Based on that deep dive into the needs of society and our students, Unity College has launched an ambitious new project to redesign the early college experience to:

  • Honor learning wherever it happens, whether that is in a classroom, in the field solving real-world sustainability problems, or on the job.
  • Create immersive, intensive experiences with a flexible calendar that lets students who work hard complete a bachelor’s degree in less than 4 years.
  • Allow students to earn stackable credentials that represent relevant professional skills to employers.

There is much work to do! Follow the progress of the First Two Years project here to see how Unity College is taking a leadership role in creating a new college for the environmental century.

September 5, 2018

From: Dr. Brian Doore
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity Community,
It has been an intense couple of weeks with the opening of school!  Thanks to all who have helped to make welcoming for our incoming and returning students.  It has also been a reminder of how critical our work on the F2Y project will be in meeting the needs of students like the ones we recently welcomed in the past weeks.  Recently, a colleague shared a poignant reminder that while we are working hard to move the F2Y initiative forward here at Unity, our competitors are also in the process of innovating.  For example, Plymouth State has recently announced an experiential learning experience they call Learning Clusters.  Our work must continue with added urgency.  Below I have shared several recent areas of work and future plans.
Work updates:
  • The Phase I working group has completed topical reports and I am currently assembling these into a summary report this week.
  • The Stamats group has completed the survey of potential students and released preliminary results.   We will review these findings and share highlights in the coming weeks.
  • CAPC is working on building out key learning pathways (Four major pathways currently) and articulating how these relate to course skills and understandings
  • SALT  discussed shared expectations for 1000 and 2000 level  student work, which has now been assigned to ARC.  They also considered resources to develop and assess learning trajectories.
Next steps:
  • Complete the Phase I report and share with the Unity Community
  • Form Phase II working groups to address major areas of work including:
    • Scope and Sequence of F2Y
    • Spring 2019 Testbed development
    • Financial Aid & Marketing needs
    • Implementation and Evaluation planning
    • Student and infrastructure supports
As always, if you have feedback or thoughts you would like to share, do not hesitate to reach out to Erika or I with your ideas.

August 17, 2018

From: Dr. Brian Doore
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Colleagues,

This June, I embarked on a new phase of my career in accepting the position of Chief Student Success Officer at Unity College.  Over the past three months, I have had the pleasure of working with an amazing team of Unity people including Dylan Dillaway, Kate Coseo, Aimee Phillipi, Erika Latty, Beth Tilton, Bobbi Thomas, Pam McRae, Jennifer Cartier, Rachel Kahn, Ray Phinney, and Josh Kercsmar on the First Two Years (F2Y) Phase I Task Force.  Together, we have worked intensively to move the First Two Years project forward in substantial and tangible ways.  During these 12 weeks, we have had weekly project team meetings, dozens of check-ins, and two major workday events with over 50 faculty and staff participating.  During these events, our colleagues engaged in the heavy lifting of reviewing learning outcomes, considering instructional models, and designing exploratory testbed expeditionary learning experiences. I am pleased to say we have collaboratively designed a number of key elements of the F2Y project moving forward.

As you have seen in the weekly F2Y updates shared with all employees, the Phase I task force has suggested a structure, delivery model, and calendar for the F2Y project.  I will be working to bring these preliminary recommendations through the formal review process over the coming months.  These were not easy discussions, but they provide us with a roadmap to launching the project fully in the Fall of 2020.  Specifically, the group has concluded that a 10-week term combined with an expeditionary learning approach will allow for a broad range of possible expeditionary learning environments that can be taught using one of several perspectives (we call them lenses).  Our group will unpack this model and these lenses for all employees in the upcoming Professional Development day, and we will lead several extended professional development sessions for faculty the following day.

As a new person, I’ve also enjoyed the chance to review the work done previously on the F2Y project.  My predecessor, Dr. Sarah Cunningham, led many aspects of the design for our current work plan.  While the decision to recommend expeditionary learning as the model for F2Y was determined this summer, the genesis (and credit) of that model must go to Sarah and those she organized in an earlier working Ad Hoc committee comprised of a representative group of faculty and staff.   That group’s work, in concert with the feedback and input gathered through events like last year’s professional development, Unity Works, Faculty Meeting, CAPC, and weekly F2Y updates resulted in dozens of individual data points and the inclusion of multiple perspectives in the framing documents Sarah and her team developed.  One of her final actions was to present this framework to the staff and faculty in May 2018.  In that presentation, she emphasized the importance of developing F2Y within the context of a changing higher education marketplace.  As you will see in the coming weeks and months, the vision that the Phase I task force has created is both bold and ambitious.  It charts a course for an immersive, integrated, and challenging course of study that looks unlike anything else in higher education.   As the charge for the Phase I task force nears its completion in September, I will be organizing a new group of individuals to begin the second phase of work surrounding financial aid related issues.  Simultaneously, CAO Latty will assemble faculty and staff representing a range of constituencies to address curricular and co-curricular design related issues.  In addition we are currently redesigning the F2Y website to include a comprehensive repository of all project-related materials (coming October 1, 2018!)

As I continue to lead and facilitate the F2Y initiative, it is my hope to continue the spirit of communication and collaboration I have found in this project historically.  Coming from a large state school, I find the level of candor and cooperation among my Unity Colleagues to be refreshing and constructive.  I offer my great thanks to members of the Phase I team for educating me about the vision for F2Y.  I have gained an initial understanding of the work and of the promise this project offers to the students of Unity College and as a model of what is possible in higher education if we work together for the common good.

