One of the critical issues that arose during the strategic planning process was the desire to create better pathways for our students into, through and out of the educational program at St. Thomas. The concept of a two-year college certainly fits that goal. It will provide an opportunity for students we do not currently serve to access a new St. Thomas program.
So much effort has gone into the two-year college initiative that the other hard work of the Flexible Pathways task force can be easily overlooked. One of the task force’s sub-committees has been looking at developing new and better relationships with local community colleges, so that students who know that they want to matriculate to St. Thomas will have a curriculum plan at the start that will help them achieve that goal. This work will be continuously updated as the work of Educating for the Future progresses.
Once at St. Thomas, we want every student to have a smooth path through our programs. One of the Flexible Pathways initiatives now underway is a plan to integrate undergraduate student services, including offices such as the Career Development Center, Disability Resources and Academic Counseling.
Additionally, the university is in the process of hiring a new position related to retention and success. This position will be charged with working with faculty and staff to enhance our retention efforts and promote students’ academic success. The task force has named this project “The Student Success Center,” because it aims to assist every one of our students in achieving their educational goals.
The Flexible Pathways task force also has a number of other initiatives that are already underway. These include:
- A series of workshops on “Course Design for the Common Good” through Faculty Development; and
- Enhanced support for digital pedagogy through STELAR.
And, as if that is not enough, the task force is working hard on their final initiatives, which include expanding opportunities for internships, externships and job shadowing that will help our students transition into the workforce; enhancing mentorship opportunities with alumni around the globe; and developing a “Take St. Thomas Home for the Summer” program that will provide our students with online versions of our core courses for those who cannot stay on campus.
The Flexible Pathways task force has been busy and productive! Often working in the shadows, these changes will transform our campus into one that is welcoming, supportive and focused on student excellence in all of its forms. If you have comments, questions or suggestions, task force co-chairs Carol Bruess and Vern Klobassa would love to hear from you.