Remember when railroad tracks ran through campus? Or when students scored touchdowns where they now do science experiments? Can you picture the old Lutheran church transformed into the exercise science building—or the art professor’s house where education majors now try out teaching?
Like all colleges, Central is constantly evolving. But it’s not a process of natural selection; the faculty, staff and students direct the college’s path. Beginning in 2010, more than 200 members of the Central community went through the wormhole—imagining different versions of Central’s future. Their discussions and dreams resulted in a strategic platform and an implementation document recently approved by the Board of Trustees.
Using our trusty crystal ball (and the strategic platform, of course), we shed some light on what Central College might look like in 3, 5 or 10 years.
What will Central look like in three years?
Faculty will collide with one another.
In the academic realm, faculty often live within their own little worlds, focusing exclusively on their specialties. But at Central College, faculty collaboration across disciplines has always been present—as in the case of Intersections, the required first-year seminar. Now this collaboration will become even more institutionalized, with faculty merging disciplines to provide a fuller learning experience for students.
During the inaugural Chairs Conference held this fall, faculty shared their specialties with one another and gave multidisciplinary presentations, like the English, communications and anthropology professors who talked about their health-related courses.
The next step is the creation of a pedagogical incubator. It’s a mouthful of a phrase meaning a digital and physical space where faculty can share, test and examine new teaching methods. Like the increasingly popular business incubators, the “fast-cooker” at Central will allow faculty to pilot new ideas and techniques to explore prior to the formal, lengthy process of curriculum change.
The four class deans and four class directors are the talk of campus this year, the first of the distinctive Integrated Learning program that blends classroom education with the lessons of the residence hall, athletics field, laboratory and stage.
Like tandem-bicycle riders, the class deans help students navigate and put their feet to the pedals during tough, uphill rides—forging a mentorship that will last all four years. The class directors, on the other hand, focus on each stage of the ride, perfecting the formula for student development during the four-year experience.
With the Great Eight on their side, future students will have a built-in support system augmenting the other deep connections they’ll make at Central.
Civic engagement will be our middle name.
Last year, the Dutch completed 60,598 hours of community service. But Central is always looking to do more for people who need help the most. The Center for Community-Based Learning (CCBL) will become a regional volunteer center that connects citizens from Pella and surrounding areas with nonprofits. The Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service will provide computer software that allows people to search keywords and available dates when looking for volunteer sites.
Why is Central connecting third-party organizations with community members? Because it will allow our students to network with professionals volunteering at nonprofit organizations. And because it’s the right thing to do. “Colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to make the world a better place,” says Cheri Doane, director of the CCBL. “We have the responsibility to play a role in the democracy.”
What will Central look like in five years?
Nurses could come at night for a four-year degree.
Today, many hospitals are requiring nurses to earn a B.S.N. degree from a four-year program, rather than the associate’s degree most currently hold. That means many working nurses have to go back to school. To meet the needs of southeast Iowa, Central is exploring the establishment of an R.N.-to-B.S.N. bridge program, allowing working adults to set flexible schedules as they take the liberal arts and health classes they need. Faculty members would be committed to integrating these nontraditional students with the rest of the population to enrich the experience for all.
Central is also considering other accredited health programs for medical technicians and professionals in nuclear medicine. Other possibilities include health technology, bioinformatics and health management.
The Summer Scholars Program currently in the works devotes the seemingly endless hours of summer to faculty research and undergraduate scholarship. These experiences are needed more and more on resumes and grad school applications. “Doing serious scholarship takes incredible focus and commitment of thought, time and effort,” says Keith Jones, professor of psychology. “The summer is the time they can devote themselves to such work.”
Instead of taking on a summer internship, some students might choose to spend their sunny months sitting down with a professor to explore a topic more in-depth than is possible in the classroom. The result—publication or presentation at a conference—places them on the the same level as students from the top schools in the nation.
The Dutch could study in Africa, South America, Asia and the Middle East.
In the past few months, Central has piloted opportunities for students to study in Oman and started to explore partnerships with universities in Brazil. New locations on different continents might continue to crop up—either within Central College Abroad or in partnership with other schools.
But the real change will be the format of study abroad. Instead of choosing just one site, students could pick a theme, such as the arts, and spend a semester traveling between Paris, Vienna and London, learning about the artistic history of each culture. At the University of Leiden, with a world-renowned program in international law, students passionate about the topic could study in The Hague and Amsterdam, both less than an hour away. Brugge and Paris, just a few hours by train, are also centers for future lawyers looking to take on the world.
What will Central look like in 10 years?
Our residence halls will fly flags from dozens of countries.
A global education takes place at home just as much as abroad. Bringing more international students and faculty to campus will introduce students to dozens of new cultures at once. As countries multiply on campus, conversations are sparked, world issues are considered, ideas are compared and tolerance grows.
In order to make Central a second home for newcomers, infrastructure will be developed to support international students as they make the transition to life in Iowa. Within 10 years, a significant percentage of Central students will be from foreign countries, creating a campus with international character.
Art lovers, theatre buffs and music aficionados will flock to Pella.
Pella isn’t exactly Paris, but in a few years, music will ring in Iowans’ ears when they think of Central. Already known for its strong music program, the college is ramping up its theatre and music performances, as well as its art exhibits. Guest artists and alumni from around the country will perform for and with Central students. And people from Des Moines and Cedar Rapids and Davenport will come to see and hear it.
Improvements to performance spaces may be on the table, as well as renewed investment in arts programs. More students looking to major in music, theatre and art will find Central really feels like a home—and a road that could lead to Broadway or the MOMA.
All students will be global citizens, even if they never leave campus.
In our globalized world, international education is more than just a resume booster; it’s a stepping stone to a full, modern life. Although many courses at Central already have international components, more classes will be recast to include a global perspective. The curriculum will be internationalized with new courses that address the needs of the larger world.
The process begins with faculty development. A workshop in Merida, Yucatan, last winter was the first of many abroad that will encourage faculty to think about their disciplines in the light of different cultures.
In addition, more Central students will be encouraged to take courses in second and third languages. Fluency is not the goal, but the understanding that can only come when you speak with someone else’s tongue.