The School of Arts and Sciences moves forward with flagship initiatives
The School of Arts and Sciences continues to make progress in planning and implementing what it has judged”flagship initiatives » as part of their update strategic plan– a decade-long program to “build a leading university”.
The initiatives’ webpage says they will “build on existing strengths to create exciting and transformative new ventures,” although most actions are still in the planning stage. The school hosted a “first look” fair for community members to learn more about the initiatives on Wednesday, September 14.
Arts & Sciences announced the initiatives last spring, along with several other strategic plan changes. At the time, Provost Beverly Wendland said the University would begin implementing the outlined changes in the fall 2022 semester and would continue to do so for the next decade.
The eight initiatives were created to strengthen the arts and science strategic plan, each linked to one or more of the six strategic pillars: Transdisciplinary Futures Incubator, Transdisciplinary Institute in Applied Data Science (TRIADS), Research Fellowship Program Public Studies, Literary Arts Center, Living Earth Collaborative 2.0, Center for Quantum Leaps, Global Health Undergraduate Program, and Literacies for Life and Career.
Associate Dean of Research Deanna Barch served as co-chair of strategic planning for Signature Initiatives alongside Abram Van Engen, the Dean’s Fellow for Educational Innovations.
According to Barch, creating the initiatives was a team effort of faculty and arts and science administrators.
“We had a great team of people involved,” Barch said. “Creating the plan was truly a community-wide effort. There have been many town halls, surveys, outreach and meetings to generate ideas for elevating the arts and sciences. »
Strategic initiatives cover a wide range of disciplines and interests. Many initiatives focus on advancing research at the University, such as the Transdisciplinary Futures Incubator.
“[The Incubator for Transdisciplinary Futures] is a framework for people to write funding proposals to try out new transdisciplinary research and teaching programs,” Barch said.
The Transdisciplinary Institute in Applied Data Science (TRIADS) initiative also supports research across fields of study to address social issues.
“[TRIADS] is not a project in itself, but rather a channel to help faculty gather around new research projects focused on applied data science,” Barch said. “Data science can be used to answer big questions about government, economics, sociology, and other topics.”
The Center for Quantum Leaps initiative focuses on quantum technology and how it can be applied to uses in biomedical and life sciences, from nuclear power to drug testing.
Other initiatives focus on public service and community collaboration.
The Public Scholarship Program initiative aims to translate the work of the University to the general public by collaborating with local organizations, creating jobs and internships, and teaching innovative courses.
The Living Earth Collaborative 2.0 initiative also aims for the University to partner with local groups involved in biological and environmental issues.
“The Living Earth Collaborative is all about conversation and education about sustainability and green ideas,” Barch said.
The undergraduate program initiative in public health will establish a major in global health, focusing on how environmental and racial factors play out health outcomes and patterns seen across the world.
The eight flagship initiatives facilitate interdisciplinary learning. The Literacies for Life and Career initiative, for example, promises to integrate information applicable to relevant jobs and life experiences into courses across all departments.
Erin McGlothlin, co-director of Literacies for Life and Career, said the initiative will have a wide impact.
“[Literacies for Life and Career] will touch every arts and science course, student, advisor and faculty member,” said McGlothlin.
Selected faculty members will meet throughout the fall 2022 semester to work on the rationale for the initiative and determine the specific literacies that will be presented.
“We have hired 10 arts and science faculty members to be literacy fellows who will define literacies,” McGlothlin said. “They have already met and started their work.”
After defining the literacies, early adopters will test the effectiveness of the initiative through existing courses. Eventually, literacies will be implemented in all first-year courses and beyond.
“At the end of the 5-year period, [Literacies for Life and Career] will be considered in all arts and science courses,” said McGlothlin.
While each initiative has its own committee and timeline, all are subject to a three-year planning and testing schedule. Many have not reached the testing stage.
“We hope for all [of the initiatives] to start this year,” Barch said. “However, we have to see if they work and if they achieve what we hope they will. We believe that three years is a good evaluation period.
New initiatives are also underway, but the University has yet to announce any.
Lauren Bruhl, a junior and major in environmental analysis, has not yet heard of the Living Earth Collaborative 2.0, but sees it as an interesting initiative for the University to take.
Bruhl said the Living Earth Collaborative 2.0 could allow more students studying environmental analysis or majors in similar fields to engage with the material in a unique way.
“I would definitely be interested in learning more about this [the Living Earth Collaborative 2.0] and I think that would be a great move for WashU,” Bruhl said.
As the year progresses, students can expect to hear updates on the progress of the Signature Initiatives.
“It’s a particularly exciting time to be at WashU,” Barch said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how things play out over the next few years.”