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Welcome to the Weekly Higher Ed Innovation Roundup.

  • Full Scholarships for MFA Students

First generation students and students of color are often encouraged by their families to pursue studies that will result in an immediate job. At my prior institution, this translated into a lengthy waitlist for our Nursing program. Brown University is making a move to give full tuition scholarships to students in their MFA programs in acting and directing. Their immediate goal is to diversify their student body.  Longer term, they hope to “encourage innovation and experimentation in art-making” and facilitate a space where more low-income artists and artists of color can “afford to be creators.” We need more art-makers and we need the art and the creators of art to reflect the world around us. Ultimately, Brown University believes that art-making is a public good and this is an investment in creative, diverse, and inclusive solutions for the challenges we face in the public sphere.

  • Independent Students Are the New Majority

According to a recent report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, independent students are more likely to be women, students of color, parents, low income, working 20+ hours per week, and part-time (to see what qualifies one as an independent student, link to the report). IWPR recommends that we adjust our interventions to make sure that part-time independent students have full access to financial aid and student success initiatives. They also recommend that we train folks on campus on the unique demands facing these students and, more importantly, they “ask that college systems, policies, and programs be assessed and modified, if needed, to address the scheduling and financial needs of independent students.” This may be the most challenging recommendation to implement. It is one thing to know that the majority of our students are independent. It is quite another to review our work through that lens. If we truly want our students to succeed, this is work that we must do.

  • Change Agents, Disciplinary Boundaries, and Intellectual Leadership

Three articles to check out in the most recent issue of Studies in Higher Education:

Be careful of what you call your change agents on campus. Labels matter and can facilitate or hinder progress and rate of change.

What I really liked about this article was the focus on how disciplines create single-discipline departments or schools and are reinforced by discipline-focused funding and discipline-based journals. The context for the discussion is a merger of two British institutions. The implementation of the merger highlighted our tendency to fall back on disciplines as structures for organizing our academic units. In this instance, the institutions were given the opportunity to do something innovative but found themselves relying on traditional structures. The uncertainty brought about by the merger prompted academics to rely on external reward structures that are based on single-disciplines and to identify with their disciplinary backgrounds. It became the language that translated from one institution to the other and in communication with the world outside of their two institutions.

We are lacking intellectual leadership on campus - senior academics who create new knowledge, obtain grants, influence public debates, and mentor junior faculty. Strong intellectual leaders on campus inspire others and model the behavior of change agents (without the labels). How do we recruit them? How do we retain them? How do we reward intellectual leadership?

What did I miss? What should I cover next week? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @mary_churchill.

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