Feedback from the Fall Faculty Workshop

During the summer of 2014, the CCVC worked with faculty leadership to integrate general education themes into the 2014 Fall Faculty Workshop. Seeking to foster a Common Curriculum with a cohesive vision and learning outcomes, CCVC framed the workshop on the theme of liberal education and invited a nationally recognized scholar on general education to help stimulate faculty conversations at the workshop. Dr. Lee Knefelkamp, a professor of Psychology and Education at the Teacher's College at Columbia University and former Academic Dean of Macalester College, delivered the keynote presentation discussing several questions and themes: What is an excellent liberal arts education for the 21st Century? How do we create the competencies to achieve this? How is this done in the historic culture of the campuses? How do we engage the entire community? and How do we communicate all of this to our students? Dr. Knefelkamp discussed several essential learning outcomes in general education and emphasized the importance of high impact educational practices (HIPs), which we discuss in more detail in Part B.

The CCVC later met with Dr. Knefelkamp to discuss national general education reform efforts. Dr. Knefelkamp identified several issues for the committee to consider:

  1. CCVC was a learning team raising issues and acquiring knowledge so the community could make the decisions;
  2. The work needed to be painstakingly collaborative and emphasize relationship building (She provided an example of a team at another college that held 138 individual meetings with departments);
  3. The work of the committee needed to be transparent and faculty had to be regularly updated about its progress; and
  4. The presidents and academic affairs leadership needed to be engaged in the process and the conversations.

As a result of this advice, CCVC decided to schedule listening sessions with academic departments, as well as other stakeholders, including admissions, international education, the libraries, and advising. The sheer number of meetings meant that the committee devoted much of its energy during 2014-2015 hosting these sessions. CCVC established a public Moodle site available to all faculty members to display the committee's documents. The committee also worked with faculty leadership on arrangements for a special session of the Joint Faculty Senate in September 2014, with SJU president Michael Hemesath and CSB president Mary Hinton invited to participate in a discussion on liberal learning (due to the unexpected death of a SJU student, the presidents could not attend the session but the senate proceeded with the conversation).

Following Dr. Knefelkamp's presentation, the Joint Faculty Assembly met to discuss questions related to liberal education at CSB/SJU. The session resulted in extensive written feedback, which is summarized below. All of the raw data (the collected notes from the faculty workshop, the minutes from all of the program meetings, and the student surveys) can be found on the CCVC public Moodle site.

Faculty Workshop Data Analysis

The CCVC used the Fall Faculty Workshop, along with other meetings and events, to obtain feedback from the faculty to drive the development of the guiding principles for our general education structure at CSB/SJU. This section of the report will highlight the data collected from faculty during this workshop period.

Table 1. General Themes/Ideas Emerging from the 2014 Faculty Workshop

Learning traits

Flexible, adaptable, innovative, creative

Lifelong learning, curiosity, life of the mind

Openness to new ideas

Connecting the interdisciplinary dots

Skills to Success

Critical thinking

Communication skills

Team and Leadership skills

Individuality and Community

Awareness, Tolerance, and Engagement with varied Groups (Global, Gender, Diversity)

Community Citizens

Autonomy, independence, and self-awareness


Happiness, personal fulfillment, meaning

Moral, Ethical, and Benedictine values



Learning from the past

Shared vision and commitment

Cultural shift needed

Funding for planning/executing change

Communication between disciplines/departments/divisions


After Dr. Knefelkamp's presentation, faculty met in small groups to address the following three questions:

  1. What do we want CSB/SJU graduates to be like 5, 10, 20 years after they graduate?
  2. At yesterday's Community Forum, we were asked, "It is 2020. What distinguishes CSB and SJU from our competitors?" Putting the same question in the context of liberal education and the Common Curriculum, what will be distinctive about our graduates?
  3. What do we need to do to get there? How do we create an environment to facilitate change?

