Strategic Plan Update: Center for Integrative Learning

Students working on geography project

Freshmen in the First-Year Immersion program collect water samples from Letchworth State Park. As part of the College's strategic plan, the College will open a Center for Integrative Learning. Photo by Keith Walters '11.

Geneseo is continuing to implement the highest priority (Phase I) action items that were identified in the Geneseo 2021 Strategic Plan. Out of a pool of $1 million dollars identified to advance those items, $350,000 was directed to time-sensitive student recruitment efforts. Last September, project leaders in charge of seven other action items shared proposals during a campus forum to secure funding available from the remaining $650,000 fund balance. Based on recommendations from the Budget Priorities Committee, made in consultation with the Strategic Planning Group, President Denise A. Battles allocated various amounts across all seven action items. In the coming weeks, One College Circle will update each funded area.

Center for Integrative Learning: $60,000

This initial funding will support efforts in the planning, professional development, and organizational design of a Center for Integrative Learning (CIL), anticipated to be in place as a working program by fall 2018.

Integrative learning is one of three major categories of learning outcomes in Geneseo Learning Outcomes for Baccalaureate Education (GLOBE), the framework for curriculum redesign adopted by College Senate in March 2016. It also connects to the SUNY Applied Learning plan.

 “Integrative learning is central to the work of a 21st-century liberal arts institution and is a common thread among many of the initiatives on the Strategic Plan high priority list” said Joe Cope, professor of history and director of the Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Development (CIDD), who serves as project organizer for the CIL initiative.

According to Cope, integrative learning encourages students to think through the significance of the experience — which can include classroom instruction, undergraduate research, internships, community service and much more — and understand how what they’ve learned is connected to the College mission to prepare them for an enriched life and success in the world.

The basic contours of the CIL initiative emerged from the work done by a team of colleagues who attended last year’s Association of American Colleges & Universities Summer Institute on Integrative Learning and Signature Work. Participants included Cope, Provost Stacey Robertson, Vice President for Student and Campus Life Bob Bonfiglio, and three faculty members of the Curricular Design Working Group: Distinguished Teaching Professor of English Beth McCoy (group chairperson), Associate Professor of Geography and Urban Studies Director Jennifer Rogalsky, and Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy Aaron Steinhauer.

Cope is currently conducting focus group discussions with on- and off-campus groups this semester. From this research, he will then develop a proposal to revise the existing CIDD. This will include a more deliberate focus on supporting existing integrative learning initiatives, cultivating new opportunities based on faculty and staff interests and expertise, and promoting integrative learning as a key part of the student experience. Cope will share his research results at an open campus forum in the future.

Thus far, the initial CIL funding has helped provide extra service pay to faculty to be part of a faculty-staff test group known as the Learning Community on Student Self-reflection and Portfolios. “Integrative learning stresses the importance of student self-reflection which is not a natural skill,” Cope explained. “It needs to be cultivated.” As such, the group’s 15 members were already working on self-reflection in some way — in classes, service experiences, and with late career students to help them develop portfolios and career statements. “They have an interest in modeling strategies to help students acquire that self-reflection skill,” Cope noted.

The funding has also supported the purchase of books and resources instrumental to researching and developing a strong integrative learning model. In addition, the money will help cover travel costs for several faculty-staff Learning Community members to attend the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges annual meeting this summer at Midwestern State University (Texas), where they will present on their efforts in enhancing self-reflective work in integrative learning projects.  

A physical space for the CIL is being discussed as part of the Fraser Hall renovation project. With a more centrally-located space than the CIDD’s current offices in Doty Hall, the eventual “collision space” would allow faculty, staff, students and community members to join together and collaborate on integrative learning projects and also serve as an incubator for new initiatives.

“Integrative learning is happening already and all over campus but often occurring in individual silos,” Cope observed. “The CIL will give us a better opportunity to identify holistically the ways that integrative learning is manifested on campus — and also support the great projects already underway that are preparing students for life after Geneseo.”

— By Tony Hoppa