Opinions

Spend the grant on experiential learning; Puget Sound recieved $250,000 from the Andrew Mellon Foundation. Now the school needs to decide how to spend it.

The University of Puget Sound recently received a $250,000 three-year grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation emphasizing experiential learning.The University proposes allocating these funds toward e-portfolios and symposiums to foster greater experiential learning and interdisciplinary collaboration and competition among students.

Creating an online, browsable database for students to articulate their passions and interests while seeking out others’ portfolios would cultivate connections across majors. Students have a lot to learn and gain from each other. Establishing a platform which allows students to easily collaborate has the potential to aid in continued learning and application of Puget Sound’s education.

E-portfolios encourage individualized education and stress the importance of interdisciplinary learning, not only in communicating goals and ambitions, but also in actually carrying out said goals in concert with other interested students.

Despite Puget Sound’s status as a liberal arts university, its student culture suffers from a lack of an interdisciplinary flow of ideas.

Students tend to associate and deliberate with other like­minded students, often within the same major.

This is not surprising, especially considering the amount of time students spend with other students in their department or programs such as the Business Leadership Program and the Coolidge Chapman Honors Program.

Expressing one’s values and opinions to students one is familiar and comfortable with is expected within college culture; however, this can also be restrictive in the sense that familiarity and comfort often inhibit innovation and diversity of thought.

The Puget Sound education heavily emphasizes critical thinking and application, but the avenues in which students can apply their liberal arts education are largely restricted to structured summer research. With increasingly limited funds for summer research, students should be encouraged to innovate in a creative, unstructured and student-driven environment.

Facilitating this student-driven research in a competitive incentivized symposium would be an excellent opportunity for students to both experientially learn and practice the application of their ideas.

The ideal symposium model would simulate a science fair, emphasizing and rewarding interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. For example, an international political economy major and a molecular and cellular biology major could develop an optimized detection system for a disease that holds massive implications within the economic and political spheres. Theoretically, these students would have connected via similar interests and goals on the e-portfolio database.

While some may argue this is beyond the capability of students, the idea that they cannot innovate and develop in the sphere outside of the Puget Sound community is limiting.

Networking and promoting ideas that benefit society — with potentially lucrative implications — hold great importance and should be continually encouraged in universities across the globe. The students of the University of Puget Sound are no exception.

Students can greatly benefit from understanding and valuing other perspectives while simultaneously incorporating their own. Energetically manifesting this proposed process of collaboration into concrete application through symposiums and other programs would provide legitimacy to the University’s claim that it is a critical thinking and experientially minded university.

If the University offered these sort of incentivized opportunities, it would attract a wider and greater caliber of future students to contribute to its continued excellence.

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