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Grant will bolster students' educational experience

Union will create a web-based advising tool to give students a creative approach to designing their academic careers under a grant awarded by the Teagle Foundation of New York.

The College is one of three institutions sharing a $230,000 grant for projects aimed at improving student learning outcomes. The other two schools are Gettysburg College and Washington and Lee University.

The advising tool, or Plan of Study, will support students as they map out their individual academic programs in consultation with their advisors. The tool will provide information about the objectives and structure of Union’s curriculum, along with links to resources that can help them as they make choices about their own direction.

"This project will help students choose courses, majors, and even paper topics that create good matches between their personal interests and the opportunities provided by Union’s curriculum," said Therese A. McCarty, the Stephen J. and Diane K. Ciesinski Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

A steering committee led by McCarty was formed after the three schools received an initial planning grant from the Teagle Foundation. The committee recognized that many students don’t always see connections that can be drawn among different parts of their studies at Union, such as between study abroad and capstone projects.  Making such connections can assist students in developing a personally meaningful academic program.

The project will create opportunities for students to reflect on and understand more deeply their interests, talents and values. It will also help them to articulate their interests so that others, including faculty members and prospective employers, can get a strong sense of a student as an individual.  Using the advising tool, they will be able to connect their interests to the College's educational goals, giving students a strong sense of ownership and meaning in their academic planning.

Students will use the Plan of Study throughout their four years at Union as a way to personalize their curriculum and more fully engage in course selection.

"It is our hope that the students will gain both a more holistic and more personal vision of their Union education," McCarty said.

A series of workshops featuring several dozen students, faculty and staff was held during the academic year to formulate a plan of action. This summer, steps will be taken towards creating a portal where students can find resources they need to make informed and meaningful decisions about their academic choices as well as choices about activities outside the classroom.

In the fall, a volunteer pilot group will try out the first version of the Plan of Study.

“These grants represent Teagle’s commitment to improving student learning, broadly understood as the active development of broad cognitive abilities such as critical, analytical and integrative thinking,” said Richard L. Morrill, president of the Teagle Foundation.

Established in 1944 by Walter C. Teagle, longtime president and later chairman of the board of Standard Oil Company (now Exxon Mobil Corp.), the foundation strives to be "an influential national voice and a catalyst for change in higher education to improve undergraduate student learning in the arts and sciences."