and fit the college's mission? Second, does it relate to the majors? The task force met for two years, submitting its final report in September 2009. While the campus community focused mainly on the task force's consideration of the humanities requirement (an issue left unresolved), the task force members also spent months examining contemporary issues in general education and looking at general education curricula at peer institutions. The most important work of the task force was a statement – "The Purpose of General Education" — that outlined what general education should accomplish at Geneseo. The report also included a set of broad educational objectives that our students need to meet in order to become informed global citizens. Taken together these two parts of the report give very clear direction to the college in addressing general education.
Three of President Dahl's Six Big Ideas have a direct impact on general education: Bringing Theory to Practice, Re-thinking the Course Load, and Expanding Instructional Delivery. Doing more to "bring theory to practice" would affect transformational learning chiefly through high-impact experiences. This change would comport with the broad educational objectives presented by the curriculum review task force. Expanded instructional delivery would affect all courses, but the Six Big Ideas task force that considered this idea paid particular attention to its potential impact on general education. Reducing the average student course load would require changing most Geneseo courses to four-credit courses, producing, under the present general education requirements, an increase in the total number of credits devoted to general education.
Re-conceptualizing the general education program: four-credit course model
The faculty heatedly debated the wisdom of changing to the four-credit course model in spring 2010. The discussion produced a general sense that the present general education curriculum is perhaps too large and probably does not serve our students as well as it might.
As a result, in summer 2011 members of the General Education Committee attended an Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) institute on general education. Provost Carol Long charged the General Education Committee to re-conceptualize the general education program at Geneseo (See the Charge to the General Education Committee). The provost asked that the committee develop a program that would incorporate high-impact learning practices, global initiatives, interdisciplinary work, digital learning, and community engagement and service learning as appropriate. She also asked that the program be based on learning outcomes. Throughout fall 2011, the committee engaged in lengthy discussions of the challenges to the present general education program and of the opportunities for reform. On January 12, 2012, the committee met for a full day to craft a set of baccalaureate learning outcomes that would serve, upon acceptance by the college senate and the president, as a guide to re-envisioning of the program. It is expected that the committee will bring the learning outcomes to the college senate early in spring 2012.
As the college has been re-conceptualizing general education, one learning outcome to which it has committed itself (in the 2010 Climate Action Plan) is "sustainability." The college is committed to having students actively participate in a sustainable community that models how to live a personal and professional life and that follows sustainable principles. This community participation is intended to be a transformational learning experience. According to a 2010 faculty survey conducted by the Task Force on Sustainability, 47 courses from 14 of the 20 academic departments have a sustainability component (four percent on economic development, 49 percent on environmental protection, and 43 percent on social well-being). In 2009 members of the task force attended a workshop offered by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) on infusing sustainability into the curriculum. Efforts are underway, through workshops in the Teaching and Learning Center and a $1,500 stipend, to develop an online sustainability course to broaden faculty involvement in sustainability education. On the co-curricular side, students who live in EcoHouse, the college's newest residential college house, participate in discussions and activities with faculty fellows and members of the Task Force on Sustainability throughout the year, including work in the college's community garden, in-hall composting, energy-use contests, and water use research. One fellow will offer a one-credit course in spring 2012 on the issue of hydraulic fracturing.
Geneseo offers 28 degree programs leading to the Bachelor of Arts degree, and 10 leading to the Bachelor of Science (not counting three programs deactivated in 2010). In addition to these programs, ten cooperative programs allow students to earn a bachelor's degree from Geneseo and an additional degree from another institution in a compressed time span (typically three years at Geneseo followed by two years at the cooperating institution). Common examples of such cooperation include arrangements between many of the sciences at Geneseo and engineering departments at other schools leading to a Bachelor of Arts in the science from Geneseo and a Bachelor of Science in engineering from the partner school, and programs leading to a Geneseo B.S. in biology followed by an advanced degree in various medical professions. Details of all of these programs may be found in the Undergraduate Bulletin (pp. 59-347, 352-69).
While each major has its own requirements, certain features appear in many or all:
- All majors consist of progressive coursework from the introductory level through the advanced level, mixing required courses with electives in the discipline. "Minimum competence requirements" ensure that students adequately master core material.
- Every major specifies a writing requirement that students must fulfill, and (in satisfaction of a SUNY general education requirement) must include instruction in research.
- Most majors allow students to include some amount of individualized learning in the form of directed study courses or internships.
- Most majors also require students to take a small number of courses outside of the major department.
- 16 major programs have an honors option, invariably involving independent research or (in the arts) creative activity culminating in a written thesis and/or public presentation.
Transformational learning in majors
Most Geneseo major programs already include a great deal of transformational learning in the form of "high-impact" practices formally integrated into the major:
- 18 programs require a capstone course or thesis and seven others include one as an option, often as the centerpiece of a department honors program.
- The three majors in education require a student-teaching internship, and 13 other programs allow students to count internship credits towards major elective requirements (although often with a limit on how many internship credits can be so counted); three programs encourage internships for general elective credit but do not count them as credit in the major.
- Eight majors formally include elective student-faculty research courses.
- Six programs provide and/or encourage optional major-related study abroad courses, and a seventh (international relations) includes study abroad as one of three high-impact experiences that all majors must choose among (the other options are an internship or a capstone project).
- Education requires all students in any of its three majors to participate in service learning.
- Physics provides a common intellectual experience for its majors in the form of a required junior seminar (Physics 341).
- A handful of majors have first-year experience courses.
Occasionally, a single course or experience combines multiple high-impact practices. For example, many field experiences in anthropology involve service learning abroad, and education majors may do their student teaching internship abroad.
Geneseo's Bringing Theory to Practice Task Force has recommended expanding this already sizable commitment to high-impact experiences in majors to ensure that every student has at least one high-impact learning experience through the major.
Despite the many high-impact practices in majors programs, programs rarely reference transformational learning explicitly in their learning outcomes. A notable exception is the psychology department's reference to "personal development" and ability to apply psychological principles to personal issues.