August 15, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity Community,

Work continues on ongoing initiatives to articulate first and second year learning outcomes, inventory current partners, and identify supports from student success.  We are framing and summarizing our work to date for sharing at the upcoming professional development days.

Process updates:

  • The online survey is complete and we expect preliminary results within the next few weeks.
  • The F2Y Phase 1 Project Team continues to collect information regarding the student experience, internships and partnerships, cultural literacy, socio-emotional literacy, and the academic learning outcomes.

Next steps:

  • We will share work completed over the summer, including revised Flagship learning outcomes, instructional delivery model, and preparations for a Spring 2019 Testbed Expedition, with all employees during August professional development.

August 10, 2018

From: Dr. Brian Doore
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity Community,
The First Two Years phase one project team continues to work hard to complete its charge for the first phase of work.  Specifically, this group was asked to:
Phase 1: Develop the content and morphology of the curriculum and align it with a revised academic calendar.
Summary of current work:
Since June, this group has made considerable progress in identifying the structure for curriculum delivery, revised learning outcomes to fit this model, and created a proposed calendar for this initiative.  As shared in recent updates, the project team has recommended Expeditionary Learning as the organizational and pedagogical model for F2Y.  This model offers students the best opportunity for diverse, and engaged learning.  It also provides faculty and staff with incredible flexibility in how to design and provide intensive and meaningful curriculum.  The group has also identified the 10 week schedule as the best fit for this type of educational intervention.  As the working group has designed this framework, several areas of focus for its successful implementation have been identified:
  1. Student Experience; Dean of Students Ray Phinney, coordinator; members: Director of Residence Life/Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Stephen S. Nason, Director of Wellness and Athletics Tim Lecrone, Director of the Outdoor Adventure Center Jessica Steele; charge: design principles of expeditionary learning and how to integrate them with student life;
  2. Internship & partnerships; Rachel Khan, coordinator; Director of Career Services Sharon Bannon & Coordinator Community-Based Learning and Internships Reeta Largen; charge: To examine the types of outcomes that employers, grad schools, and other partners are seeking.
  3. Cultural literacy; Dr. Josh Kercsmar, coordinator; Dr. Jennifer Cartier, Dean of Students Ray  Phinney, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Rana Johnson; charge: to identify issues and opportunities related to diversity and inclusion across the F2Y experience
  4. Socio-emotional literacy; Dr. Brian Doore, coordinator; members:  Director of Health Services Anna McGalliard, Dean of Academic Support Bobbi Thomas, Director of Wellness and Athletics Tim Lecrone, Heather Bryant, Counselor; charge: how would we build and support the socio-emotional literacy across the expeditionary curriculum?
  5. Academic learning outcomes; Dr. Josh Kercsmar, coordinator; members: Dr. Dillan Dillaway, Dr. Aimee Phillippi, Dr. Jennifer Cartier; charge: To coordinate faculty weighing in on integrating learning outcomes into plan.

As mentioned in previous updates, the group has also worked with Dr. Ron Muhurin of Stamats to develop a web-survey designed to understand the needs and interests of a national audience of students.  Specifically, this survey seeks to understand the types of learning experiences that these potential students (rising high school Seniors) are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.  We are pleased to announce that the survey received over 400 responses from a cross section of students.  Once available, these results will be shared through upcoming communications from the F2Y leadership team.

Next Steps:
The Phase I working group will be summarizing the work assigned to the five small groups described above to provide guidance to future design and implementation groups as they plan expeditions.  They are also busy designing the professional development experiences that they will be leading at our upcoming employee professional development days.  As the Phase I working groups nears the end of its charge at the end of August, we are looking forward to the next steps in the development of the F2Y initiative.
The remaining Phases of work include:
Phase 2: Construct a viable financial model and build connections with external partners (Beginning September, 2018)
Phase 3: Design an implementation plan that explicitly includes consideration of employee training needs and areas that will require augmentation
Phase 4: Launch marketing efforts and professional training sessions

As always, if you have questions please feel free to contact either CAO Latty or myself.

August 3, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity Community,

Forward progress on F2Y design is made daily, largely due to the coordinated efforts of the Phase I Project Team.  We are getting close to completing our charge to recommend LOs, delivery model, and calendar for this initiative.

Process updates:

  • The most recent draft of the revised Flagship Learning Outcomes are attached to this email.  They are being used to frame the first two year curriculum.
  • The group is exploring a 10-week (8-week expeditions plus 2-week short courses) trimester model to deliver the F2Y curriculum. In this model, Unity would offer four 10-week terms each year, distributed across the 12-month calendar. Students would complete six 10-week terms (which would include 5 expeditions, 5 short courses, and 1 internship) prior to enrollment in Year 3 degree programs.
  • Expeditions are being built around 6 pathways (recognizing that the exact names for the pathways might change).

Pathways

  • The online survey went live mid-week and within 1 day of its launch, we received over 150 completed surveys.
  • We continue our work to articulate content-specific learning outcomes (many associated with current 1000- and 2000-level courses) that F2Y programming must incorporate. (Leader: Jennifer Cartier)

Next steps:

  • Sub-groups of the committee are reaching out across campus to:
    • Identify core experiences related to cultural competencies that should be integrated into F2Y. (Leader: Josh Kercsmar)
    • Consider how student life programming will be impacted by the proposed model and how to leverage student life programming to provide opportunities for students to achieve LOs. This group will be paying particular attention to the Expeditionary Learning design principles and how these can be integrated and modeled within student life. (Leader: Ray Phinney)
    • Propose strategies and programming to support students’ attainment of social-emotional Los. (Leader: Brian Doore)
    • Design ways to integrate professional preparation, service, and collaboration with businesses, NGOs, and government agencies into the F2Y structure. (Leader: Rachel Kahn)

Members of these working groups may reach out to you for input in the coming weeks. Please take some time to share your ideas and suggestions with them. If you have an interest in the issues the working groups are addressing, feel free to reach out to the group leaders to share your thoughts.

