The Power of Inclusion—A Pathway to Improving Undergraduate Education

As an academic leader at Johns Hopkins University, an institution that prides itself in being the country’s first research university, it was very gratifying to be a member of the team that collaborated to review our undergraduate education and provide recommendations on how to better educate our students in this changing world.

President Daniels and Provost Kumar convened the Second Commission on Higher Education (CUE2) in 2017 and challenged the group to build upon the successes of the first Commission on Undergraduate Education report issued in 2003. In a world where information is ubiquitous, technology undergirds nearly everything, and society has placed greater focus on the value of post-secondary education, CUE2 began its efforts to interpret the mission of undergraduate education in the 21st century to design a new model and delivery of meaningful education that will serve Hopkins students now and into the future.

CUE2, comprised of 30 faculty, staff, undergraduate students and alumni, was charged to intentionally and creatively reflect on these essential questions facing undergraduate education today:

  • How can we support and encourage students to define their own education by allowing them to explore and pursue their own interests?
  • How can we create a holistic curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular experience?
  • How can we develop the pedagogy and infrastructure needed to support these objectives?

We began by questioning the assumptions and perspectives behind traditional models of education and approaches. As such, we were given the autonomy to be ambitious with our recommendations. Over the course of three years, the Commission analyzed and evaluated best practices at peer institutions, recommendations from external higher education experts, relevant institutional data, scholarly literature and community feedback obtained through multiple channels including town halls, focus groups and suggestions/feedback through email. It also reviewed numerous forms of learning assessment and other institutional data relevant to the review. The deliberations of the committee culminated in a draft report that was shared with the Hopkins community in early 2020. Relevant feedback was incorporated into the final report, which was released in November 2020.

CUE2 Report Recommendations

  1. A redesign of the undergraduate curriculum to provide foundational abilities for life-long flourishing and learning. These include high-touch and impactful activities that enable meaningful experiences, clearly defined, skills-driven outcomes and integration of curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular learning.
  2. Increased flexibility of the major requirements where needed to enable intellectual exploration.
  3. Enable professional school faculty to teach undergraduates more easily and often and facilitate the enrollment of undergraduates in our professional schools.
  4. Provide students with an integrated partnership of faculty mentors, staff advisors, and life design counselors.
  5. Improve course-based learning assessment methods and encourage grading policies that assess student performance relative to well-articulated academic standards.
  6. Establish a new system for the assessment of teaching and student mentoring by faculty.

Through implementation of the CUE2 recommendations, John Hopkins University is committing the resources necessary to prepare learners for the challenges they will face as new leaders in this modern world.

It was a pleasure working with this committee of individuals who demonstrated courage and tenacity in tackling the difficult questions associated with undergraduate curricular review. On a personal level, my work with CUE2 reinforced for me the power of the collective and of collaborative decision-making. It also reminded me how important it is to authentically listen to different perspectives and incorporate them into the final product. Truly, this was an inclusive experience yielding a report that faculty, staff, and students felt ownership of before the final version was posted.

I invite you to join me in the AEFIS Academy Community Event, “Meet Our Partners Series—Johns Hopkins University Second Commission on Higher Education (CUE2) Report Results & Lessons Learned” where I will discuss further the process, findings and next steps for undergraduate education at Johns Hopkins University. Here you will also take away some of the lessons learned to start your next revision, student success initiative or improvement undertaking at your institution. You can also access a PDF of the final CUE2 Report by taking this link.

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