Majors and general education
As discussed above, major programs are on the whole well integrated with Geneseo's general education curriculum. This is especially true of the large professional programs in business and education, which provide students with solid grounding in the liberal arts. All education majors (early childhood and childhood education, childhood education, and childhood education with special education) require students to complete a 30-31 credit-hour liberal arts concentration in addition education coursework, and students seeking certification in adolescence education do so by majoring in a liberal arts discipline while taking certification courses in education (see the Undergraduate Bulletin, 155-62).
Effectiveness of majors
Major programs assess themselves annually and undergo rigorous external review every five years. Annual assessments measure student learning against intended outcomes. In the majority of assessments, programs meet or exceed their goals, although programs do sometimes find themselves falling short of their desires, and close the assessment loop by taking appropriate action. (See Chapter 6 - Institutional Effectiveness for a complete discussion of program assessment and its uses.)
Major programs at Geneseo are complemented by a number of minors. As described in the Undergraduate Bulletin, every department-based liberal arts major generally has a parallel minor, although interdisciplinary or professional majors generally do not. There are, however, 20 interdisciplinary minors and two department-based ones (German and Dance) that lack a corresponding major.
Geneseo has two levels of academic honors program.
The Edgar Fellows program (see the website and the Undergraduate Bulletin bulletin, 224-26) offers a college-wide honors curriculum regardless of the student's major. (On the student's transcript, it appears, technically, as a minor.) Students are admitted to this program by invitation from its oversight committee: one student cohort is invited to join the program upon entering Geneseo as first-year students, and another is invited to join as sophomores based on outstanding performance in the first year. The program has explicitly transformational goals, being "designed to enhance habits of critical thought and expression, skills equally necessary to success in career, in private life, and in the public life of a citizen." It is one of the few programs at Geneseo to include a course specifically devoted to service learning (Honr 211, Independent Honors Service Project), and such courses as Honr 106, Humanities and Natural Disasters, serve as models for a curriculum that seeks to integrate learning and civic responsibility.
The program also provides a laboratory for new ideas through its alternative general education courses. For example, our newest general education science course, N/Geol-Climate Change and Energy, was first offered as an Edgar Fellows seminar; Intd 105, the required writing seminar for first-year students, is modeled on the first-year honors reading course, Honr 202; and last spring saw the introduction of a new course in Digital Humanities designed to be a pilot for the English department. The Edgar Fellows program culminates in an honors capstone, in which each student completes a year-long thesis project, typically (although not necessarily) a scholarly project in the student's major field.
Many major programs offer their own honors option within the major (Undergraduate Bulletin, 61-347). These options center on a one- or two-semester (depending on the program) honors thesis course, in which students may enroll only by invitation from the program. Invitations are based on GPA in the major and completion of a significant number of credits in the major. Honors courses consist of individual research or creative activity under the supervision of a faculty mentor, leading to a substantial written thesis. Many also require some public presentation of results.
Geneseo currently offers three graduate degree programs: a Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology, a Master of Science in Education, and a Master of Science in Accounting (2010-11 Guide to Graduate Studies). Because the college's mission is to be "a center of excellence in undergraduate education," Geneseo has limited its graduate offerings to a few professional areas. This review examines the extent to which Geneseo's graduate offerings require independent research and critical thinking in their curricula and related requirements.
The Master's program in Speech-Language Pathology, along with the undergraduate major in Communicative Disorders and Sciences (CDSc), has been deactivated. Effective spring 2011, no new students have been admitted to the program, although the college is committed to students already enrolled in the program who will complete their degrees in the next three years. Like the undergraduate program, the M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology has a large and professionally successful alumni base, and these alumni have expressed great disappointment that their discipline has been put on hiatus as Geneseo attempts to address financial cutbacks in state support. The current deactivation, by all accounts, does not reflect either the college's or any accrediting body's criticism or concern about the program's quality. Indeed, the CDSc graduate curriculum has ensured that its graduates acquire and refine independent critical thinking skills and basic research skills and methodologies necessary for competent and ethical clinical practice with diverse client populations. Although graduate students in CDSc have been directly supervised in all of their clinical placements, both internal and external, they have also been expected to think and work independently in developing and administering assessment and treatment plans for their clients in accordance with the principles of Evidence Based Practice. Students in the program were regularly evaluated in their clinical practicum placements for their ability to think independently and solve problems as they provided appropriate client-oriented services and progressed through the sequence of six practicum placements required at the graduate level. The curriculum led students through professional research (sometimes published) and competency in the practice of evidence-based therapy.
The M.S. in Education program is currently the largest graduate program at Geneseo and is one that President Dahl identified, through Six Big Ideas, as providing an opportunity to develop exemplary five-year degree options. Consequently, the primary focus of the task force on Innovative Five-Year Professional Programs was on five-year programs in education. The School of Education recently developed a five-year program for secondary science teachers that could serve as a template for the task force. The task force reviewed five-year programs at other institutions, surveyed students currently enrolled in the adolescence certification and education majors, and examined the potential economic benefit. The task force concluded that a significant drop in enrollment would result if Geneseo only offered five-year degree programs. This enrollment drop and the increased costs to offer more graduate courses would diminish any revenue gains from higher graduate tuition. Currently, the secondary science program has been reviewed and approved by all campus bodies and is waiting to be sent to SUNY system administration and the State Education Department for final approval. The School of Education has developed and approved additional five-year adolescence programs in English, Social Studies, and Math/Special Education. These are making their way through campus governing bodies with the goal of sending all of the adolescence programs for state approval this fall.
For admission to the current M.S. in Education, incoming students are expected to have completed initial teaching certification, undertaken a fair amount of research, and exhibited a relatively high degree of independent thinking. While the requirements vary depending on the specific program, every student in the School of Education graduate program must complete at least one of the following:
- composition of an extensive written review of literature in the area of specialization
- development and execution of an original research project
- experience with clinical application of their research
- field work conducted at local schools.
