Dean’s Desktop

By kvitare1@johnshopkins.edu

dean-wendlandWhat are the ingredients necessary to create a rewarding and fruitful undergraduate experience? Ingredients for this experience “recipe” include: students learning how to conduct research and embrace scholarly challenges; asking big and important questions; engaging with other students and faculty from all disciplines and walks of life; making new friends; learning responsibility to community while also taking time to have fun. And these ingredients further depend upon and contribute to the research and scholarship goals of the school. It’s a tall order to combine all of these components, and our university president, deans, professors, and administrators are constantly working to synergize, improve, and enhance delivery of our tripartite mission of teaching, research, and service.

The three features in this issue all illustrate how the Krieger School supports the university’s mission. An article about Syria highlights the breadth of perspectives Hopkins experts can bring to bear on a complex and timely topic. In an article about past recipients of the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, you will learn about the impressive accomplishments of some of our alumni, in part facilitated by their undergraduate research projects. And finally, in our cover story, we see the tireless commitment of our faculty to bring fresh ideas to traditional classroom models in order to engage students to the fullest.

Take the traditional lecture course. For eons, professors have stood in front of students in the classroom, sharing their knowledge and expertise. It’s a tried and true method of teaching that continues to be successful today…except when it’s not. Large introductory science classes, for example, tend to be lecture-style. In the article on “Flipped Classrooms” (p. 26), you’ll see how cognitive science Professor Brenda Rapp, and others, are changing those “gateway” courses to better engage students. When Professor Rapp realized that students in her large introductory cognitive science course were not really paying attention as much as they used to, she knew something had to change.

“They were doing email, Facebook, whatever,” she says. And so Professor Rapp set about reinventing her course.

This kind of imaginative effort to rethink aspects of the undergraduate experience does not happen in a vacuum. It takes lots of time and preparation, and also requires reaching across the aisles to speak with colleagues in other disciplines and to see what tools they are using to engage students.

It is in this spirit of innovation and collaboration that Johns Hopkins University is embarking on a mission to address the educational, technological, and societal shifts that affect higher education.

The new initiative will build on the work of the first Commission on Undergraduate Education (CUE), launched in 2002, to identify the core values that should shape the undergraduate experience of our students in the 21st century.

When the first CUE commission was formed 14 years ago, the internet as we know it was not even a decade old; Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites did not exist; and many major newspapers did not yet have any digital presence. On the global front, the U.S. was still reeling from 9/11, and the European Union was less than 10 years old.

Now, with the third decade of the 21st century at our doorstep, we must draw on the innovative drive and the quest to create new knowledge that are the trademarks of Johns Hopkins University. We must prepare our students for the as-yet-unimagined changes that await them in their lives and careers.

The new commission—called CUE2—comprises faculty, students, staff, and alumni of the Krieger School and the Whiting School of Engineering. President Ronald J. Daniels has urged members of the commission to “be fearless in questioning the assumptions behind traditional models and approaches and be ambitious with their recommendations.”

The CUE2 will make final recommendations at the end of 2018, after gathering input from a broad swath of our Hopkins family.

This is what Johns Hopkins is all about: leading our students in the direction of bold exploration, the embrace of change, and awe-inspiring discovery.

Stay tuned for progress reports on CUE2.

Sincerely,

Beverly Wendland
James B. Knapp Dean