When you search for internships on Jobcat within a ten-mile radius of New York City, four of the seven search results require interns to be fluent in many graphic design programs. Beacause Bates does not offer courses in these areas, NYC native Bates students such as myself are forced to commit their summers to taking classes in graphic design, personally teaching themselves from software instructional packets, or ignoring the job post altogether.
Enter Bates’ practitioner taught short-term courses of 2014. These focused courses, offered in a pilot program this Short term, provide students the opportunity to grow a specific skill set that is easily applicable to an occupational field. Faculty and students from various organizational committees and academic departments have collaborated over the past nine months with Bates alums on designing these courses.
I had the pleasure this past week of sitting down with Professor of Sociology Emily Kane, the primary theorist behind this pilot program, to try and absorb her wealth of knowledge regarding the development of Bates’ practitioner taught short terms. While this addition to Bates’ short-term class list was originally President Clayton Spencer’s idea, Professor Kane has worked closely with Bates students and colleagues to execute Spencer’s vision.
Structuring a new class-system can be overwhelming, but Professor Kane was drawn to its emphasis on student needs. “The reason I felt willing to work on it, and to try to develop a structure for it, was because it was all about students. It was just really exciting to me that it was all about what you need to make your way in the world.”
This short term, students will be able to select from four additional short-term courses: Graphic Design, Health Care Administration, Social Change Organizing and Advocacy, and Digital Innovation. These courses seem to so clearly fill the void of so many resume skill sections because the BCDC did help advise program developers on skills that students seemed to be particularly lacking in job applications.
In Graphic Design, students can look forward to discussing the challenge of managing aesthetic and communication in one design. Students will take field trips, keep a journal and present a final project that utilizes the information they’ve learned through class discussions on branding, design management, and design thinking. Students will also gain proficiency in Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.
Health Care Administration addresses the challenge of paying for quality health care that many Americans are currently facing. Additionally, students will investigate quality measurement of health care and the many roadblocks to offering such a high quality in the United States.
Social Change Organizing & Advocacy is perfect for any student who wishes to immerse him or herself into learning about the skills often used by professionals who organize advocacy for social change.
Digital Innovation will introduce students to the fast growing world of digital entrepreneurship and the techniques that many innovators use to experiment with product ideas. Students will work towards the development of a tangible product and the plethora of opportunities available in the field today.
Last week I wrote an article about Bates alums Tyler Mosher ‘11 and Ross Brockman ’11 who, though recently named to Forbes’ list entitled 30 under 30, weren’t supported by Bates in the creation of their hard cider company. Professors denied these two students an advisement meeting on their business plan because Bates is not a business school. While this is absolutely true, Bates should prepare us for the coming times and the ever-changing job market, rather than force us to have a vague sense of our future business endeavors.
Perhaps if Mosher and Brockman had access to one such course focused on small business development and planning, they would have felt more comfortable stepping into their future at Downeast Hard Cider. Liberal arts shouldn’t demand that we abandon all of our focus with regards to our future. Bates is sacrificing a bit of its identity to allow us to be focused and feel like we have a shot after graduation, so let’s take advantage of it.
Another issue discussed in development meetings was that of a grading scale. Alums all remember the classic alphabetical (A-F) grading scale differently, and it would be complicated to teach alums about current Bates standards. For the first year at least, practitioner taught courses will be graded on an unsatisfactory and satisfactory scale. Teaching alums won’t have to reacquaint themselves with Bates’ grading scale, and students will have the unique opportunity of taking a class for the sole purpose of immersing oneself in a new skill set. “We’d like it to feel,” described Prof. Kane, “like it’s a chance to explore a world of work and develop some skills and not have to think about whether my Adobe illustrator was excellent, or just ok?”
Common word on campus attributes Bates’ relatively small endowment to the trend that a small liberal arts college such as Bates doesn’t breed fortune five hundred companies. While annual giving is great way to maintain a connection to an alma mater, this year’s practitioner-taught short term courses allow alums to strengthen their connection to Bates with a more personal contribution to the community. Sophomore Jake Henderson commented, “It’s wonderful that this year’s practitioner taught courses are using alums as teachers because it offers successful Bates grads another way to give back to the community.”
Another advantage to the use of alumnae is the potential networking opportunities available to students. All teaching alums are successful professionals, thus students will be able to hear about first hand experience of a journey from Bates into their desired profession.
The behind the scenes designers of this pilot program are not only excited about this coming short term, but rather how great it can be in the future. Kane commented, “We’ll be assessing the entire thing, so for whatever students do it, we’ll be so excited to hear their suggestions.”
With this pilot program, Bates heralds in a new era of opportunity for student growth. Fiercely dedicated to its liberal arts roots, Bates is allowing students to investigate the path of a focused profession for the few weeks of short term. The timing is perfect because we don’t need to trade off between this course and our disciplinary studies. Full immersion is in store for the self-motivated, and I look forward to watching this program grow in the years to come.