Subsequent working groups will focus on gathering input from the campus community, more detailed design work, and logistical planning (e.g., marketing), among other things. In short, we are just getting started and look forward to energetic participation by the campus community as we move forward!

July 26, 2018

From: Dr. Brian Doore 
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity Community,

The F2Y Phase I project team met this week to discuss several key documents that are in development as the group designs the Spring 2019 full-semester learning experience and lays out the design for the full two year implementation. The group also examined the kinds of key learning outcomes in existing first and second year courses.

Process Updates:

  • The survey developed with Stamats consultant Dr. Ron Muhurin is now finalized and ready for launch. This survey will help us determine the kinds of learning experiences that potential students are interested in. These responses will help inform the design of future learning experiences.
  • The group reviewed the specific learning outcomes for several of the 19 first and second year courses identified last week. This work will continue into next week with the focus of the review on the broad content-related learning experiences inherent to these courses.
  • The projected implementation timeline includes a single full-semester learning learning experience offered during Spring 2019 followed by a year-long learning experience launched in Fall 2019, and full set of learning experiences launched in Fall 2020.

Next steps:

  • The project team will examine the term length options for potential F2Y implementations
  • Project team members will complete the review of existing first and second year courses
  • In concert with the F2Y team, we will formulate the specific agenda for August professional development

As we move from planning the F2Y initiative to implementing the pilot project in the spring, members of the community will no doubt have many questions, ideas, and thoughts. As Erika mentioned last week, please reach out to her,–or to me—with specific questions you would like to see addressed in regards to the F2Y project during our August professional development.

July 18, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty 
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity Community,

Discussions at this week’s F2Y Phase I project team revolved around the content and selection of pilot learning pathways to implement in Spring 2019. The pathways were organized into 5 major themes:

1. Research and Management
2. Education and Human Behavior
3. Policy Expeditions
4. Systems Design
5. Business

We were encouraged by the energy people brought to their workday tasks. The July 10th participants began developing learning pathways that integrate disciplinary knowledge with skill development and real-world problem solving around issues involving sustainability science. We are working towards the creation of learning experiences that will foster innovative thinking amongst our employees and students, a skill with increasingly recognized importance. See this commentary from Forbes magazine about cultivating innovation in the practices of higher education.

Process updates:

  • As previously described, the most recent F2Y workday resulted in the drafting of several compelling learning pathways. The project team is collating the details to consider an expedition that integrates topics around social justice, animal husbandry, and food security.
  • We are working with Dr. Mahurin and Stamats to build the online survey for prospective students.
  • The project team is building the components of the core curriculum content for the first two year experience. To begin this work we created a list of first and second year courses. From this list we generated a set of 19 courses that comprises the majority of courses required of first year students in order to gather the course-level learning outcomes associated with these courses.

Next Steps:

  • Finalize the online survey for live distribution next week.
  • Members of the project team are collecting and describing the learning outcomes associated with select first and second year courses.

As we plan professional development around this work for August, we could like to hear from you regarding elements of this initiative that you would like to learn more about. Please contact Brian and I with ideas you might have.

July 11, 2018

From: Dr. Brian Doore
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity Community,

Today your colleagues met again for an intensive workday to develop a full-semester pilot project for the F2Y initiative. Groups have put forward a variety of innovative and transformational expeditionary learning experiences for Unity students including:

  • People, Plastics and Policy
  • Solving Problems of Justice in Energy Systems
  • Got Food?
  • The Secret Lives of Livestock
  • Expeditionary Learning in a Business Environment
  • Biodiversity: shifting baselines and its consequences

The next steps for the F2Y working group are to review the proposals developed on July 10th and recommend one semester long pathway for implementation for Spring 2019

I also want to take the chance to thank all of the individuals who offered their time and good thinking during our two very intense work days. As a result of that work, we are now ready to move forward with implementing the first project enrolling our students in a full semester expeditionary learning experience. We look forward to sharing updates on this work in the coming weeks and months and to giving the entire community the chance to see this work in action!

July 3, 2018

From: Dr. Brian Doore 
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity Community,

We wanted to provide you with an update on the F2Y initiative.

  • As you may be aware, we recently completed a full work day where teams of faculty and staff worked together to:
    • Examine the Flagship Learning Outcomes and determine the “fit” between these outcomes and the tenets of the F2Y project.
    • Consider the “Identity” of the F2Y project — what is it? What is it not.
    • Develop a series of small scale “test bed” projects that feature experiential learning and partnerships using existing Unity College resources
  • Following this workday, F2Y team members (Especially Juanita and Jen!) have worked hard to organize the outputs of that day to inform the thinking for our second workday coming up next week on July 10th. The F2Y team will be finalizing the agenda for the July 10th date at our July 3 meeting.
  • While we are still working on the exact flow of the day, it will broadly focus upon fleshing out testbed ideas and bringing them closer to implementation, considering the specific needs of our audience (i.e., a more diverse group of 17-22 year old students), and a deeper discussion of the steps that may be needed to move this conversation forward.

