As you read this issue of Postmarks, we will be near the mid-point of the fall semester. Whether this is your first semester with a son or daughter at Illinois or it is a year of return for your child, we are proud to count them among our students.
We know there are great universities in every state and that your daughter or son had many possible choices when it came time to pick a college.
One of the promises we make to students who join the Illinois family is to provide them with transformative learning experiences in their time here. These experiences may be in or out of the classroom, through programs on campus, online or around the world. We talk about this commitment often, and in fact, it is a cornerstone of the strategic plan created by the campus to guide us in the coming years. But, what do we really mean by “transformative?” For us, this isn’t some form of academic jargon or a corporate term that sounds good in a report. At Illinois we define it as helping our students find their unique strengths and their path to a life and a career of significance.
In this issue, you’ll read stories of just a few ways these experiences touch our students. We have the “Moon Goons” – a team of engineering students who had the chance to develop and test an experiment in one of NASA’s zero-gravity testing airplanes. Or, more down-to-earth is a group of art and design students who put their skills to work on behalf of a local community garden project. You’ll meet journalism students who walk away from Illinois understanding the difference between just reporting on a story and bringing one to life. You’ll get a new perspective on the challenges faced and the resources available to our students who are the first in their families to attend college.
These are the experiences that go beyond simple academic exercises but lead to moments of personal transformation. And when we create an environment where these moments are common, they multiply, accumulate and result in a total experience that is unique to Illinois. It puts our graduates in demand for their first jobs and empowers them to define how they live their lives.
But, transformational learning isn’t one directional here. Just as we are opening opportunities to students, they are doing the same for our faculty and staff members. Students don’t come here and sit passively. They create programs, they openly challenge the way things have always been done. They swim through information with an ease, speed and authority that is amazing to see. They are fearless in exploring the boundaries of technology. And they expect us to keep up with them. All of us. Chancellor included.
If someone asked me five years ago if I had a LinkedIn account, I would have looked very confused. Today, I am one of LinkedIn’s Influencers (I invite any of you to follow me there), blogging about higher education and engaging with hundreds of thousands of Illinois alumni, students and friends with a click of the mouse. Our students drive us to be better teachers, to be more agile in our thinking and to be more innovative in how we shape their Illinois experience.
I hope you enjoy this issue of Postmarks. And please believe me when I tell you that as much fun as it is to read about the transformative learning experiences, it’s even more exciting for those of us here at Illinois who have the privilege of seeing them happen in person.
Phyllis M. Wise