Every student is also required by the state to complete a significant "culminating experience" that is typically the basis for the student's research or independent study project. Faculty within the School of Education are satisfied that the efforts to integrate such culminating experiences into the curriculum provide transformational opportunities for students to conduct research or work independently outside of more traditional classroom learning experiences.
In his charge to the Six Big Ideas task force on Innovative Five-Year Professional Programs, President Dahl singled out the new combined Bachelor's and Master's degree in accounting as a good model. Students in the Geneseo M.S. program are required to find and evaluate authoritative guidance from the taxation, financial reporting and auditing domains, and to acquire general evidence from the business domain regarding the solution of strategic cost case studies in the managerial accounting domain. Representative examples of problems and projects assigned in recent M.S. classes include:
- Evaluate an uncertain tax position and support your position with citation to the Internal Revenue Code and relevant case law (Acct 520).
- Research and then present key features of the joint FASB-IASB Project on Reporting Financial Performance (ref 10/16/2008 DM) and evaluate key changes from current practice (Acct 530).
- Select four or five accounting topics (specific accounts or line items) and thoroughly familiarize yourself with the extant guidance relating to them from International Financial Reporting Standards. Using a reasonable set of assumed values and inputs, recast the statements of a publicly traded company from US GAAP to an IFRS basis. Analyze and evaluate the changes (Acct 530).
Experiences with various modes of learning
The traditional classroom setting is still the most prominent context for learning at Geneseo. However, Geneseo students experience significant learning in many other forms as well.
Geneseo students have many opportunities for one-on-one learning with faculty. Formal (i.e., bearing credit and listed on transcripts) opportunities include directed study courses, internships, and supervised preparation of honors theses; informal opportunities such as funded participation in faculty research also exist.
Enrollment data show that since 2006-07, between 400 and 500 students per semester have participated in directed studies, approximately 150 per semester in internships, and 40 to 50 per semester in honors research. Smaller numbers participate in directed studies and internships during the winter break and the summer. Although a precise count is difficult because a single student may participate in several forms of individualized instruction, these numbers suggest that about one-eighth of Geneseo's student body is participating in formal individualized instruction at any given time. Participation has been stable over the past four years, except for participation in honors theses, which has increased sharply since spring 2010. Individualized instruction courses provide rich opportunities for transformational learning: honors theses are paradigmatic capstone experiences and involve substantial student research, while internships establish links between academic and "real world" learning; the main use of directed studies is to independently study material not covered in the regular curriculum, but project titles suggest that a significant number are also student research projects.
Geneseo energetically supports student research, as described in tables of externally funded students and in the Office of Sponsored Research annual reports.
- Between 2007-08 and 2009-10, 65 to 70 students per year were externally funded to participate in faculty research projects. Fifty-three students received such funding in 2006-07.
- Total external grant expenditures (expenditures on students alone aren't known) were roughly $1.5 million per year from 2006-07 until 2008-09, dropping to about $900,000 in 2009-10.
- Internally, the largest student research program is the Undergraduate (and Graduate) Research Grants program, which provides grants of up to $650 for research expenses, including travel to present results. This program allocated slightly over $40,000 to 110 projects in 2006-07, rising to $89,000 and 183 projects (178 undergraduate and 5 graduate) in 2010-11.
- Other forms of undergraduate research support include six (four until 2009-10) summer fellowships of $2,500 (raised to $3,000 in 2010-11), seven stipend awards, and five assistantships, all of which provide $500 to support students working on faculty research projects.
As these numbers show, there is rapidly growing interest in research among Geneseo students. This interest is matched by significant external grant support and rapidly increasing internal support.
The college has been a leader in service and is initiating academic connections with service learning. Geneseo has been named to the President's Education Community Service Honor Roll every year since 2006, and several professors have begun to integrate service projects into their courses. The Honors course Something in the Air fully connected study and service in an examination of local food production and consumption. Urban Sociology requires students to write an essay integrating eight hours of related service work to their course studies. Public Relations courses taught by Professor Mary Mohan include stellar work by students that they incorporate into their studies. As described in the Bringing Theory to Practice inventory of transformational activities, "students work on community projects relating to the needs of Livingston and Wyoming counties. In conjunction with the Alliance for Business Growth and local economic development agencies, students have worked in the villages of: Mount Morris, Wyoming, Attica, Perry, Castile, Livonia, Dansville, Warsaw, Caledonia, Avon and Lima." In 2010, ten different academic departments offered 23 courses that included service learning, representing 1.4 percent of all courses offered (Carnegie Report for Community Engagement).
Geneseo is taking a cautious path towards integrating distance learning into the curriculum. In summer 2008 two departments offered a total of three distance learning courses on an experimental basis. These courses served 32 matriculated students. Instructors worked closely with the college's Office of Computing and Information Technology to determine the needs of these courses and to ensure that the technology would allow expanding the number of offerings in the future. The following summer, distance learning offerings expanded to seven courses in three academic areas, serving 139 students, 13 of whom were non-matriculated. In summer 2010, the college offered 22 courses from 11 areas, serving 353 matriculated and 18 non-matriculated students. This session included the first offerings in foreign languages. Summer 2011 will see 27 distance learning courses offered by 13 departments, plus the first hybrid course blending distance and face-to-face modes of instruction (offered by the School of Education).
Distance learning courses are courses already approved for, and established within, the existing college curriculum. Instructors may propose offering such courses in a distance-learning format. The Office of the Dean of the College then reviews and approves these proposals. To date, distance learning courses have been approved for the summer session only.
The Office of the Dean of the College encourages the use of summer distance learning offerings to provide "Geneseo quality" courses to matriculated students who are not in residence during the summer. The intention is to reduce students' transfer of distance learning courses and courses from institutions near their homes (typically two-year colleges) in favor of distance learning courses developed in-house, where quality is assured, and where students may have already established a rapport with the instructor.
The dean's office also encourages summer distance learning courses as a means of relieving enrollment pressure on high-demand courses during the spring and fall semesters. Having some students take high-demand courses during the summer through distance learning increases flexibility for students enrolled in face-to-face offerings by reducing the number of courses that fill and close — an increasingly frequent problem in an economic environment with dramatically limited numbers of full-time and adjunct faculty.