Responses to these questions were documented and collected by the CCVC. This resulted in over 19 pages of data. As the data was compiled, several themes or ideas emerged as identified in Table 1. All 19 pages of comments were collated within these themes to better understand the general and common ideas portrayed by over 200 faculty present at the meeting. First and foremost, these themes/ideas revealed a set of traits, skills, and behaviors that should be developed and strengthened in CSB/SJU graduates.

Theme 1: Learning traits

When asked to describe a successful graduate (based on the questions above), one key theme that emerged from the faculty responses are desired sets of learning traits. The most common traits desired of our students by faculty included a creative, flexible, and innovative mind. Innovation and change is what drives industry, lifestyle, and solutions to today's world problems. To drive innovation, individuals must be creative and flexible in their thought processes. Faculty described this flexibility as a CSB/SJU graduate who is willing to "cope and adapt to change," "change themselves and shape change in the world," be able to "reinvent/reimagine themselves in their lives continuously," and be willing to not always take the "most obvious path." These learning traits require "flexibility," "problem-solving skills," and a "willingness to try and to be challenged."

CSB/SJU graduates must also develop the ability and desire to continue learning after their time at CSB/SJU. One faculty group describes CSB/SJU students not as an "end product" or a "finished project" but as individuals with an "explicit commitment to continually enlarge themselves and their awareness of the world." This requires several key learning traits including curiosity, engagement and passion. These three traits will enable graduates to continue the learning process in their communities and society at large. Some faculty describe this as a person with "depth," a "book reader," and one that has "more questions than answers."

CSB/SJU graduates should be open-minded. To some faculty, this means that students become "comfortable with being uncomfortable" to explore "context before framing decisions," and "comfortable encountering perspectives with which they do not agree." This capability to view an issue from multiple angles and identify all sides of an argument or problem will enable more CSB/SJU graduates to make informed decisions based on consideration of various perspectives.

Many liberal arts institutions require coursework from multiple disciplines. However, faculty more specifically articulated a student's ability to integrate this knowledge. From faculty comments, the desire is that CSB/SJU graduates use the knowledge gained from previous disciplinary coursework (including the Common Curriculum) in additional, future courses as well as in their experiences outside CSB/SJU. There is a need to remove students out of "disciplinary silos to encounter and converse productively about complex interdisciplinary questions." As mentioned above, today's problems and issues are complex and require knowledge from multiple disciplines to identify innovative and creative solutions. This requires an ability to integrate disciplinary knowledge.

Combined, these learning traits will enable CSB/SJU graduates to successfully approach knowledge and information openly, willingly, enthusiastically, and from multiple disciplines and angles to result in potentially innovative and creative solutions and ideas. These are traits that can be used not only in the workplace but also in an individual's everyday life.

Theme 2: Skills to Success

In addition to basic learning traits as mentioned above, success from the CSB/SJU experience includes a basic set of key skills as expressed by faculty. Not surprisingly, among the most common skills mentioned in faculty discussions is the development of a student's critical thinking. As defined by faculty, students with effective critical thinking skills can "critically consume information," are "problem solvers and problem identifiers," can "think quantitatively," and are capable asking and identifying answers to questions. In doing so, our students should be able to "evaluate" and "apply" their learned knowledge. This skill, along with the learning traits mentioned above are certainly aligned and allow a student to not only identify the complexity and challenges in today's world but possess the skills to find solutions.

An individual may be an effective thinker but must also be able to communicate these thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely. Faculty repeatedly highlighted two important skills in today's world: individuals must be effective communicators both in writing and speech and "team players." Traits that defined communicative skills as suggested by faculty include an individual that is a good "listener," "expresses views well," "deals with complexity," and is a "competent" and "confident" writer and speaker. In working with others, leadership skills like those just mentioned (confidence, effective listeners) as well as the ability to use "good judgment" and work well with diversity (age, gender, race, etc....) was stressed.

Theme 3: Individuality and Community

Embedded in the faculty responses to the traits of a successful CSB/SJU graduate was not only a meaningful self-awareness but also his/her role in today's society. Faculty defined self-awareness and individuality as a person with "confidence," capable of "free, intelligent, self-responsible choices," and "self-assessment." It is a person that is "independent, literate and engaged." Of note and inherent in these capabilities, are the skills and traits mentioned in the first two themes.

