In a memo sent to the Lafayette community Monday afternoon, President Alison Byerly announced the creation of three Presidential Task Forces. The task forces will seek to address issues that Byerly considers to be important to Lafayette’s development, and will be formed by this weekend.
“The college’s 2007 strategic plan outlines a lot of important initiatives that we remain committed to,” Byerly said in an interview with The Lafayette. “But a lot of things have changed since 2007. A lot of new issues have emerged; a lot of new pressures in higher education need to be addressed. I think it’s important for me as a new president to get as much input from the community as possible. I want as much feedback and input as possible.”
Byerly emailed the memo after reporting to the Board of Trustees in their October meeting. The task forces will focus on Curricular Innovation and Technology, Enrollment Planning and Capacity, and the Integrated Student Experience. They will be comprised of faculty members, combining membership from elected faculty committees and at-large members who will be chosen based on self-nomination.
Byerly hopes to have reports from these task forces by the end of the year.
“I think if we can get some concrete suggestions for ‘here are some things we can do differently,’ that would be very valuable and helpful to me,” she said.
Curricular Innovation and Technology
During her inaugural address earlier this month, Byerly repeatedly cited technological innovations made by “top universities” such as Harvard University. Specifically, she referenced Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
“MOOCs are kind of symbolic of technological change,” she said. “It is symptomatic of the way in which technology changes our relationship to information and potentially the relationship between teachers and students.”
While she said she has no concrete ideas about what innovations to integrate into Lafayette curriculum, she hopes that this task force can give a few suggestions.
“When I’m thinking about faculty incorporating technology, I’m certainly not thinking that we’d replace courses on campus with [MOOCs],”Byerly said. “But we want to look very broadly at the opportunities technology offers.”
Byerly wrote in her emailed description that the task force is “charged with looking at existing and potential structures for promoting innovative thinking among faculty with regard to emerging pedagogies and technological opportunities.”
Enrollment Size and Program Capacity
An article in the October 12 issue of The Lafayette entitled “Enrollment Size a Concern, Faculty Say” reported that several department heads are concerned about the growing size of the school’s student population. Civil & Environmental Department Head Arthur Kney said that engineering faculty are feeling “overworked.”
“Where’s the tipping point?” English Department Head Patricia Donahue asked.
Byerly understands the concerns of the faculty and hopes this task force will be able to provide some answers.
“I think [their concerns] are completely reasonable and legitimate,” she said. “The size of the school should be something that we plan for and something we agree on.”
The written description of the task force reads that it will be “looking at the enrollment size of the College, in the context of some general consideration of other aspects of the college’s programmatic capacity, including admissions pool, facilities, and calendar.”
Integrated Student Experience
Byerly describes this task force as an extension of the Laf360 Initiative, which aimed to connect the components of each student’s daily life.
“It’s a follow-up on Laf360 but thinking a bit more broadly on the things I alluded to in my inaugural address,” she said. “How to connect the residential, academic, advising, and extracurricular pieces into a somewhat more coherent experience for students.
“It will be thinking about not only academic and residential but also more broadly how even aspects of the extracurricular experience come together with students’ academic work.”
According to Byerly’s email, the task force will be following up on the final Laf360 report, which was released in August. Details of the report had not been provided by press time.
The Integrated Student Experience task force will look “for ways to better connect and integrate different components of the student experience, and different stages in the student pathway from entry through graduation and beyond.”