Summer distance learning courses provide several benefits to the college, including an increase in tuition revenue. Such revenue is particularly noteworthy when students select a Geneseo distance learning course over a distance learning course offered by another institution. An additional benefit is that distance learning courses offer students opportunities to use technology and methods now frequently used for electronic information sharing. Because students are never required to take a course in a distance learning mode, students who do not wish, or would not benefit from, this approach need not participate.
The integration of distance learning courses has been successful at Geneseo, but several issues should be at the forefront of discussions about continuing and expanding this venture.
- The college should consider imposing a reasonable technology fee for distance learning courses to help defray the information technology costs of those courses.
- When summer distance learning course offerings fully meet the needs of matriculated students, additional courses designed specifically to attract non-matricutlated students should be explored as a means of generating additional revenue for the college and providing additional opportunities for faculty to offer courses. There should be ongoing discussion of the benefits of offering distance learning courses during the fall and spring semesters.
- Distance learning courses should be formally assessed to determine the relative effectiveness and desirability of these courses compared to currently offered traditional classroom courses.
Over the past 10 years, Geneseo has expanded educational opportunities for both students who leave western New York to study abroad and students who come to Geneseo from other countries. Although study abroad and international exchange programs have different goals, both serve to enhance all Geneseo students' comprehension of diversity. Whether they travel to an unfamiliar place or learn about cultural customs different from their own by living with students from Europe, Asia, Latin America, or Africa, all students benefit from this blurring of campus boundaries.
Learning from international students
International students have had a significant impact on learning at Geneseo. Academic support is provided for students whose first language is not English, but according to the director of International Student Services, many professors have rethought their teaching styles; with more international students in their classes, they began including more visual aids and taking more time for questions during lectures. These changes have contributed to all students' learning.
International students are integrated into American culture in the residence halls. Several international students have earned positions as resident assistants, and they share their stories and cultural interests with domestic students. International students participate in cultural clubs but often "cross" cultures: the Chinese and Japanese cultural clubs, for example, include members from many different cultural backgrounds.
Two dual-diploma programs bring international students to Geneseo and allow Geneseo students to complete a substantial part of their degree program abroad (see the website for the Office of Dual-Diploma Programs). These dual-diploma programs are in
- International relations, in partnership with Universidad de las Americas Puebla, Mexico
- Economics, with Hacettepe University, Turkey (this program does not yet send Geneseo students abroad)
A 2008 survey of Geneseo students who completed study abroad experiences in Italy, Costa Rica, Greece, Czech Republic, and Oxford indicates that students were able to make connections between their coursework and their travel. Humanities I students, for example, read Plato and Thucydides and walked the streets of Athens. Humanities II students connected their study of the Holocaust with a trip to a concentration camp. Students praised the close interaction study abroad gave them with their professors. Students indicated that the experience helped them develop new strategies for managing their workload in a condensed (5-6 week) summer course. Most reported developing a new sense of personal responsibility.
Approximately 30 percent of Geneseo's students have a study abroad experience in their college careers, including semester-long, intersession, and summer courses. Geneseo works with the SUNY study abroad consortium to provide nearly seamless access to study abroad programs in 65 countries. The college now maintains relationships with 16 partner universities and educational institutions, up from five in 2000-01. Between faculty-led and host institution programs, Geneseo students can study in 18 countries — an 80 percent increase over the offerings in 2000-01.
The Office of International Programs (OIP) is directed by the Assistant Provost for International Programs. The office includes Study Abroad, English for Speakers of Other Languages (http://.geneseo.edu/esl) (ESOL), and the international exchange program, which brings students from international universities to Geneseo and sends Geneseo students to programs with which the college has established an exchange relationship. Following a 2010 re-organization, the OIP now includes the International Student and Scholars Services Office (ISSS), which provides services for students and visiting scholars from abroad. This re-organization has made it possible for the personnel in the international programs to collaborate and avoid duplicating efforts. For example, the Study Abroad Office and the ISSS Office are now better able to coordinate the visa process for exchange students and visiting international faculty.
Geneseo ensures that students' "rich co-curricular life" complements their academic experiences through leadership training, civic engagement opportunities, and academic ties within the residence halls. Attentive to the education of the whole student, the college uses co-curricular programs not only to develop students' minds but also to foster their emotional well being, promote their physical fitness, and support their spiritual explorations. Because the college is primarily residential, with 3.000 students living on campus and 2,000 living off campus within walking distance, Geneseo truly teaches students both within and outside the classroom. By scheduling talks and seminars during the weekly common hour, the college can also include the few commuting students who attend Geneseo in co-curricular experiences. A recent inventory of faculty and staff collaborative efforts underscores Geneseo's commitment to bridging academic and co-curricular learning.
The Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development (GOLD) workshop series has been nationally recognized for its breadth and depth in leadership training. GOLD's mission is to prepare all students for leadership roles both at the college and in their local and global communities. This comprehensive mission differentiates GOLD from many collegiate programs that train only students who are already in leadership positions such as those in student government and athletics. The GOLD program offers over 300 workshops every academic year. By defining leadership broadly and reaching a broad audience, GOLD is able to convey to students how important writing, speaking, and research skills are to their future professions. In 50-minute interactive sessions, students participate in their own learning in workshops such as "Write for Success," "Presentation Skills," and "Listening Skills." In these workshops, students find practical applications for their academic skills.
"Leadership" at Geneseo also includes human relations skills: students can earn leadership certificates in diversity and volunteerism. Because the workshops are taught by both faculty and college staff, students have the opportunity to interact with their professors in a less formal setting than the classroom. But GOLD also provides a direct connection to some academic programs: the college librarians offer a research skills certificate, and the School of Business requires all majors to complete 12 GOLD professional development events as a graduation requirement. In 2009-10, the total attendance at GOLD programs was 5,650 (many students attend multiple programs). In 2011-12, as part of the college's sustainability initiative, the GOLD program is offering 18 workshops in a new Jade Leadership in Sustainability Certificate.