As mentioned, faculty not only desire our students to maintain and develop their self-awareness and individuality, but also must be aware and contribute as citizens. This includes an ability to understand and work with others. Those that can successfully do so must be "inclusive," "engaged" "empathetic to diverse populations," "aware of the effects of gender [and race] on the perception of the world," they must "appreciate and even embrace those with different points of view and different cultures," and "realize that we are part of a global community." In sum, it is hoped that our CSB/SJU graduates can be "global [and engaged] citizens."

Theme 4: Values

Embedded within an effective leader that encompasses the learning traits and critical thinking abilities to be successful as a global citizen is an individual that maintains one's values and ethical being. This was the last major characteristic stressed by faculty as a desire for CSB/SJU graduates. Faculty wanted our graduates to be capable of finding "balance" and "happiness" in both their personal and working lives. Other faculty groups added that this happiness and balance may also include the willingness to take risks but to do so in an ethical manner-- to be moral and ethical individuals. Several faculty groups defined this as having "passion," "empathy," "compassion," "global consciousness," and those who are "deeply committed individuals of good character." With these traits, our graduates should be able to "stand up to injustice in challenging situations" and behave ethically in every decision that is made.

Combined, the four themes mentioned above have identified a key set of skills and behaviors that faculty deem important for our graduates. Furthermore, these skill sets may help in developing the guiding principles that will help mold and align the general education program at CSB/SJU.

Theme 5: Process

In addition to the skill sets and behaviors desired for our graduates, faculty also responded primarily to the third question at the faculty workshop on the process required to build an effective general education program. These ideas and comments are included in the last theme entitled "Process." As guiding principles are developed and a plan is established, it is important to recognize the major process mechanisms identified by our faculty.

One priority mentioned by faculty during the process of general education reform is to ensure that open and "sustained" conversations exist about a variety of topics. It was stressed that these conversations should be interdisciplinary and out of the "silos" that make up our departments and divisions. These conversations also require collegiality, and an environment that "facilitates change" and less so the complaining that can quickly occur. In addition, a set of guidelines seemed to be established for these discussions. This includes a recognition and understanding of our past decisions. It is important the decisions are made with the past in mind. Many faculty are also looking for a cultural shift at CSB/SJU that encourages an openness to change and a recognition of new and outside ideas and perceptions. 

Topics of discussion that faculty mentioned include identification of "priorities," the "liberal arts" and its meaning, identification of a shared vision and commitment, and a discussion on the needs for a 21st century student. While many of these discussions were held this year in conversations regarding general education and Strategic Direction 2020, it was apparent that many faculty desire conservations to remain a sustained component of the process of general education reform. Fortunately and not surprisingly, this is also a strongly recommended component in the literature on general education reform.

Many faculty mentioned the environment that must be constructed in which change can occur. Mention of a strategic, coherent, and forward-looking plan must be in place. This also includes recognized funding and resources to support the desired changes. It was noted that this plan must not lose sight of the ultimate goal in doing what is best for our students. What do our students need? In addition, several faculty groups discussed the importance of "buy-in" not just from tenured but also our term faculty because many teach courses in the Common Curriculum. Finally, as stressed by many faculty groups, conversations and strategies must be interdisciplinary. We must be "intentionally integrative." Faculty must reach out of their departments and divisions to work together. We must relinquish "turf wars" and instead, identify what is best for students based on the guiding principles that are developed.

As conservations were held to answer these questions, many groups added suggestions for changes and reform in the Common Curriculum. While these suggestions may be helpful, they will not be summarized here. There is a deliberate and intentional path that the CCVC and Senate have chosen to analyze the Common Curriculum and our general education at CSB/SJU. First and foremost, the CCVC was charged with developing a vision for General Education at CSB/SJU. This will be based on a set of guiding principles that have been established based upon the data summarized here, in the data of our discussions with the departments, and in the literature. Therefore, although these suggestions may be important, we must first complete this first step.