Welcome to the Spring 2018 issue of Baylor Arts & Sciences magazine –– a special issue devoted entirely to the important topic of engaged learning.
Engaged learning is a critical part of our students’ academic experience, because it provides them with a continuum of learning from the traditional classroom to prospective career paths. I have spoken of the importance of engaged learning before, but as you will see in this special issue, we in the College of Arts & Sciences are elevating it to the highest level of strategic importance.
Traditional classroom instruction is perfect for some disciplines in a number of situations. But engaged learning –– learning that typically takes place outside the classroom and in addition to traditional instruction –– is more and more becoming a crucial component of undergraduate education. For our students, this dynamic aspect of education most often includes activities such as participating in undergraduate research projects, applying for competitive national and international scholarships, studying abroad, completing professional internships or collaborating with civic and community activities.
As a result of these engaged learning experiences, our students gain critical thinking skills, collaborative competencies and leadership qualities –– all within a Christian environment –– that serve as catalysts to develop them as future leaders. Through engaged learning, they receive exceptional mentorship and explore their world in ways not otherwise possible, then add those experiences to what they have learned through traditional classroom instruction as they navigate their career paths. This process is a crucial part of “educating men and women for worldwide leadership and service” as stated in Baylor’s mission statement.
We have done these things well in the past, but we know we need to do them even better and in a more coherent fashion. To ensure that we can provide as many opportunities as possible to as many students as possible, we have created the Office for Engaged Learning in the Dean’s Office of the College of Arts & Sciences. Several of the associate deans, and associated faculty from across the College, have stepped forward to take responsibility to manage and lead this important endeavor. We must ensure that our students understand the importance of engaged learning experiences, and instruct them as to what kinds of opportunities are available, how they can adapt these experiences to their career paths, and how they can access any available financial assistance.
Engaged learning is so important, in fact, that the College of Arts & Sciences Board of Advocates has endowed a scholarship fund to provide financial assistance to a student each year to access available experiences. We also hope to secure enough resources through fundraising to endow the Office and expand it into a Center for Engaged Learning that will be fully staffed and equipped with more resources for students.
As a consequence of this endeavor, we will not only continue to provide a first-rate undergraduate classroom education for the 6,500 students in the College of Arts & Sciences, but we can complement it with a panoply of other learning opportunities that extend the classroom into the real world. A Baylor education is unique to begin with because of the passion that the university and its faculty have for their students. But we must always be looking to future, to make sure those students continue to receive the best educational experience that we can offer them.
Dr. Lee Nordt
Dean, Baylor University College of Arts & Sciences