In 2007, staff in the Access Opportunity Program created the Women's Leadership Institute to teach all female students, but particularly minority and economically disadvantaged students, skills that will help them network and succeed in professional settings. The institute complements and coordinates with GOLD while adding woman-centered support services and community service opportunities. It sponsors four large development sessions with guest speakers each year. In 2008, AOP added the MILES program (Men Incorporating Leadership, Empowerment, and Service) to provide an opportunity for young men to practice contributing to their communities, especially men who are first-generation college students.
In August 2010, the Vice President for Student and Campus Life convened a student leadership symposium shortly before the start of fall classes. Bringing together athletic team captains, fraternity and sorority officers, resident advisors, college union managers, health guards, GOLD mentors, and student government leaders, the symposium celebrated students' co-curricular achievements, sponsored a discussion of leadership and ethics, and taught skills for bystander-intervention that the student leaders would re-teach, the next night, to all incoming students. That re-teaching is part of the Stand Up for Geneseo program, which empowers students to intervene and assist each other in challenging situations. "Stand Up" bystander intervention is also the foundation of the College's participation in anti-alcohol abuse programs, such as The Red Watchband, and anti-sexual assault programs, including the 2010-11 Sexual Assault training workshops and March 2011 Sexual Assault Teach-in, which brought together 280 students, faculty, and staff to address the problem of campus sexual assault.
Two Geneseo co-curricular programs, both originating in the Center for Community, epitomize transformational learning. Livingston CARES and Real World Geneseo have provided hundreds of students, staff, faculty, and community members the opportunity to consider the relationship between "study" and "service." Since September 2005, Livingston CARES has been sending groups multiple times each year to Biloxi, Mississippi, donating over 241,000 service hours, in order to provide assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In addition to bridging relations between the campus and the Geneseo community ("Livingston" refers to New York's Livingston county, where the campus is located), Livingston CARES has helped to connect students' academic and co-curricular lives through a Hurricane Katrina teach-in (fall 2005) and a course — Engl 237, Hurricane Stories — developed by Professor Beth McCoy of the English Department. Students in Professor McCoy's course and students who subsequently kept journals on their experiences in Biloxi "brought theory to practice" by relating events in Louisiana and Mississippi to their academic studies in the Sociology of Race, Urban Sociology, the History of Civil Rights, and courses in Geography, including the study of Galveston and its hurricane history. Students who have participated in one of the service trips have returned to campus transformed — not by a new knowledge of how to hang drywall or scrape paint, but by the practices of ethics, economics, communication, and management.
Real World Geneseo (RWG) combines a retreat and academic coursework to engage students in diversity-related topics, bringing together students from different racial, ethnic, religious, economic, geographic, and sexual-orientation backgrounds to learn from each other and to combine their experiences through class discussions led by professors from the departments of education, sociology, psychology, and communicative disorders. Led by the Director of Multicultural Programs and Services, RWG grew out of work done by the President's Commission for Diversity (composed of faculty, staff, and students) and the college's Working Group on Bringing Theory to Practice.
Students who have participated in RWG report that the RWG retreat personally challenged their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about culture, diversity, themselves, and others. When asked to indicate the ways in which their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs had been affected, students reported that their thoughts and stereotypes about groups were challenged; that they became more tolerant, more accepting, and less judgmental about others; that they became more willing to speak up about injustice and discrimination and more comfortable discussing issues of diversity; and that they desired to learn more about other cultures and religions. The following table summarizes the results of two rounds of RWG assessment. It indicates that RWG had a significant impact on each of the five civic engagement measures used.
Table 4: Students' Mean Scores on the Likelihood of Engaging in Diversity-Related Behaviors Before and After the Experiential Retreat
Participate in groups/activities reflecting other cultural/ethnic backgrounds
Challenge others on racially/culturally derogatory comments
Make an effort to educate others about social issues
Make an effort to know individuals from diverse backgrounds
Socialize with someone of another race/ethnic group
Note: Scale based on 5-pt Likert scale ranging from 1-not at all likely to 5-very likely
Additional civic engagement activities, curricular and co-curricular, have arisen in the college community not only in response to administrative, programming, and planning directives but also in conversation with student needs and desires. A notable example of such grassroots organization is Geneseo's series of year-long teach-ins, events in which students, administrators, faculty, and staff come together for study and deliberative discussion of a national issue with local impact. In 2007-08 scores of facilitators helped plan and carry out a conversation on Race and Campus Culture; this four-hour teach-in held on the morning of a blizzard attracted over 400 college community members. In 2010-11, Melinda DuBois (Director of Student Health and Counseling) and Associate Professor of Psychology Jennifer Katz organized the Sexual Assault Awareness Teach-in with support from the president, provost, and vice president for student and campus life. From September 2010 onward, community facilitators studied the problem of campus sexual assault in preparation for the March 6 discussion that, once again, attracted both a snowstorm and hundreds of participants. Geneseo's teach-ins represent an innovative transformational practice in service to the college's mission of developing "socially responsible citizens with skills and values important to the pursuit of an enriched life and success in the world."
Geneseo's teach-ins have built upon and reinforced other kinds of civic engagement activity and transformational learning at the college. For example, the 2008 Race and Campus Culture teach-in followed a model created for the 2005 Hurricane Katrina teach-in, using a keynote speaker, common readings, and breakout discussion sessions; and it drew on archival research into race and gender relations at Geneseo conducted collaboratively by a faculty member and her students over several semesters. The 2008 gathering has in turn informed the planning for campus events such as the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration. The teach-ins have engendered or influenced curricular developments such as an experimental course on "Humanities and Disasters," offered through the Edgar Fellows Program, and an English department course on "Hurricane Stories."
