Sustaining and enhancing academic excellence
Deepen, Sustain, and Enhance Academic Excellence While Encouraging a Culture that is Intentional about Establishing Institutional Priorities and Investing in those Ideas
Academic excellence is the foundation upon which the finest liberal arts colleges build and sustain their reputations. Lycoming has been and remains well regarded for the quality of its liberal arts curriculum, its majors, and its faculty. We recognize, however, the need to make new investments to enhance the quality of the academic program and advance the institutional reputation.
We have identified seven strategies that we believe will sustain and enhance academic excellence. Under each strategy, one or more tactical initiatives are identified.
Strategy 1: Increase the availability of enhanced academic experiences
During the 2013-14 academic year, the faculty approved two innovations in the general education program that make Lycoming more like the very best liberal arts colleges. Specifically, they voted to expand the first-year seminar program and to require enhanced academic experiences of all students. Given their importance, the implementation of these two initiatives cannot depend only upon the actions of individual faculty or specific academic departments. Rather, they must become institutional priorities.
Tactic: Establish a Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences.
We will establish a Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences (CEAE) that will focus on supporting current faculty endeavors and creating additional avenues for enhanced educational opportunities, including international education (both expansion of study abroad and support of international exchange students), student-faculty research, and community-based learning experiences such as internships and courses where students help community agencies build capacity.
The Center will have an office of international education, an office of internships and community-based learning, and an office of student-faculty research. The CEAE will build upon the efforts of faculty members already engaged in study abroad, faculty-led travel courses, student-faculty research, and community-based learning experiences.
The Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences will facilitate the following:
- Provide advising to students interested in international study;
- Identify and recommend new study abroad programs and provide support to faculty-led travel courses;
- Expand opportunities and administer programs that support and create ways of showcasing for student-faculty research collaboration;
- Collaborate with faculty in creating community-based learning opportunities, including providing support for courses that employ community-based learning pedagogies;
- Increase the number of students who complete internships or practicum as part of a Lycoming education.
Strategy 2: Identify and invest in points of academic distinction
Investing in points of academic distinction is an essential strategy for advancing both the quality of education and institutional reputation. Although Lycoming has many excellent academic departments and majors, only a few have the potential to set us apart from our peers. We have identified several areas that will receive investment during the initial years of this strategic plan.
Tactic: Establish an Institute for Energy Studies and develop related academic programs.
As a national liberal arts college, Lycoming should look for opportunities to be relevant at a national, and even global level. We should seek ways in which we can contribute to important national dialogues and build scholarly knowledge around issues of national and global significance.
We believe that such an opportunity exists because of Williamsport’s location at the doorstep of the Marcellus Shale deposit. Lycoming College sits at the epicenter of a dramatic transformation of local, national and global energy systems. Accordingly, the College will establish an Institute for Energy Studies. Employing an interdisciplinary approach, this Institute will serve as an umbrella to bring together faculty, students, and alumni to research energy systems and their political, social, economic and environmental impacts. It will provide the College with a way to organize our intellectual capacity and pursue national recognition around an issue that matters.
Tactic: Build a more permanent and sustainable program in archeology and expand the academic focus of the program to include Latin America.
Lycoming’s archaeology program is already a point of distinction. It is one of a very few Near East archaeology programs found at a liberal arts college, enjoys a national reputation and attracts students from geographically distant states. In addition, Lycoming stands out as an institution that offers an undergraduate major in Archaeology. Investing more resources in the archaeology program and promoting it more effectively as a point of distinction will move it to the next level both in quality and in national visibility.
A task force has identified Latin America as the geographic region into which the archaeology program will expand. We anticipate establishing a partnership with the State of Puebla in Mexico that will access to exceptional archaeological sites in that region.
Tactic: Enhance further the profile of the Clean Water Institute and develop a plan to make the Institute sustainable.
The Clean Water Institute is another distinctive element of the College that is already recognized as a leader in research into the Susquehanna River watershed. Dr. Zimmerman has built this reputation by earning numerous grants, completing important local water study projects, and collaborating with other colleges and universities in the region. We anticipate building upon this success.
