Emily Perlow, Assistant Dean of Students, recently returned from Sheffield, UK, where she presented at an international conference of NACADA, the Global Community for Academic Advising. From WPI's most recent strategic planning process, a driving question emerged: Every student graduates with a major, but what about a mission? While their major gives them subject-specific knowledge, a student’s mission, or deep area of passion, is what motivates them. Helping students explore their personal values, strengths, talents, and ways to improve the world around them is essential to the future of quality academic advising. In her session on "Major and a Mission: Mapping Academic Choices with Purpose and Passion," Perlow explained how WPI is helping students explore the ways their major and their passions can intersect and how we are helping students map out curricular and co-curricular experiences to fulfill these passions. Session participants then developed a plan for how they might incorporate “major and a mission” into their institutional advising practices.
Perlow and colleague Connie Aramento first offered the Major and a Mission course at WPI in 2015-16, and then developed it further in 2016-17 when they were awarded a Teaching Innovation Grant to participate in the Faculty Learning Community (FLC) on Connections, Reflections, and ePortfolios. Other participants in the FLC planned and implemented greater use of integrative learning and reflection pedagogies in economics courses, Interactive Qualifying Projects, and seminars supporting graduate students to utilize Individual Development Plans. The FLC continues in 2017-18 with five additional awardees using ePortfolios as a tool for integrative learning and reflection in Great Problems Seminars, the Interactive Media and Game Development program, and for first year physics majors and international students studying English as a second language.