Last week, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) sent an evaluation committee to our campus to ensure that we are in compliance with accreditation standards. In effect, what we do was compared with best practices in higher education. That committee gave SNC a terrific evaluation.
The visit was part of NWCCU’s regular accreditation requirements; we have worked hard for two years to prepare for it. Preparation for a full-scale accreditation visit requires immense work by all faculty and staff, but three individuals at SNC worked especially hard: Shannon Beets, Dan O’Bryan, and Mallory Kolinski. These three worked massive hours to ensure that not only were we in compliance, but also that we could demonstrate that we were in compliance. They wrote a fantastic report—covering every aspect of this campus—that was 196 pages long, with over 2,000 pages of supporting documentation.
I want to tell you about an extraordinary leadership course that Rosie Hackett, Assistant Professor of Outdoor Adventure Leadership, designed. Before I describe the course, stop and ponder how you would design a course to teach leadership. In fact, many people believe that leaders are born, not developed. I, along with highly acclaimed author Jim Collins, strongly disagree with that proposition. But one thing does seem clear: one learns to lead by leading. Reading, thinking, and studying about leadership are important, but leadership development must also incorporate hands-on experience guided by a mentor.
The staff of the Eagle’s Eye has graciously offered me the chance to write this column, an opportunity which I am pleased to accept.
I am passionately committed to student learning and to Sierra Nevada College. Nationwide, higher education is at the beginning of a revolution that could transform student learning. Current research reveals that too many colleges are characterized by large classes where students sit quietly in lectures and where they rarely interact with faculty members inside or outside the classroom. In short, students are spectators.
At SNC, we are different. Here, learning is not a spectator sport—we actively engage students. Common sense and research both suggest that deep learning occurs when one is truly connected. Great colleges—and I consider SNC one—design curricular and co-curricular activities that engage students’ hearts and minds. That is where the magic of learning occurs. We are truly at the frontier of education, and I am convinced that the future of higher education depends on the types of innovation our faculty routinely produce here.