Poised to Power Onward
Purdue Northwest faculty members are equipped with new tools and an overview of the big picture ahead as the fall semester progresses onward with new demands brought on by a pandemic and changing expectations of college students.
The Power Onward conference included three days of speakers and presentations for faculty and staff, offering a chance to reconnect and critically think about the work needed to best educate in the dramatically shifting higher education environment.
“Everyone was pushed out of their comfort zone with COVID,” Emily Hixon, director of the Center for Faculty Excellence, said. “A lot of us found things we may not have even expected to work actually worked really well.”
The conference began Aug. 16 at the Westville campus’s Dworkin Student Services and Activities Complex with a six-person panel, featuring Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Chris Holford, Assistant Dean of Students Britt Hudson, Assistant Professor of Sociology Hubert Izienicki, Honors College student Aneri Patel, Associate Professor of Chemistry Libbie Pelter, and Student Government Association President Oriana White.
The intersection of perspectives offered valuable insight on the student, faculty and staff experience of a college education’s contemporary demands. All circled around a similar theme: today’s students do not thrive as passive recipients of lectures. Effective learning is collaborative. As the past academic year was defined by technological and interpersonal adaptations of communication and learning, and heightened awareness of social justice, PNW now must holistically identify its students and be flexible technologically in its education and messages.
“There’s really an emphasis on meeting students where they are – focusing on students as whole beings,” Hixon said. “We’re not just putting knowledge in their brains. We’re educating a whole person. Everybody at the institution plays a role in that.”
The conference’s keynote speaker, Tia Brown McNair, author of “Becoming a Student-Ready College: A New Culture of Leadership for Student Success,” provided further insight on holistic identification for incoming and current students, as well as addressing the barriers and inequities present within higher education institutions. McNair is vice president in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success and executive director for the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Centers at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).
A Campus Celebration
The conference continued Aug. 17 and Aug. 18 with sessions held virtually and at the Nils K. Nelson Bioscience Innovation Building on the Hammond campus. Topics led by faculty and staff members ranged from establishing and facilitating virtual workstations for classes to addressing mental health concerns for oneself and one’s students.
The conference thematically ties into the “Roaring Ahead” 5-75 celebration, which is just getting underway as the fall 2021 semester begins. The year-long recognition celebrates the proud history of the Hammond and Westville campuses and looks ahead to PNW’s future as a premier metropolitan university.
“The conference included events on both campuses,” Hixon said. “We came together to celebrate PNW and how far we’ve come as an institution in just five years. We are taking advantage of the unique qualities of each campus and all we’ve learned through the pandemic to emerge as an even stronger institution that is ready to meet the ever-evolving needs of our students.”