Faculty, students to fuel university’s 2020 vision
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 22:09
Librarians, professors, marketing staff, regional students, department chairs. All will be a part of shaping the future of Miami University by piecing together the 2020 plan as presented by President David Hodge Thursday, Sept. 6.
The backbone of this plan is the coordinating team, headed by Phyllis Callahan, dean of the college of arts and sciences and Jim Kiper, chair of the department of computer science and software engineering.
Kiper has been a professor at the university for 26 years. At present, he also serves as chair of his department, and chair of the executive committee at the University Senate. He remains nonetheless involved in the classroom and research field.
“I’m a teacher at heart,” Kiper said. “It’s fun to be in the classroom molding young minds.”
Likewise, it’s Callahan’s love for teaching and academics that she said continues to drive her in her 25th year at Miami and 6th year in the Dean’s office. She is a faculty member of the zoology department and has taught a variety of courses ranging from the introductory to the graduate levels.
“It’s really a privilege to work with young people,” Callahan said. “When that connection is made, you can see it on their faces, when they reach that point of ‘Aha! I get it.’”
Both Callahan and Kiper first became interested in serving on the coordinating team for the 2020 plan upon receiving an invitation from President Hodge and the office of the provost. However, they have developed an enthusiasm for leading the effort because of its unique structure.
“Rather than this plan being a top-down plan, it’s being vetted from across the university,” Kiper said.
All stake-holders, including students and staff, are involved according to Kiper. The goal of the plan is for the university as a whole to determine what it wants itself to look like by the year 2020 and what needs to be adapted in order for Miami to remain one of the top universities.
The result of this commitment is a high level of faculty-student interaction and multiple opportunities for students to get valuable research experience at the undergraduate level, according to Callahan. She believes the access to physical and intellectual resources that these students have is not common at undergraduate institutions.
Just as students, faculty and staff are encouraged to collaborate closely in the learning process, they will be working together on teams as a part of the 2020 plan to cast vision for Miami’s future.
Junior Christina Harrison is one such student. She serves on a team addressing one of the plan’s target goals: global engagement and inclusive culture. Harrison is a student at the Hamilton campus, currently studying education and is enrolled in the Honors Program. She transferred credits to Miami in the Spring of 2010—after eight years outside the realm of academia.
Unbeknownst to her, one of her professors nominated her for a position on the team and she received an invitation from the Provost’s office three weeks ago.
What appealed most to Harrison about the team, she said, was the opportunity she would have to promote diversity in all of its forms throughout campus, a goal that comes from a very personal place for her.
“I am a lesbian,” Harrison said. “I am a non-traditional student, I am a regional student, I am a woman. [My goal] is that Miami will grow into a place that provides not only acceptance but appreciation for diverse cultures.”
The fact that individuals with such a unique perspective have a say in the plan is part of what makes it so great, according to Callahan.
“It will be a very inclusive process,” Callahan said. “And it is very forward-looking.”
In terms of their personal visions of Miami in 2020, both Callahan and Kiper said increased involvement and outreach in the wider world are crucial goals that Miami must set for itself.
“When you graduate, wherever you end up working will likely have tentacles that reach around the world,” Kiper said.
Cultural adaptation and appreciation are therefore critical skills for students to learn while in college.
Callahan and Kiper also emphasized a need for the university to adapt to recent advances in technology without losing valuable one-on-one interaction between students and faculty.
“Your generation learns very differently from the way Dr. Kiper and I learned,” Callahan said, referring to long hours spent in “the stacks” scouring books for the information they needed as contrasted to the immediacy of the Internet today.
Acknowledging this change and adapting to it is the only way to maintain a standard of excellence according to Kiper.
“If you stay static, you fall behind,” Kiper said.