On a predominantly residential campus, it is important that the Office of Residence Life provide more than housing. Geneseo's residential education program is built on the Student and Campus Life learning outcomes. Each building and house director is asked to take responsibility for the co-curricular education of residents, whether in learning to lead a healthy lifestyle, become an ethical citizen, develop an aesthetic sensibility, or create a sustainable world. (See 2009-10 Residence Life Annual Report, especially 12, 15) Between 2008 and 2010, three residential college houses were begun at Geneseo: Dante House, a first-year community for Edgar Fellows, international students, and students who select the house because they desire a small community that focuses serious students on global issues and service; Writers House, a residence for students from all class years who enjoy the craft of writing, regardless of major; and EcoHouse, a college house begun through student initiative for residents interested in issues of sustainability and social justice. Each house includes volunteer faculty and staff fellows who attend house dinners, speak at events, enjoy programs with students, and help make connections between classroom and life. Dante House supported the Edgar Fellows/Honors experimental course on food, a course that challenged students to discover the source and labor of food locally, culminating in a soup-kitchen service project. Writers House has hosted visiting writers who stay in an apartment in the house for greater proximity to students, offering workshops and individual critiques. EcoHouse worked with the college's Sustainability Task Force to sponsor Live Green Day in 2011, a collective effort of students, staff, and faculty.
Teaching and Learning Center
Under the heading "academic support," Geneseo counts not only those services aimed directly at students, but also systematic support for faculty seeking to develop creative pedagogies. Geneseo's Teaching and Learning Center is an incubator for transformational learning, providing an informative environment in which faculty can experiment with changes in curriculum and teaching methods. The center highlights the creative work of teachers and supports the pursuit of the scholarship of teaching. During 2010-11, the center sponsored a series of panels based on George Kuh's inventory of high-impact educational experiences.
Preliminary assessment results indicate that a high percentage of faculty members are aware of the Teaching and Learning Center's programs. Approximately half of those responding to a survey reported not having attended one of the center's events, but only 10 percent of those not attending attributed their decision to lack of interest.
Computing and Information Technology
The Office of Computing and Information Technology (CIT) supports student learning and development by providing technology infrastructure and facilities, information technology services, and support for students, faculty and staff. Since fall 2007, Geneseo has required incoming students to arrive at Geneseo with a laptop computer, so that students, faculty, and staff can engage in learning that depends on classroom computing. The laptop program also encourages students to develop essential computer skills and has established a campus culture in which faculty and staff are increasingly willing and able to explore innovative and effective classroom and co-curricular uses of information technology.
Many laptop-friendly workspaces with wireless connectivity, power outlets, and shareable displays have been made available for individual and collaborative work. Collaborative software tools such as the Confluence wiki (where the present self-study has been collaboratively composed) and Google Apps for Education are also provided. All buildings, including residence halls, are 100 percent wireless. More than half of Geneseo students report owning a wireless mobile device. Geneseo offers access to many of its online resources on mobile devices through its mobile site, http://m.geneseo.edu. A virtual computing lab provides students access to Geneseo licensed software on their own computers from anywhere at anytime.
Presentation technologies are available in all Geneseo learning spaces. Faculty can use an online learning management system, myCourses, to post syllabi and other course documents; administer surveys, quizzes and tests; create discussion forums, wikis and blogs; receive and grade assignments; post grades; and more. In the four years that myCourses has been available, faculty use has grown from 34 to 66 percent. Over the summer, students can take fully online courses provided through myCourses over the summer: 30 such courses were offered in summer 2011. Workshops and training in the use of myCourses are provided to faculty throughout the year; a teaching academy is offered each spring for those professors who teach online in the summer.
In the past five years, CIT has
- made presentation technologies available in all Geneseo learning spaces
- outfitted 22 labs and learning centers in the new Integrated Sciences Center
- opened the Innovation Center (in Milne Library) to support video editing, slide scanning, digital and audio editing, large bed scanning and media duplication
- implemented the student notebook (laptop) requirement and increased support services
- obtained, trained faculty on, and implemented myCourses
- obtained a campus agreement with Microsoft Coroporation providing all students, faculty, and staff with Microsoft Office licensing
- created a 60-"seat" virtual computer lab
- supported online summer courses for students and an online teaching academy to train faculty
- provided access to many of its online resources on mobile devices through m.geneseo.edu
Computing and Information Technology has supported student learning and development through co-curricular assistance with computers and technology skills. CIT runs computer labs throughout campus and staffs both a virtual and a human help and service desk in South Hall. Since the college's adoption of the laptop initiative, CIT has provided support for faculty wishing to incorporate more student-centered technology in their courses.
Geneseo's Milne Library combines a physical collection of over 500,000 books and journals with electronic resources (ranging from millions of online articles and over 2.4 million ebooks) and an outstanding interlibrary loan system (Information Delivery Services, or IDS).
The library complements academic coursework with access to collections and services, including guidance in research and technology skills. During the past 10 years, changes in access to collections and in information resources have dramatically altered the library's collection-building priorities and strategies.
- Students' and faculty's increased need for access to a wider range of materials has meant more borrowing from other institutions and has made an efficient interlibrary loan system a necessity.
- This need necessitated a more effective user-driven purchase request system to build Milne's own collections. To accomplish the most from buy-borrow strategies, and to incorporate free ebooks from Google Books and Hathi Trust, Geneseo developed the GIST acquisitions-ILL tools.
- Licensed electronic resources are evaluated each May to assess alignment with curriculum changes and faculty and student needs in the classroom.
- Quantitative data such as cost-per-use, undergraduate enrollment, and materials expenditures drive decisions about effective allocation of resources.
- Geneseo formed the IDS Project, a statewide library cooperative in New York that has grown form 12 libraries in 2004 to 65 libraries in 2011, and that was awarded the 2008 Rethinking Resource Sharing Award for its innovative strategies, technology, and mentor program.
As it balances an increase in borrowing with user-driven selection, Milne Library has seen an increase in the acquisition and circulation of these items. Recent data show that 71 percent of student purchase requests circulate at least one to two times once they are bought and added to the collection.
