Recommendation 1: Provide Additional Support to Realize the Potential of our Pioneering Block Plan
Block Plan Initiatives:
Our Block Plan, started in 1970, is now an honored CC institution. Because it naturally supports a more active, collaborative form of learning, it has stood the test of time — and fits in extremely well with the learning style of today’s generation of engaged and independent students. By committing to the Block Plan, our faculty have chosen a different and, yes, somewhat more arduous path. The intensity of the Block Plan requires innovative pedagogy and daily, mutual accountability between faculty and students. There are no best practices or off-the-shelf programs to guide us — only our own pioneering efforts. For that reason, we must continue to innovate and boost support for faculty and students as they define the Block Plan for this new era of learning.
One question we hear when extolling the benefits of the Block Plan is – “If it is so great, why doesn’t anyone else do it?” The answer is – IT’S HARD!
To support our faculty and students as they experience the full potential of the Block Plan, we will create a Center for Immersive Learning and Engaged Teaching to be a focal place for academic support. The Center will be a dynamic place where students, faculty, staff, and alumni come together, where resources are available to discover and share best practices and support new ideas.
Bringing together our current academic support programs under one roof; the Center will include the offices of sustainability, community engagement, international programs, and academic technology as well as the Help Desk, the Crown Center for Faculty Development, and the Colket Center for Academic Excellence. The Center will also provide a home for new resources such as an Office for Field Study, which will model our successful Office of International Programs and support and assist faculty in all disciplines as they design and implement local and regional field trips. We also envision the Center including support for undergraduate research and students writing theses and fellowship proposals, where faculty from across the disciplines will mentor thesis and summer research students in an interdisciplinary workshop for writing.
Need help organizing your block abroad or field trip? Want to flip your classroom (or just find out what it means)? Want to do a community-based research project for your senior thesis? Want to Skype in for a class discussion with an alumnus who served in Vietnam? Want to offer your expertise as a class speaker? Go to the Center!
One strength of the Block Plan is its condensed schedule, which enables distinguished scholars and practitioners to come to CC to teach for all or part of a block. To take better advantage of these opportunities, our new Center will build on the block and extend our reach with in-residence programs for artists, scholars, social entrepreneurs, journalists, postdocs, filmmakers, and others. To fully engage our alumni and parents who are experts in their fields and interested in sharing their experiences with students, we will embed someone from the Alumni Office in the Center to help faculty identify and build connections with these wonderful resources.
Finally, our new Center will develop a higher profile for the Block Plan by delving deeper into its unique academic experience and sharing our findings with others. Not only is there internal demand for research related to pedagogy, but we routinely receive inquiries from other institutions, particularly high schools and institutions offering a J-term or Maymester, that are interested in how the plan supports student learning. We’d like to be able to share sound research both internally and externally.
To boost the pedagogical approach of the Block Plan, the Center might feature visits from higher education scholars who want to study learning on the block, a national conference on language immersion study, a journal on innovative pedagogical approaches, a workshop on teaching summer and January courses for colleagues at other institutions, and a workshop on best practices in teaching in the field.
To provide a physical home for the new Center for Immersive Learning and Engaged Teaching and prepare Tutt Library — the intellectual hub of the campus — for this generation of students, we will renovate Tutt Library. This renovated physical space will offer technology-equipped seminar rooms, study space, and group collaboration rooms, as well as a cafe to bring our community together in both structured and unstructured ways. Being flexible to engage both faculty and student interests will be the key to the physical — and academic — space the Center offers.
A talented and diverse student body is key to student learning on every campus, and it is even more important at a liberal arts college on the Block Plan.
While our new dynamic center will enable us to accomplish all that the block allows us to imagine, building on the block also requires that all these programs — field trips, blocks abroad, and other experiences — be available to all students regardless of family income. To open CC’s full academic experience to all students regardless of income and to free the imagination to do even more with the block, we will eliminate all program fees.
As we embark on these new initiatives, we must remember that the success of the Block Plan depends on a talented and diverse student body and a dedicated, excellent faculty and staff. The CC academic endeavor for each student is greatly influenced by one’s peers. The small classes, engaged classroom environment, field trips, athletic teams, co-curricular activities, residential life, and collaborative work that are part of our educational enterprise mean that peers are an integral part of each student’s experience. This experience is richer for each student when surrounded by talented and curious students from different backgrounds, cultures, and places — and with different talents and gifts.
To recruit the best and brightest students, especially those who would benefit most from a CC education, we will build additional resources for financial aid. This effort will include funds to support scholarships for Division 1 athletics.
Building a faculty of dedicated teachers who are also committed scholars engaged in their disciplines has been and will be critical to providing the finest liberal arts education to generations of CC students.
Teaching on the block requires strenuous, sustained effort and planning. To continue to attract, develop, and retain an engaged faculty who are equal to the challenge of teaching on the block, we must enhance resources and flexibility to support faculty scholarship and creativity across the disciplines and activities that make up the learning experience. We must be open to new ideas for support and resources, including creating new opportunities for collaborative work such as team teaching or a humanities colloquium; increasing travel, equipment, and grant funds for researchers; boosting support for coaches and other important mentors and guides; and establishing a more flexible sabbatical policy.
- Tutt Library Renovation and Expansion
- Center for Immersive Learning and Engaged Teaching
- New Office of Field Study
- Expanded Faculty-Student Collaborative Research Program
- Journalist- and Artist-In-Residence Programs
- Opportunities on the Block
- Expanded resources to students over block breaks and on blocks away
- New funding opportunities for academic grants and conference presentations
- Diverse and Inclusive Campus
- The Butler Center
- QuestBridge Partnership
- Bridge Scholars Program
- Increased diversity of faculty, students and staff
- Faculty Scholarship Support
- SEGway funding
- New Development Research Blocks
- Financial Aid and Scholarship