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Student rep to summer working group explains proposal

Welcome to my first column. This year, I’ll be writing on an issue near and dear to everyone reading this paper: higher education. Higher education is in a state of flux throughout the country for a great number of reasons, and I’m thrilled to have a space to inform others with a personal spin on key issues. Higher education serves another, equally important role as a topic: it links the Concordia community to the rest of the country. The pressures of the market, the government, and other actors are molding a new higher education model. Change is happening at a national scale but also at a local one.

Allow me to highlight a particular example: the proposed revisions to our Academic Calendar. As the Student Representative to the Summer Working Group on Academic Calendar (aren’t titles fun?), I joined faculty and administrators from across campus tasked with a broad goal. After an intense summer, we came back to Concordia faculty and administrators with a proposal to accentuate the Concordia experience for all students.

We began by looking back. Concordia’s history as a liberal arts school with robust vocational preparation formed a cornerstone of our work. More than just the goofy corn college, we are also a national leader in sending graduates to improve the affairs of the world.  Past surveys clearly indicate an incredible portion Concordia alumni believe their work makes the world a better place: around seven out of 10. Why do our graduates find high meaning in their work? Because there’s something special about Concordia.

Perhaps the best way to encapsulate the Concordia experience is our favorite acronym, BREW. Concordia emphasizes that all students “Become Responsibly Engaged in the World.” From first-year orientation until – and even after – we matriculate, we are told that Concordia students BREW. National data clearly agree – our graduates keep BREW-ing. I view the Summer Working Group’s conversations as discussions about BREW. The work of the Summer Working Group is a proposal to BREW more boldly. (In the words of one professor, this proposal offers a more full-bodied BREW).

In the vision of our proposal, every new Cobber will pursue two intense learning experiences throughout his or her four years. The primary reason this proposal excites me is the agency it gives students. Does the prospect of spending a summer on research excite you? Concordia will help you achieve that goal. Do you want a competitive, immersive internship? This proposal would assist you. A weeklong recess in the fall would enable transformative excursions beyond the Concordia bubble throughout the year. Suspending courses for additional daylong events will help us better discern our place in the world. Lastly, extending the calendar into May would allow students the opportunity for creative experiences either with professors on campus or abroad – at a much cheaper price.

I offer a case study to my fellow skeptics: my summer. I have never been immersed in a more challenging subject than academic innovation in the 21st Century. I took part in conversations with a startling amount of stakeholders. All the while, I worked my hardest to ensure students were represented fairly and were informed of the process. It was a challenge, but serving on the Summer Working Group defined the most important summer of my life. Experiential education offers a bolder BREW, and I can attest that Concordia can provide it.

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