Friday, June 29, 2007

UVSC names LDS Institute director to head new program

Though he has been hinting at it for months, UVSC president Bill Sederburg finally made it official today when he hired LDS Institute director Jack Christianson to head a new program called the Community of Engaged Learners Initiative. Here is the press release that went out with Big Bill's e-mail announcing the appointment:

Jack Christianson to Lead Newly Created UVSC Department

In April, Utah Valley State College President William A. Sederburg unveiled a plan – now known as the Communities of Engaged Learners Initiative – for the institution to become more engaged in the community as it transitions to university status. Sederburg today announced that Jack R. Christianson has accepted an offer to become the Executive Director of Communities of Engaged Learning at UVSC.

As executive director, Christianson will collaborate with UVSC’s academic community to help create opportunities for service and engagement within the region. He will report directly to the president, but collaborate and coordinate with the divisions of both academic and student affairs.

Christianson completed a doctorate in 2006 working with Dennis O’Keeffe from the University of Buckingham (United Kingdom) where he wrote a dissertation titled, “School and the Literate Order.” Some of his research identified key learning strategies faculty can use to engage students and increase community benefit.

“The Communities of Engaged Learners Initiative will accomplish real learning – not just book learning, but learning by doing,” Christianson said. “Therefore, the student can then become the teacher, and the teacher always learns most. I’m not sure we really grasp it until we can teach it to someone.”

Christianson brings 30 years of experience in education, most recently as director of the Orem LDS Institute of Religion adjacent to UVSC’s campus. He is currently a faculty member at Brigham Young University. He is a native of Utah County, and well known as a speaker in the community.

“It’s a marvelous opportunity for me because I’m well connected with the community, I know many of the faculty, staff and administration, and I know the students just about as well as anybody,” Christianson said.

In the coming weeks more will be shared about the UVSC Community of Engaged Learners Initiative. Christianson will be establishing an advisory board of academic and student affairs leaders as well as community representatives to oversee a $400,000 fund available to UVSC faculty and staff engaged in student-centered, regionally-focused research.

Similar programs have been very successful at other regional state universities. This is an opportunity for UVSC to enhance the quality of teaching and student learning experience while becoming more relevant to its sponsoring communities.

“Dr. Christianson’s research on engaging students in learning activities that are meaningful and relevant will be an excellent foundation for launching UVSC’s Communities of Engaged Learners Initiative as the institution transitions to university status,” said William A. Sederburg, UVSC president. “His extensive, first-hand knowledge of the region will also be key.”

Does anyone else get the feeling that Community of Engaged Learners Initiative sounds like it was named by some random business buzzword generator? It will be interesting to see if anything comes of a program that seems, at least at first glance, to be quite nebulous.

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