Over the past 10 years, Milne Library has changed its use of space, its interactions with patrons, and its approach to instruction. The library is constantly filled with students: about 4,000 visitors enter per day during the school year. With more studying options replacing the traditional carrel, students use group areas across the main floor of the library to continue out-of-class discussions, complete assignments, and prepare for exams. Responding to student survey results and to informal student feedback received from suggestions on whiteboards, the library has added group study space and increased the availability of electrical outlets.
The reference and circulation desks have been replaced by a single service desk providing one-stop access to circulation services, research help, and technology assistance. As the library's New Directions study indicates, students have quickly learned to navigate the service desks to get what they need. Students can check out books but also consult reserve readings and borrow laptops, cameras, calculators, ebook readers, and other equipment to support academic endeavors. Reference consultations take place in a quieter and more private space. Students are highly satisfied with the new arrangement, and statistics indicate that the number of in-depth, lengthy questions answered is increasing. Librarians now have more time for more complex reference questions and spending less time on simple questions (regarding location of materials and events, for example) that can be answered by support staff. Librarians recently began offering IM chat for reference questions; its use increased 28 percent 2009-10 to 2010-11.
Milne Library is not simply a place for students to visit; the library provides high-tech classroom space for regularly scheduled courses. Ten years ago, Milne Library had one classroom; today, it has three campus classrooms, two library classrooms, and the Teaching and Learning Center classroom. The Milne 105 classroom is primarily dedicated to the required first-year general education writing seminar (Intd 105); its projector, walls of white boards, and tables-chairs combinations allow for a variety of pedagogical approaches to the teaching of writing, including group work, lecture, and peer editing. Courses in many disciplines (including history, anthropology, sociology, and psychology) use the Milne classrooms, where students have immediate access to tools that enable them to integrate research into their class discussions. The library has used its exhibit space to host art, informational exhibits, and poster displays of undergraduate research.
Milne classrooms are also used for research or technology skills instruction by librarians in classes. Librarians work collaboratively with faculty to set up individualized instruction for courses across the curriculum or to integrate useful technology skills and web services. Each section of Intd 105 includes at least one instructional session on library research, and approximately 37 percent of sections return for additional sessions with a librarian. These sessions focus on skills students need in their first years at Geneseo, as determined by formative and summative assessment of student research skills. The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in the number of faculty-librarian teaching partnerships embedding advanced research or technology skills into course content. These partnerships now reach students in 44 percent of campus departments.
Libraries in general have faced great changes in the last 10 years. Milne's successful transition during this time has included changes with very local benefits (for example, the installation of the first SUNY in-library café) and very widespread ones, such as the building of a library community, through IDS, that shares strategies, systems, and best practices developed at Milne to improve resource sharing and library instruction in our region.
The library recently collaborated with the Office of Computing and Information Technology to provide an up-to-date digital media lab in the library, and it is launching an online foreign language learning subscription service to the campus. The changes implemented by Milne Library have kept pace with the resource and space needs connected with transformational learning. In the year ahead, there are plans for additional services like project management and digital scholarship. Collaboration across learning and research communities remains one of the focal points that keeps Milne Library vibrant and critical to the college.
Success in graduate school is one indicator of the effectiveness of Geneseo's educational programs. According to the 2009 Survey of Earned Doctorates, Geneseo ranked eighth in the nation among Master's schools in the number of doctorates earned by alumni from 2000 to 2009. It ranked third in the nation among Master's degree schools as a baccalaureate source of STEM field doctorates.
Looking at the number of graduates over the same time period, 4 percent of graduates completed research doctorates. The other schools in the top 20 averaged a 2 percent doctoral completion rate.
Within the SUNY system, Geneseo leads the comprehensive schools in the number of doctorates earned by alumni over the past 10 years; the other comprehensives averaged 152 doctoral alumni compared to Geneseo's 437 alumni doctorate recipients. Although Geneseo does not have as many alumni doctorates as the SUNY university centers, the rate at which Geneseo alumni earn their doctorates exceeds that of the university centers; on average, 3 percent of university center alumni earn their doctorate compared to Geneseo's 4 percent.
Because students are Geneseo's most important constituents, it is appropriate to ask whether they believe that we are achieving our primary mission and goals, providing them with the intellectual, social, personal, and professional tools necessary to succeed and contribute meaningfully to society.
The results of the last three annual senior surveys (2008-10) suggest that they do:
- 96-98 percent of students affirmed that Geneseo provided them with intellectual and educational growth.
- More than 93 percent indicated that they experienced social and personal growth.
- 80-82 percent agreed that they experienced vocational and professional growth.
These percentages have increased each year since 2008.
A principal component of Geneseo's mission is to provide a rigorous and challenging curriculum. In the 2010 annual senior survey, the vast majority of seniors were either very satisfied or satisfied with the "extent of intellectual challenge in [their] courses." From 2003 to 2010, between 93 and 98 percent were either very satisfied or satisfied, and 94-97 percent felt that the "extent of academic rigor in [their] major" was either excellent or good. Geneseo also rated slightly better in comparison to other New York state colleges when it came to another central aspect of the college's mission, "provid[ing] students with skills and values necessary for enriched and successful life." When asked in 2009 if they had been helped in "acquiring the knowledge and skills for intellectual growth throughout [their lives]," Geneseo students rated the college 3.85 on a 5-point scale (5 = strongly agree), up from 3.79 in 2003 and highter than the 3.57 and 3.63 for the other category of colleges in the survey. (Geneseo ranked first among 24 state operated colleges.) Similarly, Geneseo scored higher when students were asked to rate their agreement with "Acquiring the knowledge and skills for further academic study": 3.88 (up from 3.78 in 2003), compared to 3.58 (other state-operated colleges) and 3.62 (other SUNY comprehensive colleges). Again, Geneseo ranked first among 24 state operated colleges.