Although we are excited at the progress towards testbed projects that will occur in the coming year, we also remain committed to the broader design of a transformative experience for our students.

June 25, 2018

From: Dr. Brian Doore
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity Community,

In the past few weeks, the F2Y Committee members have been hard at work planning for how to take F2Y to the next stage of implementation. Inspired by the Senior Leadership retreat, we have been discussing the importance of identifying the audience for our work and meeting that group’s needs by designing compelling and engaging curriculum that supports the Unity College Mission. To that end, we have planned two work days that include faculty and staff as part of the plan-to-action process. You can see the agenda for today’s work day here: June 25th, 2018 F2Y agenda.

I also want to take this moment to introduce myself. Now in my third week at Unity, I am stepping into the many roles of the Chief Student Success Officer. A key piece of my work will be to Chair the F2Y initiative. I am looking forward to this challenge! You can read a little about my background here. I am looking forward to meeting with each of you in the coming year.

Process updates:

  • The online bulletin board report is nearing completion and should be delivered to Unity College imminently. The data from this report will help inform the ongoing design of our initiatives — especially with respect to the interest of students in different potential approaches to F2Y.
  • We are beginning June 25th work day (see agenda link above). Ron Mahurin will be joining us and facilitating some of the sessions. Today, we will discuss the context for our work, flagship learning outcomes, complete a vision and branding process for F2Y and create test-bed concepts for curriculum delivery.

Next Steps:

  • The F2Y ad-hoc committee meets next week to discuss the results from the June 25th work day and begin planning the upcoming July 10th workday.
  • We anticipate receiving the results of the online bulletin board to discuss next week. This information will be used to inform the online survey and next steps of our project design.

June 18, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty 
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity Community,

Every year the senior leadership of the college spends dedicated time reflecting on our mission, goals, accomplishments, and future plans. Our deliberations over the past week, reinforced our commitment to reimagining learning experiences for young adults seeking a residential, undergraduate program that aligns their educational goals with career skills and personal resilience. Of course, we are not the only college exploring new paths to advance institutional mission. As more college’s explicitly consider innovation in their curricular planning, their initiatives are making news even beyond the traditional higher education media outlets (such as the Chronicle of Higher Education), see this piece from Forbes for an example.

Process updates:

  • The online bulletin board is completed and we are awaiting the final report. We had good participation with 64% of those choosing to participate, completing all questions over a three day period.
  • We are outlining the activities for the June 25th work day. Ron Mahurin will be joining us for that day and facilitating some of the sessions. We plan to discuss context for our work, flagship learning outcomes, and test concepts for curriculum delivery.

Next Steps:

  • The F2Y ad-hoc committee meets next week to discuss the upcoming work day and learning outcome framework.
  • We anticipate receiving the results of the online bulletin board next week. This information will be used to inform the online survey and next steps of our project design.

June 11, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty 
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity Community,

We had our first meeting of the First Two Year Project Team Phase I ad-hoc committee this week. Our time was spent determining the next steps required to complete our charge of designing a curriculum delivery model with a companion academic calendar. We assigned tasks to complete before our next meeting and these included:
1. Reviewing the current draft of the Flagship College-Wide Learning Outcomes document and share feedback with Jen Cartier before the next meeting.
2. Consider design features of innovative curricular models that should be brought forward for this group to consider.
3. Reflect on “the identity of the F2Yconcept”

Our conversation was wide-ranging yet still focused on the purpose of a reimagined first two years experience. Part of our discussion focused on the value of a gap year and if the gap year concept shares common attributes with F2Y. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published a commentary on gap years and considered whether The Best Freshman Year Is a Gap Year.
Process updates:
· F2Y committee members will be reporting out in regards to 1-3 above at the next meeting in two weeks. Anyone with thoughts to share should contact Jennifer Cartier.
· Planning for an upcoming summer work session has begun in earnest. Key topics to cover will likely include proposing learning pathways, continued CWLO drafting, and discussion of mindfulness strategies.

Next Steps:
· We are working with Ron Mahurin to develop next steps in reaching out to potential professional community partners.

June 4, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty 
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Campus Community,

This week we finalized membership of the F2Y Phase I project team. Members include:
· Chief Student Success Officer [CSSO], Brian Doore (Committee Chair)
· Chief Academic Officer [CAO], Erika Latty (Committee Vice-chair)
· Assistant Director of Financial Aid, Elizabeth Tilton
· Associate Director of Career Services, Rachel Kahn
· Dean of Students, Ray Phinney
· Dean of Academic Support, Bobbi Thomas
· Faculty Representative / Dean, School of Biodiversity Conservation [SBC], Pam MacRae
· Faculty Representative / Director of Curricular Innovation, Jennifer Cartier
· Faculty Representative, Dylan Dillaway
· Faculty Representative, Kate Coseo
· Faculty Representative, Aimee Phillippi
· Faculty Representative, Josh Kercsmar

Many of you will recall from an earlier email that Phase 1 of the project consists of developing a framework for curriculum delivery that is accompanied by a revised academic calendar. These goals will serve as the major focus of the Phase I ad-hoc team. Our meetings begin this week.

Process Updates:
· We are investigating two new topics for discussion at future project team meetings. First, we are exploring not only development of student learning outcomes but also methods of measurement. Second, we are also studying the idea of an extensive “intake” process for F2Y where groups of students perform various tasks in a context where they are closely observed. From this, we can make some initial assessments about their college preparedness. Combined with self-reflection and perhaps other intake measures that focus on academic skills (e.g. math, communication, etc.), we could develop a robust snapshot of our students. This could inform cohort formation, course scheduling, advising, and goal-setting, etc.

