By Suzanne Unck
The first day in Denver is a wrap. After the introduction on Integral Theory, we went to the Sheraton for a clarification on our visit in the afternoon to Regis University and its honours program. Regis has an undergraduate honours program which consists of five seminars throughout the whole study. Forty selected students are allowed to follow the alternative honours pathway in which they work to facilitate expertise to address great and timeless questions. Through an integrative approach students become critical readers, polished communicators, integrative and historically rooted thinkers, engaged learners leaders and generous community members. The dispositions of honours students is that they become life long learners, responsible citizens and reflective thinkers.
In the general explanation of the Regis honours program, honours program director J. Thomas Howe emphasized that honours students are lovers of learning, they become energized through learning. Honours is an elevation of their education, it’s a different kind of work, discussions on a deeper level, different questions and an integrative approach.
Interesting is that students have to apply to participate in the honours program. A 60 second video, in which they show their talent, is part of that. Their honours curriculum ends with a thesis on a self-chosen topic, for which students find their own coaches.
Subsequently one of the honours students guided us around the campus. There were inspirational quotes everywhere outside and in the buildings. Regis is a Jesuit University, so they have a strong and solid view on humanity and education.
When we got back, students and faculty were available to talk with us in smaller groups. I had a conversation with dr. Ken Sagendorf. He is the director of the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) at Regis University. They started 3 years ago as a community for faculty to learn together and from eachother: peer learning. Students and staff are also involved. With their activities they try to start the dialogue on personalized education and ongoing innovation in education. Groups of eight to twelve participants work together on producing something: a tool, a video, a training. It can be anything. They aim to build stronger relations within the community of faculty. One of their activities is the annual Celebration of Student Learning. Students present what they’ve learned. Every week dr. Sagendorf sends out a teaching tip by e-mail to help faculty improve their teaching skills. Work-study students are involved in this, they also write a blog themselves to share their views on education so faculty can learn from students.
Some interesting notions are the fact that Regis is experimenting with an electronical portfolio platform which is open toe everyone (if the students wishes that) and still can be used when the student graduated. I’d like to sort out of we can work with it too for our honours students: www.pathbrite.com. Dr. Sagendorf also referred to an article on reflective thinking by Carol Rodgers: Defining reflection.
Some other colleagues talked with honours students, for instance Linda van Wilpen: our chairman of the HU Honours Association (HUH): ‘What I have learned today are new ways of creating value. HUH is mainly focused on the social activities and can learn a lot about community service. I have made valuable contacts this afternoon, so there is going to be some work in progress for our association.’
Carien Touwen went to a conversation with Professor Deb Bennett-Woods, director of the Center for Ethics and Leadership in the Health Profession. This is a unique concept in health education, allowing faculty and workfield to relate in a professional manner from an academic outlook. The Center generates its own revenues via consultancy and training. Unlike commercial consultants in health care the Center works with hospitals and health professionals on the basis of mutual benefit. With knowledge and experience gained through working in the field and dealing with every day issues around ethics in health care faculty staff improves education in their own department and gains input for research. The business model of commercial consultancy and training enables the Center to decide on how the money is spend, thus creating more space to operate than in the regular educational system. Professor Deb Bennett-Woods views the Center as a vehicle to learn how do outsource teaching contracts within the regulated university structure. Furthermore the flexibility of the Center makes it possible to more quickly and adequately deal with changes in society and health in particular. Thus preparing students better for the world they have to work and live in.
In the evening some of our group had supper with the members of the Sirius Network. Interesting conversations with like minded people with a passion for education. Had a blast with my colleagues from other Dutch universities!