University study examines campus intellectual climate

In a recent study conducted by Alan Cox, a Wake Forest University consultant, Wake Forest students suggested ways to improve the university’s intellectual climate.

Approximately 25 students participated in focus groups on campus late last fall to share their insights. The goal of the research was to better understand the nature of the campus intellectual climate from the perspective of students and to explore how intellectual climate could be fostered more.

Intellectual climate was defined in the study as “the atmosphere or context, which makes discussion, exploration, and evaluation of ‘intellectual’ issues possible and even encourages this by providing opportunities and expectations of this. Intellectual issues should address basic values and questions of life. These should be the basis for educated development of life philosophies and provide a foundation for consideration of factors which impact these philosophies.”

Among the suggestions offered were:

  • Develop groups of students and faculty that meet several times during a semester to have intellectual discussions.
  • Offer more small seminars.
  • Promote interdisciplinary events and connect class work with extracurricular activities.
  • Provide students with more flexibility in the classes they can take.
  • Offer more pass/fail courses in the humanities for juniors and seniors.
  • Encourage more interaction between students and faculty outside of class, including more “open-door” office hours.
  • Students who are interested in experiencing a greater intellectual climate need to align themselves with others of similar interests.
  • Offer classes that combine and relate liberal arts material with rotating faculty from different disciplines.
  • Have requirements for taking part in intellectual climate activities outside of the classroom.
  • Minimize the number of classes that are predominantly lectures. Expect students to have read the lecture material ahead of time so the class can be devoted to discussion.

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