Outcomes and Next Steps:
· The first meeting of the F2Y Phase I Project Team will occur next Tuesday.
· Stamats will begin the field research for F2Y beginning June 7. The first of two phases of research will involve a moderated web panel of HS juniors. Findings from this qualitative research will inform a broader web survey to be conducted in July.

Please note that Friday we officially welcomed the new CSSO, Dr. Brian Doore to the team. We look forward to a productive first meeting of the First Two Year Project Team with all of our members in attendance.

Sincerely,
Erika

May 29, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty 
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Campus Community,

Our current work is predominately focused on college-wide learning outcomes and the online bulletin board as both projects become better defined.  President Khoury brought an interesting article to our attention entitled, “It’s Time to End College Majors as We Know Them” with the challenge that some of the ideas presented in the article could offer interesting opportunities for the college, particularly in light of the F2Y concept.

 Process Updates:

  • Jen has been refining the curriculum landscape based on the feedback provided by faculty and Linda Suskie during professional development.  One result of her reflections has been to revise the categories of LOs. During Linda’s campus visit, she made a useful distinction between “college-wide” outcomes that fall within the general education curriculum and outcomes that are addressed in general education and in every degree program. The latter group she termed “institutional” outcomes. Jen is adopting this terminology and organization to help us identify where in the “curricular landscape” of the college different groups of outcomes should be addressed (both where students have opportunities to achieve them and where we assess them).
  • Final edits of the Moderator’s Guide for the online bulletin board have been collected and the potential audience has been defined

Outcomes and Next Steps:

  • Share the new draft of the curriculum landscape at the first meeting of the F2Y Phase I Project Team. We anticipate committee membership to be confirmed next week.
  • Prepare the online bulleting for a launch in the first full week of June.

May 18, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty 
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity Community,

The bulk of our efforts this week were focused on some of the more detailed elements of effective academic programming, such as pieces that ensure our students are prepared to enter the work force with a relevant skill set and pursue meaningful work.  Following productive visits with our assessment and program design consultants, many feel renewed commitment to creating learning-centered environments in which faculty and staff facilitate student engagement in active learning.  The latest issue of the Chronicle’s teaching column builds on these themes by sharing what professors and others who care about college teaching might learn about how technology, pedagogical innovations, and the student-success movement could alter the way professors do their jobs.

Process Updates

  • The college-wide learning outcomes emphasizing sustainability science and engaged learning were discussed and commented upon at Faculty Professional Development.
  • We are assembling the First Two Years [F2Y] Project Team Phase 1 Ad Hoc Committee.
  • The Moderator’s Guide for the online bulletin board is in the final drafting stage.

Outcomes and Next Steps

  • Dr. Cartier is reviewing the faculty feedback on the college-wide learning outcomes to produce a revised draft, which will be available for review later this summer. If any faculty still have materials from professional development that they would like to be considered for the next draft of the CWLOs, please send them to Jen and I.
  • We expect the new F2Y Project Team to begin meeting once all members are identified and the new CSSO arrives on campus.

This week also bore witness to Dr. Sarah Cunningham’s transition to a new position with the American Council on Education.  I attribute much of the good work done thus far to Sarah’s steadfast commitment to rethinking higher education models and thank her for her valuable contributions to our efforts.

 

May 14, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty and Dr. Sarah Cunningham
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Colleagues,

Our discussion of college-wide learning outcomes continue to progress as we further refine our expectations for student learning. Of note recently is a common reference to the phrase “backward design” in these conversations. Backward design (also called backward mapping) is a process used for curriculum design in which the first step includes articulating learning goals, which is then followed by the design of the learning experiences. This commentary from the Chronicle of Higher Education considers the role of backward design in curriculum delivery and assessment. It provides some useful context for the outcome work in which we are currently engaged.

Process Updates

  • The most current drafts of the reworked college-wide learning outcomes were shared at the Strategic Academic Leadership Team (SALT) meeting and then presented at the last Faculty Meeting.
  • Jennifer Cartier is continuing her work with faculty on program-wide learning outcomes. Dr. Cartier reports that the groups she has worked with are satisfied with the results of their discussions.
  • Academic and Student Support worked with Stamats to complete a timeline for the online bulletin board and survey implementation. Together, we are now finalizing the content of the Moderator’s Guide for the online bulletin board. You will recall from an earlier email, that the purpose of the online bulletin board is to better understand the view of potential students in regards to innovative learning practices.
  • Senior staff voted to approve the First Two Years [F2Y] Project Team Phase 1 Ad Hoc Committee. This committee will be comprised of faculty, staff, and administrators with a charge to consider the curriculum, morphology, and calendar for the first two year experience. Expect to see the fruits of their labor in the months ahead.

Outcomes and Next Steps

  • We expect the online bulletin board to launch in early June.
  • During the May professional development days, we welcome Dr. Mahurin back to campus. Both Dr. Mahurin and Linda Suskie, assessment consultant, will be working with faculty during the professional development sessions.
  • Those involved in the First Two Years [F2Y] Project Team Phase 1 Ad Hoc Committee should expect to hear from Sarah and Erika during the next week.

The close of the semester always proves to be a busy time of campus life. Despite that fact, we are pleased that many of our standing committees were able to devote time to F2Y in the last weeks of the semester. Senior staff’s approval of our new committee will enable us to maintain continued progress on the F2Y initiative over the summer.

