Incorporating Changing Reality into College Strategic Plans: Part 6: The Many Ways

Senator Schumer coordinated what was probably the most consequential senate resolution in his tenure as majority leader, close to midnight on Thursday (June 1st). Even so, he was able to show up Friday morning at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, to celebrate Brooklyn College’s 2023 graduate commencement. I was impressed.

I have been teaching at Brooklyn College since 1979 (44 Years). In that stretch of time, I have attended many commencements. As far back as I can remember, Senator Schumer has attended. His agreement to honor Brooklyn College graduates probably anchors on the special relationship that his wife, Iris Weinshall, has with the college. She graduated from the College and also served as Vice-Chancellor of CUNY.

Senator Schumer’s attendance at this year’s commencement was probably the most impressive. True, each time, he has told the same story about the choice that he made between taking a trip around the world after his graduation or staying with his new girlfriend. Among older faculty that has heard this story many times, this has become a sort of joke. This year’s graduates, however, heard it for the first time. For them, it was new: a message that now they will have to live with the choices that they make—some of which will be consequential—so they better think hard before they make them.

This commencement also distinguished itself with an address by a former faculty member Tania León (Brooklyn College, Wikipedia). In addition to numerous accolades (coupled with an honorary doctorate), she received an additional distinction, presented by another notable Brooklyn College graduate, Leonard Tow. He announced the establishment of a new distinguished teaching position at the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music, which will be named in her honor. Another prominent Brooklyn College graduate, Jumaane Williams, is now the Public Advocate for NYC. He advised graduates that failures are good and that they should learn how to handle them. A lack of failures indicates that we aren’t experimenting and thus will also miss successes.

Since my Earth Day blog (April 25th), I have focused on ways to incorporate accelerated changes in global reality into college curricula, emphasizing my own school and university. Major components in all the changing realities are of our own making (anthropogenic). Adaptation and mitigation to these changes will be necessary over the lifetimes of our students and their immediate families. I have emphasized that most of the curricular and research changes that we need to introduce to accomplish these important issues are new both for the students and for faculty, meaning that serious research is needed to find our way through it.

One way to address it is to directly involve students in the changes that the college already has to go through. This practice has been labeled “Campus as a Lab” and I described it repeatedly in an earlier series of blogs (July 19October 4, 2022). As classes ended this semester and exams started, the faculty at Brooklyn College organized a Faculty Day to discuss our work and issues in various fields. One symposium that day was a demonstration of various applications of the concept. I presented some of the material I have described in the blogs, focusing on the energy transition. Two other faculty members presented different possible applications:

Prof. Jolanta Kruszelnicka from the Health and Nutrition Sciences Department talked about green building and health, with a real example of how to involve students with the sustainability requirements of new building construction on campus. Meanwhile, Prof. Brett F. Branco from the Earth and Environmental Sciences Departments discussed the role that centers can play in addressing parts of the reality we all live in. Prof. Branco is also the director of the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay:

The Institute is a partnership among the National Park Service, the City of New York, and the City University of New York (CUNY) acting on behalf of a Consortium of seven other research institutions: Columbia University, Cornell University, Rutgers University, Stony Brook University, New York Sea Grant, Stevens Institute of Technology, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Our mission is to produce integrated knowledge that increases biodiversity, well-being, and adaptive capacity in coastal communities and waters surrounding Jamaica Bay and New York City.

Almost all universities with an active research program create research centers in various relevant topics for which funding is available. As I discussed in an earlier blog, one center that is directly mentioned in the current Brooklyn College Strategic Plan is the Cancer Institute. These research centers actively involve students on various levels and collaborating faculty from various disciplines.

Another productive way to directly involve students in current reality is to try to get them involved with the surrounding community. At Brooklyn College, one productive example is the creation of the Brooklyn College Community Partnership:

The Brooklyn College Community Partnership (BCCP) is a youth development program bridging Brooklyn College to the broader Brooklyn community through initiatives in public middle and high schools and at our Brooklyn College Arts Lab (BCAL). As a youth-centered organization with a long history of community engagement and empowerment, we invite our students to bring their histories, knowledge, and expertise to the learning process. Through our unique relationship with Brooklyn College, we further connect youth to the College campus by leveraging our resources at BCAL, which includes a STEM lab, 2 music studios, a performance stage, and a fashion design lab.

In addition to serving the purpose of directly involving students and faculty in current affairs, this partnership offers a productive opportunity to recruit students to attend the college, a pressing issue these days for many schools.

An alternative to achieve similar objectives with a different audience is to create an Energy Park on the college campus (see the March 24, 2021 blog). Exhibits for the park can be solicited from relevant startups in the neighborhood and research products from college faculty and students.

This concept can be extended beyond energy to a “future park.”

With commencement behind us for this year, this will be the last blog in which I focus on how to incorporate changing realities into the strategic plans of High Education institutions, highlighting my school. However, the issue is important enough to try to open new doors to explore new opportunities to address new needs. The next blog will address the issue of prerequisites in today’s job market, starting with the Supreme Court of the United States.

About climatechangefork

Micha Tomkiewicz, Ph.D., is a professor of physics in the Department of Physics, Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. He is also a professor of physics and chemistry in the School for Graduate Studies of the City University of New York. In addition, he is the founding-director of the Environmental Studies Program at Brooklyn College as well as director of the Electrochemistry Institute at that same institution.
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