Undergraduate Council of Students leaders are working to provide feedback on the Swearer Engaged Scholars initiative, which includes programs on gap years and integrating scholarship opportunities into the University’s surrounding community.
The program was presented at the UCS general body meeting Wednesday night by Roger Nozaki MAT ’89, associate dean of the College for community and global engagement and director of the Swearer Center for Public Service, and Kate Trimble, associate director of the Swearer Center.
UCS leaders decided to have Nozaki and Trimble address the Council Wednesday, because they “felt that it was a really important time, as they’re building the program,” UCS President Todd Harris ’14.5 told The Herald. “Oftentimes students get to hear about programs after they’re totally complete, and we wanted to get the opportunity to get students involved in the formulation … of these programs to make sure that they serve students best when they’re rolled out.”
At the meeting, Nozaki said the pilot of the integrated scholarship initiative will begin next semester. The initiative will aim to “give students a way to integrate their work in the community … (and) work outside of Brown directly in their concentration,” he said.
Students may have the option of declaring a concentration in integrated scholarship along with their usual concentration, Nozaki said. He added that students will be able to rely on a “framework and structure” comprising an adviser from their concentration, another adviser to help with the interdisciplinary element of the coursework and “an external person, a community leader or public official … who can help advise on the external impact.”
Nozaki and Trimble both stressed the importance of strong advising for the programs. Students should have a network of support from faculty members “who can help understand what their goals are and find a set of courses that helps (them with) their coursework and outside work,” Nozaki said.
The idea for the Swearer Engaged Scholars initiative came out of the engaged scholarship theme in President Christina Paxson’s strategic plan, Nozaki told The Herald after the meeting.
The integrated scholarship program could involve various departments, Trimble said. “Engineering is going to generate a very different set of opportunities than visual arts is than public policy is,” she said.
The pilot departments involved with this year’s TRI-Lab, which include environmental studies, anthropology and engineering, may form the basis of the program, Nozaki said. A discipline in the humanities could also be included in the program, said Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services and acting dean of the College.
Administrators reached out to students to ensure “the right structure for that program,” Klawunn said. “We had agreed that before we went ahead and made a final decision of what that might look like, that we needed to gather some information from students.”
The gap year program would provide students an “opportunity to take what you’ve been learning at Brown and then have this immersive experience,” Nozaki said. The program would last about seven to nine months.
Some UCS members expressed concerns at the meeting about elements of the Swearer Engaged Scholars initiative.
UCS general body member Will Orton ’17 asked if the program would be “applicable to students who have service experience outside of the Brown (or) Providence area.”
Chance Dunbar ’17, another UCS general body member, said he hopes the gap year program offers financial support to students who could not otherwise afford to participate.
Nozaki said students will have to pay at least for part of the gap year program, adding that student feedback would be taken into consideration going forward with the project.
Harris said he thinks the program will be valuable for both current and future students. “This program and this pilot … is something that’s brand new, that can really both help Brown students apply their learning in new ways, and also help Brown and attract really awesome students to Brown as well in the future that are looking for these kind of opportunities that they might not be offered at other peer institutions,” he said.