What’s the big idea?
Goucher made national news in 1935 by eliminating required courses and, instead, instituting eight student learning objectives. Then-president David Allen Robertson asked, “Why do we require these courses? Are students really getting from the courses what we intend them to get?”
And so he worked with the faculty to develop “The Goucher Plan,” which aimed to prepare students as individuals, encourage independent thinking, and de-emphasize credit hours as the measure of real learning.
I don’t know what new curricular or other changes await under my leadership, but I do know that as we move forward, we will need to transform ourselves just as we are transforming our students and our physical campus. Our new provost, Leslie Lewis, has already had a profound impact, and many new projects are under way.
As we make small and big improvements across the campus, we will continue to be guided by Goucher’s core values: an educational mission to transform students, the need for financial stability, and a commitment to educational access and affordability.
However, we are also trying to be strategic in everything we do. Strategy is hard. It’s about making choices that may sacrifice something so we can be better in something else. It’s also about decisions that will distinguish us from other institutions.
In this way, sending all students to study abroad was truly strategic. We will continue to need lots of mission-driven innovation and new ideas, but this year, we will also be trying to focus on a unifying direction that will help Goucher stand out in the public realm and unify lots of other curricular reforms.
Virtually every school claims it is the leader in engaged learning, study abroad, service learning, career development, and student transformation. We will continue to do all of these things, AND we will need to find something new to own.
We are paying a lot of attention to the first-year experience and ways we can ease the transition to college for an increasingly diverse student population. This year, a year of many new pilot programs, we have focused on helping our students to find a home in Goucher and develop a sense of belonging here. College is certainly about disruption, but we all know it’s easier to explore from a safe home base.
For many of you, Goucher was that safe haven, a place where you were able to take academic and personal risks to start that transition to adulthood. Please come to Goucher events and to campus as often as you can. This is, indeed, a transformative moment for Goucher. Higher education is facing a perfect storm of changing students, technology, public opinion, government policy, family wealth distribution, and economic uncertainty. Together, we can model for our students that lifelong learning and growth are equally important for adults and institutions.