Friday, May 10, 2013

Evolving Academic Departments

I think the best academic departments of the future will be the ones that can successfully interweave the following missions:

1. Be an intellectual center. Department-level disciplines are local nodes in a worldwide network of scholarship, with faculty serving both as state-of-the-art practitioners and also as local guides to the entire network of scholarship within their field.

2. Explore and build connections among neighboring disciplines. Develop new disciplines and evolve the old disciplines. Consider adopting more flexible department/school structures that foster both within-discipline and across-discipline scholarship.

3.  Couple scholarship with community. Develop, maintain, and support formal and informal ways for departmental scholars at all levels to connect with the community, such as students in different fields, others across the university, policy makers, government, the local community, the world community.

4. Provide a rich local community for scholarship and connection for the department personnel core consisting of department undergraduates, graduate students, researchers, staff, and faculty. 

5. The department should provide a local launchpad from which undergraduates can explore the world. Departments need to recognize that some of that exploration should be guided, while some of that exploration should be truly exploratory.

6. The well-being of graduate students is a primary indicator of the intellectual health of a research department. The best departments will offer a rich, diverse, encouraging, connected environment for its graduate student researchers. Happy productive graduate students define the core of a happy productive research department. 

(Part 2 of 2)

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