In November of 2019, UConn President Tom Katsouleas charged a Task Force to begin the work of creating a culture and infrastructure that ensures each student has the access and encouragement necessary to engage in their education as a life-transformative experience. The Life-Transformative Education Task Force has issued its first report, covering activities and findings from Fall 2019 to February 2021. The full report is available to view as a PDF.
The report finds that UConn’s challenge is not a lack of life-transformative educational experiences. Individual professors and programs are deeply committed to this type of educational experience. The grand challenge is to effectively extend and scale life-transformative educational experiences to every single one of our 24,000 undergraduate students by their graduation.
Below are selected highlights from this initial report:
Under the leadership of the Authentic and Inclusive Learning working group, the Task Force identified seven pedagogical approaches that underscore authentic and inclusive learning,
- Social-emotional learning
- Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs)
- Experiential and Action Learning
- Service Learning
- Social Justice Education and Dialogue-Based Learning
- Human Rights Education
- Intercultural Citizenship and Competencies for Democratic Culture
Advising and mentoring
The Advising and Mentoring group examined the role of advising and mentoring as a crucial pillar in students’ ability to fully engage in their education as a life-transforming experience. The group identified challenges and created suggestions related to providing emotionally supportive mentorship for all UConn undergraduates.
One initial pilot being launched through the LTE initiative at UConn is a mentoring program for students who are identified as at-risk of discontinuing their education. Faculty and staff volunteers are being trained this semester and will be paired with students to help them navigate challenges impeding their success.
Moving forward, the group will continue to explore these key areas into next academic year:
- Assessment of advising, including job duties and reward structure: What does “quality advising” look like?
- Advising roles, expectations, and support for faculty, staff, and students.
- Advising models, scaling, and structures, across schools/ colleges/ departments and between faculty and staff advisors.
- Barriers to effective and equitable advising and mentoring.
Engaging and expanding a network of LTE champions
One of the successes of the LTE project so far has been the bringing together of faculty and staff to envisage a transformative process in relation to campus culture, which has been advanced through:
- LTE task force and five working groups
- Cultivate kick-off workshop to energize LTE champions
- LTE speaker series
Several hundred faculty and staff have been engaged in these activities so far, with plans to expand the network of LTE champions in future academic years.
To go from good to great, we have to catalyze our culture in gradual and not-so-gradual ways. We have to expand the quantity and variety of our best existing programs. We have to develop new programs by “listening louder” to our students, our alumni, our communities, and converting what we hear into actionable reciprocal impacts for those involved.
Moving into the spring of 2021, the LTE Working Groups have been restructured and received new charges to consider initiatives at various scales of implementation ease and resource needs, as well as how to infuse those activities with LTE’s core values.
Why is LTE so important?
Never has the importance of Life-Transformative Education been more clear than now, amid a global pandemic and its economic repercussions, a nationwide reckoning with anti-Black racism and white supremacy, and the changed models of education as online teaching became a necessity.
Life-Transformative Education differs from past educational initiatives in three important ways:
- It is focused on success as measured by well-being and work engagement outcomes long after graduation, rather than completion of college;
- It moves mental health from an auxiliary service to a part of the core mission;
- It is inclusive from day one with a goal of reaching every student.