With Provost Office grants, college faculty impacts curriculum

With Provost Office grants, college faculty impacts curriculum

Mason Impact is a university-wide initiative that promotes curricular and co-curricular activities that support students’ development as engaged citizens and well-rounded scholars who are prepared to act. Based on Mason’s Strategic Plan, the goal of Mason Impact is to take students from traditional classrooms and into high-impact learning experiences, with an emphasis on global education, civic engagement, research, and entrepreneurship, designed to encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills. 

As part of Mason Impact, the Provost’s Office offered a series of new curriculum impact grants in fall 2017. The grants are designed to grow innovative programs that rely on interdisciplinary, cross-unit curriculum, offering students new ways to consider some of the most critical issues facing our society. Of 23 proposals that were submitted, 16 were selected for funding, and 11 of those programs include faculty from the college.

Community-Engaged Health Research Program will allow students to engage deeply with unique, complex problems related to health, literacy, and culture. The program emphasizes university-community partnerships, independent and collaborative mixed-method research opportunities, and skill-building in competencies relevant to the workplace. The team includes Heidi Lawrence, Department of English, who teaches professional writing and rhetoric, along with faculty members from the College of Health and Human Services.

Concentration in Gender Based Violence Studies takes a multidisciplinary approach to understanding gender based violence, drawing on research and best practices developed across disciplines that include sociology, social work, women and gender studies, criminology, psychology, policy studies, conflict analysis, economics, legal studies, studio art, journalism, and more. The concentration is designed to offer students a variety of curricular and co-curricular pathways for learning about gender based violence, offering research opportunities, and developing policy proposals to combat the issue. Faculty include Angela Hattery and Leah Adams of the Women and Gender Studies Program, and Bonnie Stabile of the Schar School of Policy and Government.

D(esign) Minor introduces students to the problem solving and learning process known as design thinking, as it is applied to questions that bridge the humanities, social sciences, learning sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. This 18-credit interdisciplinary design minor emphasizes design thinking and creativity, allowing students to explore the processes required to create successful solutions. It prepares them to appreciate the world in a more insightful way, make better and more informed decisions as engaged citizens, and act in ways that challenge standard modes of thinking. The team includes faculty members from the Departments of English, Psychology, History, Computer Science, Information Sciences, and from Mason’s facilities department.

Minor in LGBTQ Studies is designed to engage students in the interdisciplinary field of LGBTQ studies through an understanding of the history of the LGBTQ movement in the United States as well as transnational movements, debates on gender and sexuality, and theoretical frameworks such as queer theory, crip theory, feminist theory, and critical race theory. Within these structures, students will explore issues of policy, legislation, media representation, theoretical debates, and activism in LGBTQ communities. This minor will prepare them to construct arguments and apply theory to practice in LGBTQ related coursework and professional organizations.

Race, Gender, Social Justice: Philosophy, Sociology, and the Critical Humanities brings together faculty members from the Departments of Philosophy and Sociology, the School of Integrative Studies, and the Women and Gender Studies Program, some of whom are also affiliated with the African and African American Studies Program. The aim is to create a set of new and modified courses that emphasize cross-disciplinary work on race, gender, and social justice. The long-term objective is to link these developments with related courses in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences to offer a distinctive undergraduate Fellowship in Racial Justice that would promote civic engagement alongside scholarly work.

Studio for the Communication Arts will be a curricular and physical studio space where students and faculty across the university can engage in communication work—writing, speaking, information literacy, and multimodal production. Grounded in a model of peer collaboration, this innovative multidisciplinary space will create high impact learning experiences for students who use the space as clients and for those who staff the space as peer consultants. Drawing faculty from the Departments of English and Communication, as well as University Libraries, this studio will serve up to 10,000 student and faculty clients annually, with a student staff of up to 65 peer consultants.

Collaborative for Promoting and Enhancing Knowledge and Skills for an Aging Society will bring together faculty from the School of Integrative Studies and the College of Health and Human Services to offer curricular and co-curricular experiences that will prepare Mason graduates to work within a diverse, aging world. Currently more than 46 million Americans are aged 65 and older and more than 6 million are over 85 (about 617 million individuals 65+ across the world). People are living longer, making it likely that career choices will involve older adult interaction or analysis of older adult issues. The Collaborative for Promoting and Enhancing Knowledge and Skills for an Aging Society will give its students the tools to meet these needs.

Virginia Food System Leadership Institute (VFSLI) is a collaborative effort involving faculty and dining services personnel at four state universities in Virginia: George Mason, James Madison, University of Virginia, and Virginia Tech. VFSLI is an interdisciplinary summer program that will be developed and delivered by a faculty team representing the four partner universities, serving student participants who will represent these four institutions. With faculty members from the School of Integrative Studies, the College of Science, and the College of Health and Human Services, the aim of VFSLI is to support rising leaders in the area of sustainable food systems by combining pertinent content knowledge in food systems, competency development in leadership, and a means for students to gain practical skills and hands-on experience related to job opportunities and infrastructure improvement in food systems. This proposal requests support for a VFSLI pilot that is being developed to run in summer 2018 at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation in Front Royal, Virginia, and the pro

Web Design Minor. This shared project of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and the Volgenau School of Engineering, brings together related courses in web design and development that are now distributed across in the university. It will create synergies among these courses and produce a coherent curriculum where students can investigate each of the contributing disciplines while enhancing their major areas of study by exploring new fields complementary to their majors. The minor will also help bring together faculty working in similar areas across colleges, encourage greater collaboration among them, and facilitate more efficient use of instructional resources by avoiding course duplication.

Design and Development of Professional Master’s Degree in Environmental and Sustainability Management. Complex dynamics and interactions between built, natural, and social systems create environmental impacts that are both local and global in scale, and the need for education in environmental and sustainability management has become increasingly important. A thorough knowledge base of the latest environmental science as well as skills in the practical aspects of translating science into policy, managerial actions, and sustainable solutions in government, commerce, and civil society work hand in hand for a successful practitioner. With faculty from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the College of Science, the College of Health and Human Services, and the Schar School of Policy and Government, the program emphasizes a transdisciplinary systems-thinking approach to environmental and sustainability challenges ranging from local matters of energy efficiency projects and waste management to global concerns of climate change and biodiversity loss, with opportunities to engage students in experiential, place-based learning opportunities through mentorships and internships.

Developing a Multi-Disciplinary Minor in Social Justice and Mass Incarceration. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the United States is home to five percent of the world’s population, but twenty-five percent of its inmates. This minor draws faculty from the Departments of Psychology and Criminology, Law and Society, as well as from the Women and Gender Studies Program, to understand and solve the devastating social problem of mass incarceration in the United States. Students will develop a complex understanding of a complex problem, using scholarly and experiential learning, and culminating in informed action. Three required courses include an introduction, capstone, and a transformative “Inside-Out” course, which will take place inside a correctional facility, with incarcerated students as co-learners with college students. The program features a multidisciplinary menu, and a brown bag series and website would build community among students, faculty, and alumni.