In fall of 2014, all first-time, full-time Point Park students will take a new core course in City-University Life, a foundational course designed to help freshmen develop key skills for success as a student in Point Park’s diverse urban community.
Aimed at such key learning outcomes as communication, information literacy, problem-solving, global and cultural literacy, and creativity and aesthetics, the new course will encompass everything from study and basic research skills to the importance of community in the classroom, campus and the City of Pittsburgh, according to Karen McIntyre, Ph.D., senior vice president of academic and student affairs and dean of faculty.
In addition to providing a foundation for success, “it will give students a broad look at what University life is all about, particularly what it means to connect their learning to our urban community here in Pittsburgh,” says McIntyre. “It’s a very exciting, well-rounded introductory course.”
A number of full-time faculty members, from throughout Point Park’s four schools, have completed professional development sessions in order to prepare to teach the course, says Diane Maldonado, Ph.D. associate vice president and director of the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence. Each will take a scholarly approach by focusing on a common syllabus and learning outcomes, but bring their own unique perspective based on their own area of expertise.
Focus on CommunityThe emphasis on community building is among the distinctive characteristics of the new core course, as well as broader efforts to enhance the overall learning experience, says McIntyre. “We know that when students have the opportunity to work together with fellow students, faculty and others outside of the classroom, they have a greater chance to be successful in school.”
“So we are looking at all kinds of ways to build and promote learning communities at Point Park, starting with this new first-year experience class as well as English 101, a writing and composition course that is also part of the new core requirements starting this fall,” she explains. In spring 2015, an oral presentation course will be added to what’s known as the “Confluence Core” curriculum.
Enhancements to the core curriculum are part of the ongoing Point Park 2020 initiative, a comprehensive effort to enhance key pillars of the student learning experience. Based on indicators ranging from the University’s own self-assessment processes, to feedback gained through the National Survey of Student Engagement, it became clear that “students want experiences that support their learning, that connect them to the community, that are meaningful and relevant, that are interdisciplinary in nature, and that provide choice and flexibility,” says McIntyre.
High Impact Education
The initiative encompasses many of the “high impact educational practices” advanced by nationally-known educator George Kuh, including first-year experiences, learning communities, writing-intensive courses, diversity/global learning, service-learning and community-based learning, internships and capstone projects.
“George Kuh’s research has focused on what enables a student to persist in their education,” says McIntyre. “We know that student satisfaction equals student engagement equals student success. We want to foster that engagement by giving our students experiences and opportunities that will enable them to be more successful in their total learning experience.”
Toward that end, the University’s advising system will also be expanded to encompass an eight-term model in which students will connect with both an academic advisor and an advisor in Point Park’s Center for Student Success during each semester: a joint pathway for success aimed at graduation and beyond, says McIntyre.
Learn more about Point Park 2020, including efforts to expand service learning, global and cultural experiences, career development through internships, and more, in upcoming issues of The Point.
Text by Cheryl Valyo
Photo by John McKeith
The Point is a magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park University.