Colleges and universities are faced today with growing — and often competing — demands and expectations. By placing Strengthening the Academic Core as the first of five strategies for the next decade, Bucknell reaffirms the centrality of its academic mission — a predominantly undergraduate liberal arts education complemented by professional programs — to the future vitality and success of the institution. The quality of the academic enterprise will drive Bucknell’s ascent to even higher levels of distinction.
If the academic mission is central to the future of the University, the role of the faculty is central to the fulfillment of the academic mission. Bucknell recruits and employs the finest teacher-scholars — individuals who aspire to be leaders both in the arts of teaching and in their disciplinary field of expertise. The University must provide the resources necessary in both areas to guarantee faculty realize that aspiration. Part of the distinctiveness of the Bucknell learning experience is the opportunity for students to interact daily with faculty and staff who exemplify a passion for learning and a dedication to the life of the mind — a life of intellectual exploration, creativity, and imagination. In affirming the centrality of the academic core, Bucknell also rededicates itself to an environment that nurtures, protects, and celebrates these values, all within the context of an unwavering commitment to academic freedom.
To provide students with an education that fulfills our Mission and Vision, Bucknell must create a campus culture, in and out of the classroom, that values diversity in all of its forms and that ensures high student engagement.* Certain kinds of institutional practices are known to be associated with powerful learning: a high level of academic challenge, close student-faculty interaction, opportunities for collaborative learning, enriching educational experiences, and a supportive campus environment. Students must be encouraged to sample widely and deeply from among the extensive educational opportunities available to them. They must become active and engaged participants in their education. Talented and accomplished when they first arrive at Bucknell, they also must be challenged to exceed their own expectations.
Bucknell’s fundamental commitment to highly individualized student attention extends also to the faculty and staff ’s role as "guide" in a variety of settings. One of the most significant guiding roles is to help students make wise choices from among the rich opportunities available to them during their time at Bucknell. The choices that students make are the clearest expression of that most elusive of educational goals: the development of character and strong personal convictions. Teaching students to make responsible choices that will serve them over a lifetime is thus an important way faculty and staff can educate for character, for ethics and values, and for personal responsibility. The informal interactions with respected faculty and staff are among the important venues for values education.
In planning the strategy for Strengthening the Academic Core, we must be mindful of the heightened public demand for accountability. From legislators to newspapers and magazines, from college guides to prospective students and their parents, all are demanding a clear, evidence-based demonstration of the benefits of a college education. Given the cost of higher education, there is also a costbenefit accountability — value for price. The assessment of student learning outcomes is now a formal expectation for institutional accreditation and thus, for qualifying for federal financial aid. Together, clear institutional goals for student learning, new knowledge about how students learn, an expanded set of pedagogical tools, and new techniques for assessment of student learning, all orchestrated by a superior faculty of dedicated teacher-scholars, offer substantial promise for dramatic improvements in the value that Bucknell can offer to its students. The central purpose of Strengthening the Academic Core is to ensure that a Bucknell education meets the highest standards of excellence — an education that is challenging, engaging, and produces powerful and demonstrable results in student learning, growth, and development. Pursuing the practice of education with openness to new ideas and a culture of innovation will deepen the educational experience of our students, promote creativity among our faculty and staff, and collectively ensure the University’s future viability. Bucknell’s ability to adapt and lead change in this area will be a mark of distinction within higher education.