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Professors join group discussion

Megan Doyle | Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Two professors joined Campus Life Council (CLC) to discuss academic engagement outside the classroom and hear Council members present ideas for building a more intellectual environment on campus.

Professor Philippe Collon, who also serves as associate director of the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement, said students have spurred debate on the topic.

Professor Kevin Barry, associate director of the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning, was also in attendance, and he said ideas from the meeting will contribute to discussion in the administration about how to build greater intellectual engagement.

Former senator Elise Jordan said intellectually stimulating conversations can take place in many places.

“These conversations can spark in different groups of friends, in people who have a passion for what they are studying and want to bring it to the people they live with,” Jordan said.

After brainstorming ideas for how to inspire members of the student body to expand upon curriculum within casual discussion around campus, CLC members focused on the residence halls as opportunities to create open intellectual environment.

Every hall already has an academic commissioner, and bringing together these minds to find out what works and what does not in the halls would be beneficial, former Judicial Council president Ian Secviar said.

These academic commissioners could also create more informal events centered on social gatherings with food and movies, making intellectual discussions more approachable and less formal, former student body chief of staff Ryan Brellenthin said.

Secviar also said seniors have the opportunity to present their theses to members of their dorms.

Former student body president Grant Schmidt said different styles of expression should also be considered. 

“Face-to-face conversation is valuable,” Schmidt said. “But writing can also help you express yourself and your ideas.”

Schmidt said he is interested in the idea of a blog-style debate Web site for students to share their thoughts in a written form.

Members also said broadening the scope of discussion and sharing fields of study is a matter of helping student branch out comfortably.

“We do not go to certain lectures because we feel like we will look like idiots,” Jordan said. “What might be interesting would be for professors to give introductory lectures for these topics.”

Providing opportunities for students to engage outside of their comfort zone is important not only to fill seats in lectures, but also to help classroom discussions, Council members said.

“To cultivate conversation at least initially at this school, [professors] have to force somebody to talk,” former Hall Council co-chair Brendan McQueeney said.

Several members also said professors need to challenge students and push past their resistance.

“We have a great culture of extremely polite students here,” Collon said. “But many professors want their students to be willing to challenge them in order to be equals in discussion.”