Friday, August 14, 2009

How this course came into being

In the 2007-2008 Academic Year, I participated in a seminar led by Walt Hurley and Prasanta Kalita called Undergraduates Engaging in Inquiry. Walt and Prasanta were Campus Distinguished Teacher/Scholars and the seminar was part of their project for the year. Among others who attended was Bruce Michelson, the other Campus Distinguished Teacher/Scholar that year. CHP students obviously know Bruce quite well. I had known Bruce for about ten years, having supported one of his courses with a grant for learning technology back when the SCALE project was a hot thing on Campus.

I participated in this seminar mostly because Walt is a good friend and colleague and I wanted to support his efforts. So I shot off my mouth even more than I usually would have in attending a seminar and did some other things as well. (The blog for the seminar was my idea.) I know from chatting with Cheelan Bo-Linn (part of her job was to support this seminar) that at least some of this commentary was on target, because she expressed appreciation at my participation. Bruce must have also reacted positively to some of what I offered up. Somewhere in the spring semester 2008 he invited me to design my own CHP course. He suggested I have fun with it. I let that suggestion simmer for a while.

Around that time, my Dean told me there would be a retreat of the Council of Deans where they'd discuss proposals for Campus initiatives that would require little in the way of financial resources to get started but would have big impact if implemented. My Dean asked me to write up such a proposal. I came up with this one on peer mentoring. I was told it was favorably received, so I assumed I was onto something. The ideas behind the proposal were not new for me. A few years earlier I had written a series of blog posts on Inward Looking Service Learning (there are 7 posts in all and they should be read from 1 to 7, not vice versa). And, really, many of the ideas dated back to the time of the SCALE project, except then we were in the boom so nobody really was concerned with the cost of college education. Now, of course, that's a big deal.

It occurred to me that I could somehow teach a CHP course and use that to advance the agenda in the peer mentoring proposal. I asked my Dean about it. Since I'm an Associate Dean, teaching is either an overload or takes me away from my administrative responsibilities, and I therefore needed his approval. He is a very publicly spirited guy and supported the idea whole heartedly. So I came up with a proposal along those lines and sent it to Bruce and then we talked it through.

Coincidentally, the faculty member from the College of Business who had been on the CHP Advisory committee had just retired. I ended up replacing her. At the first meeting of this committee, near the end of the meeting, there was a preliminary review of the proposal. I can't recall a more excruciating experience. They started to critique it then and there. Time ran out and Bruce asked for more commentary from them by email. A week or two later Bruce gave me some feedback to the effect that the focus had to be the students in the course rather than the proposal on peer mentoring; there needed to be rigor and academic purpose with a well thought through trajectory and set of readings. I stewed on that for a while.

Ultimately I scrapped the original proposal entirely and came up with this proposal, much closer to what we will be doing this semester. Bruce liked that one and here we are.

1 comment:

  1. Just a test to see if this comment appears on the sidebar of the blog.