Formation in the 21st Century

Formation in the 21st Century

January 26, 2017 News, The Conversation 0

A couple of years ago I wrote a post that reflected on many conversations with alumni, as well as parents and potential employers of Georgetown students. The gist of the message was their call for Georgetown to continue to produce values-centered, broadly-educated, creative, articulate graduates, but also expose them to skills that equip them well for 21st century leadership.

Since that time, through the work of many faculty and students, especially those taking advantage of the Designing the Future(s) initiative at the Red House incubator, we’ve made progress. Focus groups and design studios were held around the country with young alumni, who provided ideas about what experiences would have been helpful to them while studying at Georgetown. They assessed their courses at Georgetown with different eyes, enriched by their work-life events post-graduation. They expressed their own desires for a continuation of their Georgetown education. In a sense, they were thirsting to revisit aspects of the core liberal education curriculum, perhaps a little wiser about its value to them.

We also analyzed the lifecycle of undergraduates at Georgetown. We discovered that many were accumulating credits over their years that permitted them to graduate at the normal end of their eighth semester, but take a smaller than full course load in their last semester. In focus group discussions with them, some expressed the desire for learning that would be a useful bridge from the courses in their major and associated electives, on one hand, and their career/professional aspirations, on the other. More food for thought.

Conversations with faculty members and curricular designers followed. Gradually the idea of attempting to serve both seniors and young alumni emerged – the “Bridge Courses” were conceptualized.

The first editions of Bridge Courses are being offered this semester. They are all 1-credit courses. They are a mix of offerings – some permit the acquisition of skills valued in the 21st Century workplace; others are structured reflection on key choices that unlock lasting meaning in one’s life.

To get a sense of the latter set—known as Revisiting the Core courses—there is a course that examines how one can discern one’s authentic self, in the context of social norms that influence other outcomes. There is a course addressing how to maintain one’s identity and values in a world of rapidly changing features, where social relations are constantly impinging on traditional ways of doing things.

Regarding more concrete work-related skills, there are courses on techniques of negotiation, data visualization, story-telling, and one for those seniors trying to identify an ideal career in synthesis with their full curricular experiences at Georgetown.

An email announcement was distributed to all seniors about the courses. In a matter of hours most of the courses were filled. Several have waiting lists. So the planners may have hit upon a real need.

In some sense this is a launch phase, but it could not have taken place without some administrative changes to permit courses spanning all schools and a lot of work by faculty and staff. This semester, most of the attention has been placed on graduating seniors. Our next step is to build out the young alumni piece, piloting a whole range of new ways to sustain Georgetown’s ongoing formational relationship with alumni five years or fewer out. We also hope that the Bridge Course platform will provide a novel new context to help 8th-semester seniors network with recent graduates.

This semester marks very visible progress on the goal of a fuller preparation of our graduates for effective and fulfilling lives in the modern world. Kudos to all those who worked so diligently to achieve this step!

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