Last Tuesday, we had a splendid presentation at a Lunchtime Seminar regarding the Co-Curricular Activity Initiative, one of several Presidential Initiatives to Increase Student Engagement. First, Annemarie Nichols-Grinenko gave a broad overview of the Initiative, which began in 2007 to boost student engagement. Data from the National Survey of Student Engagement showed that Hunter was lagging in this area:
Three initiatives grew from this broad effort: the Student Presentation Initiative provides funds for students to travel to conferences to present research, the Student Faculty Research Initiative facilitates projects in which students work closely with faculty on research, and the Co-Curricular Activities Initiative provides funds for a wide range of activities to extend teaching beyond the course hour.
All three initiatives are laudable, but the latter is undeniably the most fun. To explore this latter aspect, we heard from three faculty who have made interesting use of the initiative’s funds. First, Barbara Bosch (Theater) told us about her experience with a student production of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. Prompted by a suggestion from two Eastern European students, Prof. Bosch took the cast and crew to a traditional Russian restaurant called (here it comes) Uncle Vanya to explore aspects of Russian culture relevant to the play. Bosch noted that, not only did the experience infuse the production with energy two weeks prior to opening, but it stuck with students for years afterward.
Next we heard from Elke Nicolai (German), who reflected on taking several classes on German literature to the Neue Galerie, a small museum devoted to modern Central European art. Prof. Nicolai emphasizes the value of linking literary texts to visual artifacts from the same time and place; she also noted that the docent from the trip was a Hunter graduate who majored in German and Art History and gave students a sense of how one might pursue a profession related to their liberal arts education.
Finally we heard from Christa Acampora (Philosophy). If the Co-Curricular Initiatives granted an award for lifetime achievement, surely she would receive it: she told us that “I integrate student engagement into all of my courses at every level” and provided fascinating examples, including trips to the Urasenke Center to learn about traditional Japanese tea ceremonial practice and the Chinese Scholar’s Garden in Snug Harbor. Prof. Acampora’s linked these the trips to philosopher John Dewey’s argument that to be “inspired” is “to be set on fire by a thought or scene,” and that is certainly what we experienced, if vicariously, via these four presenters’ work. Here’s Prof. Acampora’s slide show by way of closing.