Tranformative education

UBC President Stephen Toope was onsite the other day and delivered a short inspirational speech to an audience of about 100 staff and faculty.  He claimed that universities need to deliver a “transformative education” to undergraduate students … that got me thinking.  First, let’s be realistic.  The bulk of any transformation that occurs during a student’s undergraduate program occurs simply because they start as an 18 year old and finish as a 22 or 23 year old.  University or not, significant change is likely to occur during that period of your life.  Beyond that “natural” transformation, what incremental transformation should university provide?  More specifically, what transformations are you hoping to bring to your students? I believe that students need to (1) be globally aware, in simple terms that means that they need to show as much compassion/concern/caring for the student beside them, for the person next to them on the bus, for the person 1/2 way around the world as they do for themselves.  (2) want to change the world without conquering the world.  Conquering implies that you know best and everyone else be damned – the journey is as important as the destination.  Change implies that you have a vision, a destination, that you are committed to but the journey or path that is taken to accomplish that goal is flexible and allows for others input. (3) be innovative.  The big problems facing society, whether environmental, sociological, or financial, will not be solved using old ideas.  We need to encourage our students to be creative and reflective.  I’m a firm believer that people don’t spend time thinking and reflecting – we’re trying to do too much too fast.  Those three are pretty lofty so I’ll stop there.  Let’s go transform!

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