Happy “close of the semester” to all of you.

May 4, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty and Dr. Sarah Cunningham
To: The Unity College Community

Hello Unity Community!

We are excited to be moving forward with some new phases of the First Two Years program this last week.  We have submitted a year-end report to the Davis Educational Foundation explaining how we have used the funds they provided last year, and they have sent along the expected funding for this coming year.  The grant will primarily be used for planning and training time as we develop our curriculum and create implementation plans for operational changes to our catalog.  Our Director of Curricular Innovation continues to work with faculty on articulating learning outcomes and preparing for assessment work during professional development at the end of the semester.  That will be our next visit from Dr. Mahurin, who will join us for a set of workshops delivered by Linda Suskie, an author and expert on assessment and accreditation.

We are also launching some research efforts that will build on the work of the “Deep Dive” or strategic branding initiative that concluded last year.  Stamats, who investigated the academic interests of potential students and did some market research for us during that effort, is building a two-part set of surveys to preview some of our innovative strategies with potential audiences.  While we are also using feedback from our current students, we recognize that the First Two Years program might be attractive to students who do not currently choose to attend Unity.  Therefore, we’ll reach out to both high school prospects and transfer students currently at community colleges with questions about the program.  Starting with an online bulletin board/chat room, Stamats will process responses to some open-ended questions and use them to design a more focused web survey that is sent to an even bigger audience.  The results of this work will allow us to adjust our strategies as necessary and develop language to recruit into a unique program starting next year.

We’ll continue to include invitations to participate at the end of each of these updates, but we’ve heard from some of you, and this Monday Senior Staff will consider the charge of a First Two Years Project Team for Phase 1 of implementation.  We won’t be able to include everyone who has expressed interest, but there will be further iterations with changing membership as we tackle different aspects of the program and build on the work done to date.  If you have any questions about the process, send them our way

April 30, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty and Dr. Sarah Cunningham
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity College,

Our recent conversations have emphasized innovation in academia. Academic innovation can take many forms but most of us agree that it provides high-quality learning experiences that add value to the curriculum, not detract from it.  Other organizations, like the Lumina Foundation and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, have developed frameworks recognizing the dual importance of innovation and academic quality as described in this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

At Unity College, we have defined innovation as a mission-driven, yet flexible mindset that rewards and supports intentional risk-taking to support powerful new learning experiences and change higher education in order to address the evolving needs of society and the sustainability of the environment. We encourage everyone to take another look at the innovation planning document that defines and provides guiding principles for our work at Unity College.

Process Updates:

  • The CAPC has continued their discussion of articulating CWLOs related to sustainability science and, more broadly, to the foundational skills and knowledge that are needed for successful engagement in learning opportunities.  To further advance this work, Dr. Cartier has been working with colleagues to articulate the program-specific learning outcomes. She has also invited interested parties to schedule a work session her if they would like to be more involved in this work.
  • Stamats is using information from the student focus groups and other sources to develop the survey portions of the project.
  • Dr. Mahurin in continuing to conduct interviews with innovation leaders.  Initial observations are that the best work being done is driven by a clear vision, strong leadership, a focus on execution, and of course, ultimately, knowing and doggedly pursuing clear measurable outcomes.
  • Dr. Cartier is providing the context of learning theories (not only cognitive psychology, sociology, and psychology – but also neuroscience) to our outcomes work so that our new curriculum reflects the most current and powerful understandings of learning.

Outcomes and Next Steps:

  • More learning outcome discussions are planned for CAPC and faculty meeting next week.
  • We will hold a joint meeting with Stamats and Dr. Mahurin to discuss the purpose of the survey research, details surrounding an interview guide, timelines, and any other data we will need to identify high school juniors who are the target audience for this research.

That sums up our activity for the week and more updates will be forthcoming.

April 20, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty and Dr. Sarah Cunningham
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity,

While everything gets very busy on campus in April and leading up to commencement, we continue to work on the First Two Years project and engage the campus in considering what we want Unity graduates to learn and be able to do.  Serendipitously, the Council of Independent Colleges has just released a comprehensive report from the Securing America’s Future initiative that summarizes innovative changes at hundreds of colleges in our sector who are experimenting with responses to the challenges facing higher education today.  There’s lots of material to explore, but the section on Curricular Reform is most relevant to our current work and provides some examples of other colleges making changes similar to the ones we are exploring for F2Y.

Jennifer Cartier, our new Director of Curricular Innovation, has been meeting with program faculty as well as our key academic leadership committees to generate revised learning outcomes at the program and college-wide level. She’s excited to continue that work and will be reaching out to all of our program chairs and faculty to meet with them so that we can build out their program outcomes and incorporate their perspective on college-wide learning goals.  This week she is attending a Learning and the Brain conference all about current research on educational neuroscience that can guide our design.  At the same time, Student Success is exploring national frameworks for traditionally “co-curricular” outcomes in the areas of leadership, professional skills, and literacy that we can incorporate into our structure to ensure that our integrative F2Y curriculum is still transferable to the outside world.

The research arm of the project is also progressing.  Dr. Mahurin has begun conversations with eight organizations whose perspectives can help us build the best possible program.  Over the next week, we’ll be refining questions to ask in external market research that Stamats will conduct for us with high school and community college students to help us judge the best approaches to attract students looking for something different who have not (or not yet) found Unity College.

