High Point University has a proud history of being committed to a quality liberal arts education that creates career-centered outcomes. While holding onto that tradition, HPU’s College of Arts and Sciences continues to innovate, introducing new teaching techniques and programs in order to produce graduates who are ready to take on any challenge in their chosen careers. Dr. Carole Stoneking, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, discusses some of the college’s success, challenges and what’s coming up on the horizon.
The value of a liberal arts education is sometimes questioned, but HPU students are making tremendous strides in their careers. How are your students doing after graduation?
We have very successful graduates. One of our 2013 science graduates, Nikki Sanford, spent her summer interning with the American Institute of Physics on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. before starting at William and Mary Law School this fall. We have others in well-respected masters programs like Ashley Reaves, who will be studying international relations at George Washington University; Linda Poplawski who will get her masters in Medical Physics from Duke University; and Laura Reese will get her masters in Math from Wake Forest University. These are just a few examples, but they illustrate a much broader picture of student outcomes.
Our current students are on the path to success as well. Carter Adams just spent the summer in Washington D.C. working for his congressman; music major, Ashley Siebeneichen, worked with the world-renowned songwriter Charles Strouse; and Matt Jakubowski interned at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., one of the world’s largest insurance brokerage and risk management services firms.
We equip our students to adapt to the changing world. If you look back 20 years, most people had a job for life. Now most graduates leave their first job within three years. Moreover, jobs will change. Job titles that do not even exist now could be mainstream professions within five years, much like social media consultants. That’s why a liberal arts education focusing on the development of higher-level cognitive skills is so important. Learning facts and content isn’t enough anymore. We need to curate sophisticated thinkers who aren’t limited by the content they know, rather they are able to adapt, create, and apply knowledge to new contexts. Both our general education core and our major curriculums are focused on preparing students to engage in complex reasoning and ethical decision-making, skills that prepare our students to take on jobs that don’t even exist yet.
Undergraduate sciences at HPU are flourishing. How are these departments growing?
We have always had strong science programs, but with the addition of proposed professional programs in pharmacy, physician assistant studies, and physical therapy, we anticipate additional significant growth. In preparation for that growth we are planning for new facilities as well as new faculty. New department chairs in Biology and Chemistry joined us this year. Dr. Brian Augustine is the new chair of Chemistry. Brian taught at James Madison University and served as a Fulbright Scholar in South Africa at the University of KwaZulu Natal. He conducts research on the surface modification of novel nanocomposite polymers and the fabrication of microfluidic devices made from these polymers. Dr. Angela Bauer is the new chair of Biology. She comes to us from the University of Wisconsin where her research focused on the potential health effects of exposure to endocrine disruptors. Dr. Augustine and Dr. Bauer bring abundant experience, vision and energy to two rapidly growing departments.
HPU faculty are constantly rethinking their classrooms to ensure the best learning environment for students. How is the College of Arts and Sciences approaching that challenge?
We have encouraged innovation over the past several years through our Think Big Grant, which has spurred a number of experiential learning opportunities like the Democracy USA Project last year. This year, we are launching three exciting new projects.
First, with the support of our Service Learning program, we are working with community partners to create a new “Community Writing Center.” The center is being designed by interior design students and will be staffed by English and education students involved in Service Learning classes. Those students will work with and tutor local students from the surrounding neighborhood. This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to give back to the community and perfect the skills they’re learning here at HPU.
Second, the math department is launching a project to investigate the effectiveness of “flipped classrooms.” This is an approach that inverts the traditional model in which students come to class unprepared, are introduced to material by a professor and then leave to study and learn on their own. In a “flipped” model, students have first contact with material outside of the classroom, using technology like podcasts and online games. Thus, when they come to class the focus can be upon processing, application, and problem solving skills that prepare students for a changing world.
Finally, Dr. Holly Middleton in the Department of English just started the Digital Writing Initiative, a program to teach our faculty how to integrate technology into their courses more efficiently. Students are already using online tools to access all manner of content. This project will support faculty who want to harness tools like electronic literary analysis, digitization, and advanced visualization techniques to classroom projects and interdisciplinary research. This initiative will enable students to experiment and interact with source materials in ways that yield new research findings, while also facilitating skill development, community building and information sharing.
I see a vital synergy between these projects born of the shared goals of increased student engagement and faculty-student interaction. Engagement and interaction are not only the trademarks of the liberal arts and sciences, but they are the differential advantages of bricks-and-mortar education. These projects will lead the way in developing learning environments that focus less on content and more on the application of material to new contexts, the curating of intellectual curiosity, and the development of those higher-level cognitive processing skills that best prepare students for a changing world.