by Norm Winick

After months of meetings and focus groups and planning, officials at Knox college are ready to start implementing their ''Plan for the New Knox.'' The substantial reorganization of administrative and academic roles is designed to better implement and market a Knox education. While certain aspects of the plan will require faculty approval, the Board of Trustees has already given its unanimous endorsement.

Joking that the new Knox will be ''four schools, six centers and $28,000,'' Dean of the College Lawrence Breitborde said that the plan will mean a fundamental change for students and faculty alike. ''We are establishing a set of educational goals and each student will be working with an advisor to shape a unique academic plan that addresses those goals.'' While traditional majors will remain, specific course requirements will not. ''There's a saying that Knox has too many rules and the only thing we have more of than rules is exceptions to them. Why don't we take our strengths, a reasoned flexibility, and make that the principle we operate under? There will still be faculty and administrative gatekeepers but there will be much more flexibility for the students.'' Each student will design his or her own program and components of that will extend beyond the classroom. Community service and off-campus research or internships will be expected of all students.

The plan is an outgrowth of concerns that Knox College was doing many things well but not effectively communicating that to itself, the public or prospective students. The plan is expected to help in that area, too. ''This is a liberal arts college and we have a commitment to an educational program that's ideal preparation for life and a career path. It's important that we're not the only ones who believe that. We will have a sharp and clear view of what we're doing and its relevance.''

Among the restructuring will be the four new schools which incorporate existing departments. The schools are arts, sciences, humanities and social sciences.

Six centers will also be created: global studies, intercultural campus life and learning, advanced study and research, career and pre-professional development, teaching and learning and community service. Each of the centers will have a director and an advisory council of faculty, staff and students and will be a resource for students as they address their goals within the respective areas.

The individualized educational program designed by each students has to satisfy four clear and broad goals. The first is called foundations in liberal learning which involves coursework in all of the four schools.

The second is key competencies. Each student will be required to demonstrate a proficiency in speaking and writing, a quantitative proficiency (related to their major -- not necessarily math), the ability to use technology in an informed way, and a second language. The informed technology competency is the result of surveys indicating that 90 percent of entering students believe they know how to use the internet for research yet Breitborde says they often do not know how to determine what's real and what's not.

The specialization goal requires not only specific courses in the major but courses in allied fields which may even be in a different school.

Finally, called engagement, each student will be required to apply their classroom knowledge in context with some hands-on experience. That could be working in a culturally diverse situation, performing external research, holding an internship or performing community service. Breitborde says that ''Knox has always been committed to the idea that a Knox graduate shall improve the lives of other people; that's now incorporated into our program.'' The community service center will be seeking additional internship and community service opportunities in Galesburg and the surrounding area.

Besides this reorganization, the college will be expanding its offerings in three areas -- business, dance and journalism. While majors will not be offered, additional courses will be. A clearer educational pathway for students interested in business will be established.

A new three-day ''November Institute'' program will be started at the end of first term to offer first year and sophomore students extra advice and planning with educational and career decisions.

Conversely, Breitborde says that nine or ten faculty positions will be eliminated, mostly by attrition and across the board. Two subjects, Russian and German, will lose their status as majors but the languages will still be taught.

''What we're proposing is going to allow us to speak with a clear voice about what Knox represents institutionally. We will represent tailoring your own educational program, specialization, engagement and key competencies. This plan recognizes strengths in a liberal arts education and allows us to convey our mission more clearly to ourselves and prospective students. It gives our graduates a way to articulate their skills and competencies.''

While Breitborde acknowledges that there is some concern among the faculty that they are biting off too much, that they may not be geared up to deal with students in a different way -- with everyone designing their own educational program -- he's convinced that the plan is workable and represents a major step forward for Knox College.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online September 26, 2001

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