Strategic Planning Committees Ask for Input
Issue   |   Wed, 02/12/2014 - 00:58

On Feb. 3, the College’s strategic planning committees held a town hall meeting to discuss the progress they have made since September and ask for student input.

Directed by Provost Peter Uvin, the strategic planning committees are organized under four core themes: The Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning, The Integration of Curricular and Co-Curricular learning, Diversity and Community and The Internalization of Liberal Arts Education. Each committee consists of diverse range of students, faculty and staff.

Last week’s meeting began when committee members asked how the College can make life outside of the classroom more connected to the learning experience.

“We are already known for a racially, socioeconomically diverse student body, but we should really put our effort to make diversity as a part of our identity,” said Professor Judith Frank, chair of the Committee for The Integration of Curricular and Co-Curricular Learning.

The discussion focused on fostering intellectual environment and diversity in residential halls. Students positively evaluated the roommate placement and first-year dorm experience but also pointed out the limitations of the process.

One student pointed out that because Amherst houses first-year students in dorms exclusively made up of first-years, it can be harder for students to interact with people in other graduating classes.

To prevent such divide, students suggested inviting upperclassmen to tea times organized by Residential Counselors and expanding the DeMott Lecture discussion during orientation week to include the whole student body.

Students were also interested in the plans for newly renovated dorms, and commented that a space’s architectural design can impact both the type of student who chooses to live their and the type of reputation a dorm has. Some students also proposed to create more theme housing, increase space for communal activity such as cooking and change the configuration of floors to resemble apartments.

Along with a change in living environment, students and committee members also discussed flexibility in the classroom.

Professor Rhonda Cobham-Sander, Chair of the Committee for Diversity and Community, wondered whether courses should all carry the same amount of credit. Some students said they believed that there is more room for creativity and rigor under the open curriculum. One student suggested making it a requirement that all students take at least one small 12-person class per year.

As the meeting approached its end, members directed their attention to diversity. Committee members asked how the College can best take advantage of its diversity and also improve the Amherst experience for international students.

The second open meeting planned for Feb. 5 was cancelled due to a snowstorm, but the committees plan to hold another meeting shortly.