Geneseo’s vision of integrative learning transforms lives.

By President Denise A. Battles

Among the most rewarding aspects of my presidency is the opportunity to see how Geneseo transforms lives. As I wonder at our students’ achievements, I find myself anticipating what their promising futures may hold. There is an enduring power that comes from a Geneseo liberal education, fueled by our mission to prepare students for an enriched life and success in the world.

As the practice of integrative learning continues to take hold across college campuses, Geneseo is at the forefront. Bridging the curriculum and co-curriculum, integrative learning incorporates a variety of academic and co-curricular experiences to help students develop the knowledge, skills and critical inquiry to become responsible world citizens. While a precursor of this concept has been a part of the Geneseo experience in the form of applied learning, the difference today is the intentionality and focus on outcomes. Integrative learning incorporates inquiry, particularly that which involves connecting the curriculum and co-curriculum with lived experiences; application and transfer of skills and knowledge to new contexts; and self-reflection leading to personal plan development. At Geneseo, we consider such learning, which may take place through high-impact practices like mentored academic research, study abroad and internships, vital to a liberal education. As you’ll read in this issue of the Scene, “blurring the lines” integrative learning paradoxically sharpens the focus of Geneseo’s one-of-a-kind education. Through the Center for Integrative Learning (CIL) — with its signature Student Ambassadorship Program — we are building connections across academic disciplines and co-curricular programs that extend beyond any particular subject or program of study. The Association of American Colleges and Universities describes this educational experience as “learning across boundaries,” as the emphasis on integrative learning is “becoming a signature characteristic of 21st-century liberal education.”

Unquestionably, Geneseo is leading the way.

In addition to our already robust study abroad, undergraduate research, global fellowship, internship, and student volunteerism/community engagement programs, the College is developing other innovative learning experiences. Consider last January’s first-ever intersession study abroad in Cuba, where Geneseo faculty taught our students alongside their international colleagues at the Universidad de Holguín.   Or the Geneseo Green Quotient, a new course on sustainability being offered this fall, created by professors and students from across disciplines.  Through this kind of participation, coupled with self-reflection, our students are able to apply a range of skills and critical thinking across academic disciplines — and blend ideas to innovate and succeed in current and future endeavors. In fact, many of our Geneseo alumni establish careers outside of their major or transfer their skills to reinvent themselves in pursuit of new interests and opportunities.  By creating and staffing the CIL, and identifying the center as a resource for developing programs, Geneseo has committed itself to advance this key initiative. We will continue to build a culture of integrative learning aligned with Geneseo’s Learning Outcomes for Baccalaureate Education and provide new  opportunities for students to engage in this work, document their results and demonstrate their skills to employers and graduate schools. As we make a Geneseo education even more relevant and lasting through integrative learning, a quote from George Eliot seems particularly apt: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

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