As always, these updates are intended to keep our community informed and ensure that everyone interested in participating has the chance to jump in at the right time!  If you want to join the conversation simply let us know.

April 13, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty and Dr. Sarah Cunningham
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity College Community,

We are continuing our work to develop the morphology of the first two-year experience.  Conversations this week have focused on the breadth and depth of student learning outcomes.  Our experiences at Unity College and elsewhere are leading us to develop learning outcomes that capture knowledge and skills related to disciplines, literacy, and leadership while incorporating our commitment to sustainability science.  We have long recognized the utility in building community-based learning into our curriculum and the world of education is catching up.  Take a look at this article in the New York Times to see how other institutions and programs are using project-based learning to develop career skills and improve teacher diversity in novel ways.

Process Updates:

  • The Curricular Assessment and Planning Committee (CAPC) picked up an earlier discussion at the Strategic Academic Leadership Team (SALT) to consider how to better align our college-wide learning outcomes with our definitions of sustainability science.
  • Dr. Mahurin is scheduling interviews with national thought leaders in developing innovative curriculum and credentialing.
  • The Student Success Team is considering a draft of outcomes relating to leadership and professional skills.

Outcomes and Next Steps:

  • CAPC will continue their conversation to create a draft of the updated college-wide learning outcomes.
  • The Student Success Team will continue their work relating to outcomes in order to arrive at a draft that can be incorporated into the college-wide learning outcomes.
  • Dr. Mahurin is investigating lessons and examples of curricular innovation, including those relating to pedagogy, calendar, competency-based education, enhanced credentialing, and community partnerships.
  • We are considering ways to continue our momentum on this project into the summer.  We will report on this in a future communication.

Have you read something in this email (or previous ones) that has piqued your interest?  Let us know.  We are happy to answer individual questions or explore an idea in further depth.

April 7, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty and Dr. Sarah Cunningham
To: The Unity College Community

Hello Unity!

We’ve had another great visit from our F2Y team, and we want to update you on our progress. Things are speeding up a little as we engage more constituencies on campus in the work to come, but we’ll continue to update everyone each week as we move forward. News from the outside world definitely fosters a sense of urgency as higher education continues to grapple with challenges of relevancy. This week we discussed a recent article in the Chronicle about how our public peers in Maine are responding to our state’s particular demographic challenges. These stories can be gloomy, but each of them has examples of institutions making changes that show real promise for reversing the downward trend, and we’re looking forward to Unity College appearing at the top of those lists!

Process Updates

We continued to develop timelines and project plans for F2Y, informed by vigorous meetings with a number of groups on campus, including:

  • Residence life staff talked about co-curricular outcomes and living-learning-working communities that we could create for our students
  • The Collaborative Learning Center is thinking about how to strengthen advising for our students so they can navigate a more flexible, rich learning environment
  • Dr. Mahurin conducted 4 focus groups with current students to test some of our early plans and get feedback on powerful experiences they either have or wish they had at Unity College
  • The Academic Leadership Team grappled with the creation of college-wide learning outcomes to guide the curriculum
  • Advancement helped us understand some important timelines and communication elements, and we discussed developing language about F2Y that they can begin sharing externally
  • The Chief Officers discussed important terminology that we are using as we develop F2Y so that we can ensure that we all mean the same things when we work together and communicate to others

Outcomes and Next Steps

  • Our students provided us with constructive feedback on current student experiences and signaled an interest in more opportunities for professional experiences and integrated learning. These initial conversations will inform broader market research conducted with high school and community college students later this year.
  • ALT discussed how to align CWLOs with the college’s sustainability science framework and the disciplinary content of our major degree programs. We’re engaging our standing academic committees in this work by bringing the challenge to the Curriculum Assessment and Planning Committee and the Strategic Academic Leadership Team to continue the progress.
  • Dr. Mahurin has begun conducting interviews with innovators in the educational space whose perspectives can help us navigate this process. His initial call with the American Council on Education generated great interest in the F2Y project and the potential for networking with some of their partners across higher education.
  • We are delighted to welcome Jennifer Cartier to the team as our new Director of Curricular Innovation! She’ll be helping shepherd our outcomes work now as well as assist the faculty at every stage of the curriculum development process moving forward.

Dr. Mahurin will be back on campus in May to join us for our professional development days, when Dr. Linda Suskie will deliver an assessment workshop to our faculty and we can make some sustained progress on our goals. Thanks everyone for engaging in this exciting project with us!

March 30, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty and Dr. Sarah Cunningham
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity College Community,

We are looking forward to welcoming Dr. Mahurin back to campus next week.  We have arranged a schedule that includes meeting with students, staff, and faculty.

Higher education news: The American Council on Education (ACE) is working towards determining how to assign college credits to work-based training programs with support from the Lumina Foundation as described in this article from Inside Higher Ed.  Similar tools are showing promise in attracting adult learners to complete their degree in Tennessee as part of a state-wide push to increase attainment of post-secondary credentials.

Progress to date: We have created an introductory narrative to frame our interviews with experts in curricular innovation from around the country.  In preparation for the Dr. Mahurin’s April visit, the Programs Chairs have been reviewing the program-level outcomes developed by the faculty during January professional development.  These outcomes range from developing the knowledge and skills to address the biodiversity crisis to preparing students to solve global issues surrounding sustainable development.

Next steps: Student focus groups will be conducted next week with students clustered by graduation date (e.g., 1st and 2nd-year students or 3rd and 4th-year students).  We also expect to review the campus-wide learning outcomes with the Curriculum and Assessment Planning Committee.