Others notable areas in which Geneseo received favorable responses from students included:
- being required to think critically; developing leadership skills
- receiving quality instruction as well as opportunities outside the classroom for academic interaction between students and faculty
- receiving substantial and useful faculty criticism on academic work
- having access to faculty members within undergraduate majors
- experiencing communication between faculty members and undergraduates about student needs, concerns, and suggestions
When students were asked about their most positive experience (for example, on the recent senior survey), popular responses were:
- research with faculty
- study abroad experiences
- experiences with people of different backgrounds/viewpoints
- co-curricular experiences such as the GOLD leadership program
These experiences all fall under the heading of "high-impact" learning as defined by George Kuh.
Alumni and employer perceptions
In 2010, Geneseo surveyed alumni and their employers by distributing 4,164 alumni questionnaires and 250 employer questionnaires (response rate = 12.4 percent). Although the response rates for these surveys were relatively low, the responses were consistent with those described above and indicate that Geneseo does, in fact, "develop students with skills and values important for success in the world and an enriched life."
- 94 percent of alumni respondents rated their academic experience as good or excellent, with the majority choosing the "excellent" category.
- 87 percent viewed the social experience as good to excellent, again with a majority choosing the excellent category.
- Evaluations of the cultural experience were somewhat lower, with 62 percent of respondents rating their experience in the good or excellent range.
- 82 percent rated their preparation for their current position as good or excellent.
- 89 percent viewed their preparation for graduate study as good or excellent.
This last measure is particularly important in view of the fact that 49 percent of Geneseo's students go on to graduate study (compared with a national average of 21 percent).
The employer survey was conducted to measure the occupational dimension of success. It inquired about employer satisfaction with Geneseo graduates by comparison to other college graduates that employers hired. Employers' satisfaction was measured by their perception of the student's job performance and their willingness to hire the graduate again or promote the graduate to a higher position. In addition, employers were asked to rate Geneseo graduates' educational preparation, skills preparation, and application of skills on the job by comparison to other college graduates.
In the survey, Geneseo students' knowledge and skills were perceived as "excellent" or "good" by comparison to those of other college graduates. However, Geneseo students' application of knowledge and skills received a lower comparative ranking.
These results suggest that the link between "theory" and "practice" could be tightened by providing Geneseo students with more opportunities for application of the knowledge they gain in their classes or by shifting the balance of student course work that stresses knowledge towards higher-level coursework where more opportunities for the application of knowledge are provided.
Tracking high-impact experiences
As should be clear by now, there are many high-impact activities taking place at Geneseo: summer research, paid research during the academic year, directed study and independent research courses for academic credit, participation in GREAT Day scholarly activities and presentations, service learning courses, and the GOLD leadership program, to name a few. However, such activities sometimes escape official notice because they may not carry academic credit and are not always included on an academic transcript. Moreover, the college has no way to keep track of these activities for assessment purposes. To address both these issues, Geneseo is taking two measures: developing both a new category of high-impact learning courses and a supplemental transcript that will be awarded upon graduation.
The high-impact (a.k.a. extreme learning) courses will carry a special prefix, XLrn, and will be listed with a descriptive title. These courses are specifically designed to achieve transformational outcomes and were developed with grant support from the national Bringing Theory to Practice project. To qualify for the "extreme learning" label, a course must include a central interactive experience, service learning, and academic engagement. The pilot extreme learning course is Real World Geneseo. Additional course proposals include Understanding Sustainability Issues in the U.S. and Nicaragua, Diversity and Inclusion in Early Childhood Classrooms, A Court Street Pilgrimage, The Thoreau-Harding Project, and Engaging the Millennial Generation as Catalysts in Urban Revitalization.
The supplemental transcript will include extreme learning courses and other courses that may or may not carry academic credit. All research activities will be listed with specific course prefixes and numbers. Our current policy is not to award academic credit for undergraduate research that is funded. Funded research, while an extremely valuable and rewarding experience for our students, is not mentioned or recognized officially in any of the college documents except the grant proposal and related reports. The supplemental transcript will include these types of activities and will facilitate gathering data about high-impact learning for assessment purposes. This system is currently under development, and the college expects to begin offering the new extreme learning courses in 2012.
Conclusions and recommendations
Strengths and challenges
One of Geneseo's great strengths is the widespread student participation in high-impact individualized learning. However, it is necessary to nurture these opportunities and take care that they remain available in the future: some departments (such as biology) already face more demand for student research opportunities than their faculty can provide, and Geneseo's geographical isolation limits the number of nearby internships.
Wide participation in study abroad is another of Geneseo's outstanding successes, but one that requires considerable financial resources from students and that may in practice be available only to a portion of the student community. It would be financially unrealistic to make study abroad a requirement for all students at the college or even all students in certain programs.
Geneseo's commitment to transformational learning is exemplified by the college's support of service learning, but with fewer than two percent of courses including service learning in their syllabi, the college needs to examine and possibly reassign some of its current resources to support faculty who wish to increase the community partnerships vital to such experiences.
Straitened financial circumstances bring a corresponding challenge, namely to ensure that faculty continue to have the time and physical resources to support small class sections in key transformational courses, and to participate in the college's "incubators," pushing the resulting learning experiences into the curriculum at large.
Integration of different programs, particularly general education and majors, is generally good but can improve.
Geneseo's educational programs, whether formal or informal, are woven through the lives of students and staff to create a truly transformational community. Each individual experiences this community in his or her own way: in classrooms, living spaces, and laboratories; through learning relationships maintained face-to-face, on-line, or overseas. However, several actions are necessary to maintain and further improve this environment. Geneseo should:
- Examine how general education requirements support other programs, particularly majors. This will be particularly important if the college makes sweeping changes to the general education program.
- Examine the current requirement that general education courses must be elected outside (first) majors. Revisions to general education provide a natural opportunity to do this.
- Support faculty who make changes in curricular offerings. This support should be provided both for changes in the major and in the college's approach to general education.
- Formally assess distance learning apart from academic program assessments. Geneseo has not offered distance learning courses for a long enough period to have conducted such assessment beyond the preliminary data collected since 2009.
- Institute a distance learning technology fee.
- Involve librarians in curricular development. This will take advantage of the innovations in research instruction developed by Milne librarians as the college redevelops general education.