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Hastings College revamps first-year experience to prepare students for success

What should having a college degree mean in the 21st century? Hastings College has joined 22 other higher education institutions, including the University of Chicago and Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., in the Pathways pilot program to test that very question.

“Participation in Pathways reflects very well on Hastings College’s academics, faculty and staff,” said Dennis Trotter, President of Hastings College. “Our accreditation body, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association, determined Hastings College has both the institutional strength and the optimal environment for exploring this important question in higher education policy.

For the College, it provides a great opportunity to explore what we are currently doing well and what we can do better to add value to a Hastings College education.”

The institution’s participation in the Pathways program guarantees Hastings College will be reaccredited in 2015 by the HLC.    
This unique opportunity for Hastings College arose following the publication of the Degree Qualifications Profile by the Lumina Foundation, an Indianapolis-based foundation seeking to enroll and graduate more students in colleges and universities.  Through the document, Lumina explored how students should be expected to perform in key areas at various stages in their higher education experience.  The five crucial learning areas identified by Lumina are interdisciplinary knowledge; specialized knowledge; intellectual skills, particularly in communication and in quantitative analysis; applied learning; and civic learning.

The first phase of the pilot program begins during the 2012-2013 academic year with changes to the first-year students’ experience.  All first-year students will be required to take Introduction to the Liberal Arts, a one-credit hour, year-long course through which professors will mentor students for life-long, interdisciplinary learning.  

To provide these students with a shared experience, all courses will focus on a theme.  For 2012-2013, the common theme for first-year students is “Fear”.
 
“We want our students to engage in both common and individual experiences, see the integration of the curricular and co-curricular aspects of their education and live the interdisciplinary nature of the liberal arts from the moment they step onto campus until they walk across the stage at Commencement,” said Dr. Liz Frombgen, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. “We want their HC experience to be holistic, intentional and transformative, and this starts with the ‘First-Year Experience’.”

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