Strategy 3: Maintain and strengthen the quality of the faculty
The faculty has long been one of the strengths of the College. Lycoming alumni and students express gratitude about the quality of education provided by the faculty. Most faculty members are incredibly loyal to the institution and extend themselves to help recruit new students, mentor and retain current students, and govern the institution. They are also active scholars who enjoy involving students in their research.
Tactic: Build strong supports for the teacher-scholar faculty model.
Many faculty at Lycoming strive to be teacher-scholars who are “committed to high-quality undergraduate education, pursue an active program of research and scholarship, and enliven and enrich their teaching and the student experience by incorporating insights from their own research into their instructional activities, student advising, and related work” (definition from the Association of American Colleges and Universities). As the College strives to create more opportunities for enhanced academic experiences that build on student-faculty collaborations in research and scholarship, the line between teaching and professional development continues to be blurred. Therefore, we recommend that the Provost create a working group to study the support and incentives built into the faculty tenure and promotion process.
Tactic: Raise the faculty’s level of compensation to ensure that Lycoming can compete for the best faculty.
Tactic: Recruit a diverse faculty.
It is widely agreed that there is a connection between recruiting a diverse faculty and forging a curriculum that prepares students for the world into which they will enter. During the past year, the College has made significant strides in recruiting students from diverse backgrounds (23 percent of the Class of 2018). It is now important that we make strong efforts to improve the diversity of the faculty and staff.
Strategy 4: Renew and enhance the physical infrastructure that supports the academic program
This Strategic Plan represents an opportunity for Lycoming College to invest in the renewal and enhancement of the physical infrastructure that supports the academic program. The construction the Lynn Science Center is an important step toward this goal. Through its connection to the Heim Building, the Lynn Center will bring the sciences at Lycoming under the same roof for the first time in many decades. We anticipate that this physical proximity will encourage research collaboration among science faculty and lead to new interdisciplinary programs. In addition, the planetarium located in the building will provide the College with a state of the art visual learning center.
As the construction of the new Lynn Science Building comes to a conclusion, we recommend that the College study the feasibility of constructing a new performing and visual arts center. There are many reasons to consider this option. The current programs in music, theater, and the visual arts (including digital communications) represent an underappreciated strength of the College, but they are housed in separate facilities that are dated. The faculty and students in the arts create musical performances, theater productions and visual works that are exceptional in quality. The College already attracts a number of students who are serious about their interest in the arts but would like to major in the sciences or social sciences. A new facility would strengthen both our academic programs and our ability to attract students.
A new performing and visual arts center could also complement the College’s emerging civic engagement strategy. Such a facility might be located in the area of Old City that is targeted for redevelopment and could meet Williamsport’s need for an additional performance facility and an art gallery. It could also help to catalyze the investment that will convert the Old City area into a place that current and prospective students find exciting.
This new facility would benefit campus life in other ways. It could alleviate the shortage of medium sized public event spaces on campus needed to host lectures and other gatherings. At the same time, freed up space could be repurposed to support other strategies identified in this plan—e.g., the Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences, the Institute for Energy Studies. We will undertake a study to determine the feasibility of raising the funds to build this center.
Tactic: Undertake a process to develop a campus master.
It is important that Lycoming College develop a vision for how the campus will evolve over the next several decades and plan the location of new buildings accordingly.
Tactic: Identify a physical home for the Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences.
Strategy 5: Invest in technology to enhance the residential liberal arts model
The College will also invest in a learning environment that develops innovative ways to harness technology to enhance the College’s residential liberal arts model. The planetarium in the Lynn Science Center represents an example of this innovative technology in that it is best understood as a state of the art visual learning center. We are confident that we can make these investments while also reaffirming Lycoming’s commitment to a traditional residential college experience.
Tactic: Expand the Lycoming Innovations in Teaching with Technology Program and hire an instructional technologist to encourage and assist professors with incorporating innovative technological teaching aids into their classrooms.
Strategy 6: Establish new academic programs to attract highly accomplished and motivated students
The strategic planning process has prioritized the establishment of new academic programs that will attract highly accomplished and motivated students. Medieval studies, biochemistry, neuroscience, biophysics, and an interdisciplinary STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program have been identified as possible areas for expansion that would meet this objective.
Tactic: Utilize the governance process to identify and recommend new academic programs.
Tactic: Review the Lycoming Scholars program for both its academic content and its ability to attract high quality students to the College.