As we continue down the path of F2Y development please share any relevant articles, ideas, and design concepts with us as you come across them.

February 23, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty and Dr. Sarah Cunningham
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity College Community,

Since the campus visit with our external curricular consultant, Dr. Ron Mahurin, we have been reviewing previously gathered materials and summarizing the results of recent conversations to focus the next steps of the first two years initiative.  For those of you wishing to follow our progress look for our weekly emails and consult our new First Two Years page on the Unity College website.

Goal setting. To reach our goal of a Fall 2020 launch of the new curriculum, we outlined a project development plan consisting of 4 major phases.

  • Phase 1: Develop the content and morphology of the curriculum and align it with a revised academic calendar
  • Phase 2: Construct a viable financial model and build connections with external partners
  • Phase 3: Design an implementation plan that explicitly includes consideration of employee training needs and areas that will require augmentation
  • Phase 4: Launch marketing efforts and professional training sessions

Work in progress.  We are investigating curricular innovation models at other institutions in light of our conceptual goals for this initiative, broadly defined as creating a valuable, differentiated, accessible, and affordable education framed by sustainability science.  Our research also includes identifying leaders in alternative systems of teaching and learning, such as the development of shareable credentialing among employers.  As we consider how to leverage student engagement in this project, we are preparing questions for student focus groups. Continued discussion around these ideas has demonstrated a need for shared language.  To that end, we are creating a glossary to define such terms as curriculum, co-curriculum, and experiential, just to name a few words that require clear explanations.

March campus visit.  Dr. Mahurin is returning to campus March 14-15.  We expect to meet with student support staff, faculty, advancement staff, and students during this visit.

As always, reach out to us with questions you might have.

March 16, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty and Dr. Sarah Cunningham
To: The Unity College Community

Dear Unity College Community,

While the weather this week threw a small kink in our plans by cancelling a planned visit by Dr. Ron Mahurin, we have been moving ahead with the F2Y initiative on a number of fronts.

  • We’ve identified a set of higher education experts and innovation leaders that Dr. Mahurin has begun conducting in depth interviews with so that our project can benefit from their experience and expertise.
  • We have applied for inclusion in the next phase of the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers’ Comprehensive Learner Records project.  Funded by the Lumina Foundation, this ambitious initiative strives to create a framework and standards for schools to use in designing extended or enhanced transcripts that capture co-curricular and professional learning in addition to the formal curriculum.  This is just what we will need in order to represent the transdisciplinary learning our students will do in the F2Y program.  They are expanding from a successful pilot program, whose results you can read about here: Comprehensive Student Record Project: Final Report.
  • We have both upperclass and freshmen student focus groups arranged for Dr. Mahurin’s next visit, so that our decisions can incorporate the perspective of students engaged in environmental education. These will complement a more extensive set of surveys and web panels conducted with community college and high school students by Stamats in the second phase of our work with them.
  • We continue to work on outcomes definition with faculty, specifically members of the Curriculum Planning and Assessment and Academic Leadership Committees, with the goal of adopting a new set of College-wide Learning Outcomes this year that fully realize our sustainability science framework and serve as the scaffold upon which we can build more detailed expectations for students learning in the F2Y program.

If you have questions or are looking to get involved in these efforts, please reach out and let us know!

February 14, 2018

From: Dr. Erika Latty and Dr. Sarah Cunningham
To: The Unity College Community

During the last several months, we have been collating our community efforts on the First Two Year Initiative, to develop a framework to build out the vision for a novel curriculum that is relevant, accessible, and valuable for our students as they prepare for meaningful careers.  This academic year, a variety of stakeholder groups have provided valuable input during both August 2017 and January 2018 professional development sessions to inform this concept.

Of course this work has considered and built upon insights developed through the Strategic Branding Initiative (also referred to as the Deep Dive) and is framed by outcomes developed by the First Two Year Committee.  The work is further guided by our strategic plan (G1: OB1: INITIATIVE 001) to integrate curricular, co-curricular, and residential components of the first two years of Unity College experience into a transformative and developmentally differentiated living and learning experience through Sustainability Science.

Recently we announced our partnership with Stamats and Dr. Ron Mahurin to advance the discovery, design, and implementation phases of this flagship initiative. Last week we were fortunate to have Dr. Mahurin on campus to engage with some of the key faculty and staff constituencies involved in this process. We also leveraged this opportunity to consider how the first two year initiative dovetails with our definition of innovation at Unity College.  This is an important moment for each of us to consider how to best align our work with this institutional priority.

Our work to date, coupled with secured funding support from the Davis Foundation, has led us to developing the goal of launching the redesigned first two year experience in Fall 2020.  Between now and Fall 2020 there are many conversations to unfold, questions to answer, and accountability to realize.

Thank you to everyone who met with Ron during his visit and provided valuable input and perspectives on the decisions before us.  We had the opportunity to meet with the President, Chiefs, School Deans, First Two Year Committee, Student Support staff, Career Services staff, and members of the Curriculum Assessment and Planning Committee, Strategic Academic Leadership Team, and the Academic Leadership Team.

There will be additional opportunities to meet with Ron later in the semester.  Be assured, that we will all be involved in the steps along the way.  Please don’t hesitate to stop, consider, and ask questions as we make progress towards our ultimate goal of increasing the accessibility of a Unity College education and building a citizenry informed by the principles of Sustainability Science.  Please make room for this initiative in your daily work lives.  When prioritizing projects, consider how they advance our realization of a newly designed first two year experience for our students.