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Survey gives Miami Plan a makeover

By Catherine Monceaux
On January 29, 2013

Miami University strives to offer its students a fulfilling liberal education, and the Miami Plan is a key component of that initiative. Since last spring, the Miami Plan Redesign Task Force has met once a week as part of an ongoing process to revamp the current Miami Plan.

The task force is comprised of appointed students, staff and faculty, who sent out a survey Nov. 30 in an attempt to collect opinions and ideas that will be utilized in the redesigning process.

According to John Tassoni, Miami's director of liberal education, by creating a new Miami Plan, the university wishes to produce curious, critical and creative citizens by emphasizing the importance of a liberal education in regards to personal and professional goals.

"Too often people see the Miami Plan as something to 'get out of the way' rather than something that can empower us to transform knowledge and improve communities, locally and globally," Tassoni said.

In order to inform the Miami community of developing ideas, receive impressions regarding those ideas and acquire recommendations from those outside the task force, the survey was sent out to staff, faculty and the entire student body via email Nov. 30, and closed Wednesday, Dec. 5.

According to Tassoni, over 1,600 people responded to the survey-999 of whom were undergraduates.

In addition to providing the task force with an idea of how the community feels about the developments presented, it also gives them an idea of the community's level of understanding. The feedback can therefore enable the task force to get a feel for its audience, and clarify the concepts presented.

"Perhaps most of all, the feedback will also suggest to us different ways of looking at things, indicate issues we might not yet have considered, and generate new ideas," Tassoni said.

For senior Mark Hildebrand, the Miami Plan is a vital aspect of a Miami education.

"I value the new experiences and knowledge that you probably wouldn't have if it weren't for some of the courses you had to take," Hildebrand said.

Senior Maddie Smith agreed; she said the Miami Plan has served as a foundation for a liberal education and enabled her to broaden her knowledge in areas that she might not have looked into otherwise. Yet, issues remain that could be improved upon.

"I think frustration for students can come out of the inflexibility of some of the departments when it comes to scheduling and the force-add process, and a redesign of the Miami Plan would help to update it and make it a more positive experience, rather than a source of frustration," Smith said.

Recent graduate Carl Hayden understands the purpose Miami Plan courses are intended to serve, and thinks that the English classes have been the most useful for him post-graduation.

"I would say the English classes were the most beneficial because they helped me to develop my communication and linguistic skills," Hayden said.

In any redesigned plan though, he believed a necessary change would be for students to be able to have a more specialized Miami Plan in which all the requirements would be fulfilled but they would be more relevant to each student's major.

As of right now, Tassoni said an official analysis of the results has yet to be done, but the responses are being read by the task force and then used to brainstorm possible replacements for the current plan.

"[The responses] tend to echo a lot of the same things," Tassoni said. "The vast majority of them were very insightful, and for a lot of the responses, we're not seeing necessarily a disappointment in liberal education per say, but in some of the execution."

According to Tassoni, the results have been enlightening, and have begun to help form a clear understanding of what needs changing.

"With the execution, we want [a plan] that's more succinct, that we can kind of stay on top of," Tassoni said. "[A plan] so people can do well rather than asking them to do so much."

Tassoni hopes that participation will grow as the ongoing process continues and design drafts are presented for discussion.

Tassoni said there's still a lot more work to be done before the new and improved Miami Plan is released.

Before any changes are made, the task force intends to confirm that the whole community has had an opportunity to contribute. Members hope that in the spring they will be able to draft and present a number of alternatives along with opportunities for the community to respond.

"Even then, there will be much to iron out before any new plan can be approved and implemented," Tassoni said.


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