Pathways is an integral part of the revamped Connections curriculum. But, as a junior and member of Media, Rhetoric and Communication Pathway, I found myself unexpectedly puzzled trying to understand precisely what this program is trying to accomplish and how it enriches my own college experience. Inspired by centers of interdisciplinary scholarship, each Path is made up of four main elements: a thematic inquiry course followed in the spring of the second year, three basic courses linked to the theme of the Path, a form of global or local engagement, such as an internship and a senior reflection course that culminates in the All Colleges Symposium. All of these pieces should relate to a lively question, which in turn should tie together various elements of your college experience, such as your major (s), minor (s), extracurricular, and community engagements. Despite its promising claims, the Pathway program lacks a clearly defined set of goals or objectives and has yet to strike the balance between having too many requirements and providing students with enough guidance to create a truly rewarding experience. .
Based on Conn’s mission statement, the goal of the Connections program as a whole is to “put the liberal arts into action as citizens of a global society”. However, there is no specific written goal on how the Trails fit into this initiative. Is the requirement for global / local engagement the “action” mentioned in the mission statement? Is following a Path to link different fields of study in itself a sufficient “action”? In what other ways could students accomplish this mission without completing a course (or center)? How, exactly, does the Pathway unify our collegial experience? What are the most beneficial elements for doing this? What is the weight of completing a Pathway outside of Conn? These are all questions to which I have received only vague and insufficient answers so far.
These undefined goals further lead to two fundamental flaws in the design of the program: Pathways attract students already interested in interdisciplinary learning and emphasize reflective and academic learning over experiential learning. Interdisciplinary learning is one of the main tenants of Pathways. However, those most interested in linking multiple fields of study, like the program’s promises, have already taken an interdisciplinary course load. The program offers little or no incentive to those who might be hesitant to diversify beyond their specialty or field of study, in addition to waiving the requirement for a survey mode. As such, it’s almost impossible to know whether the broad themes of the Pathways promote interdisciplinary discourse, or whether students researching the program would have had those conversations anyway.
Additionally, Pathways do not have a defined framework or set of checkpoints to guide students through their journey. After the end of the second year of the thematic inquiry course, students are left to fend for themselves until the fall of the final year to figure out how to link their courses to the Pathway, if they choose to meet with their Pathway coordinator. for advice, and how their animation question might evolve. Of course, some flexibility with respect to the Centers is to be expected, however, the complete lack of structure or council meetings makes it unnecessarily difficult to view this process as a gradual journey as opposed to fragmented weeks of forced reflection.
All that being said, I still don’t have a negative overall view of the Pathway program. Regardless of its fragile goals and multiple shortcomings, it has been an enjoyable and rewarding experience for many students, myself included. After viewing my classmates’ presentations on November 4 at the All College Symposium, I realized that I had overlooked one of the most important elements of all: community. Ultimately, the pathways might not dramatically influence you to do something completely new or exciting, or even take dramatically different courses than you would usually take. But, they do provide a designated space to reflect on your college experience, to look back on those rather chaotic four years with a polite unit, and to share what you have learned with a diverse community of peers, faculty, staff and members. of the family. This form of collaborative thinking is undeniably unique to the Pathway experience, and meaningful in itself. With some modifications, the Pathways could indeed guide students to “put the liberal arts into action”.
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