Proposed LIGHT initiative to enhance student learning with focus on cultural engagement

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LIGHT_largeCreating awareness of and encouraging a global mindset within the Lipscomb community is the focus of the new proposed LIGHT program that was presented to faculty, staff and students on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

LIGHT: Illuminating Cultural Engagement was developed as a quality enhancement plan (QEP) to enhance student learning. The proposed initiative was presented at the Gathering, the weekly chapel assembly for the Lipscomb community.

LIGHT_1As the city of Nashville becomes more diverse, Lipscomb’s student body is reflecting that diversity. Represented in the university’s 4,632 students this year are 32 religious preferences, 49 states (including Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico) and 47 nations. Since 2005, Lipscomb’s minority enrollment has increased 346 percent. This year, 22 percent of the student body is comprised of students who are ethnic minorities.

“As the world around us and our campus becomes more diverse with a rich variety of cultures and experiences, we want to intentionally integrate cultural engagement into the Lipscomb community through various learning channels and experiences,” said Kimberly Reed, professor of English and modern languages and QEP committee chair.

Reed said the LIGHT initiative is based on the call in Scripture to love one’s “neighbor as yourself.” She said the purpose of the program is to lead students to a lifetime of collaborative engagement with the world’s cultures, to guide students to develop respectful attentiveness to diversity and to awaken students to a responsive awareness of neighboring as a moral imperative.

The goals of LIGHT are increased understanding of various cultural practices, systems and institutional structures; improved student ability to explore various cultural practices, systems and institutional structures in relation to their own; and expanded engagement with diverse communities locally, interculturally and globally.

“What we want to accomplish with LIGHT is to develop a general education program that prepares our students for a diverse world through a cohesive, globally focused curriculum,” said Reed. “We also want to create a campus environment that celebrates cultures both far and near, and most importantly, we want students to experience the spiritual growth that comes from caring for one’s neighbor as for oneself.”

Reed said these experiences will be incorporated into a variety of learning channels including Lipscomb Seminar, Freshman Common Reading Program, a new Freshman Speaker Series, general education courses, modern language courses, service learning projects, the capstone general education Engagements course, global learning semester abroad programs, mission trips, travel study opportunities and LIGHT courses in major coursework among others.

LIGHT was developed as a QEP, which is a key component of the university’s accrediting reaffirmation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Universities are required to complete the reaffirmation process every ten years. During the 2007 reaffirmation process, Lipscomb launched the SALT (Serving and Learning Together) QEP initiative. The LIGHT initiative is pending SACs approval.

LIGHT_2The SALT program is a comprehensive plan to integrate service learning into the educational experience of traditional undergraduate students at Lipscomb. A strategy for developmentally enhancing student learning, the SALT program allows students to connect their academic experience and spiritual development with significant engagement in the community.

Because Lipscomb expects its students to engage in innovative and rigorous academic experiences, and because of the shared belief that a Christ-like attitude calls for service to others, traditional undergraduate students complete two service-learning experiences in the SALT program before graduation.

QEP committee members and the colleges they represent include Terry Briley, Bible & Ministry; Kayce Gill, Beaman Library; Phyllis Hildreth, Leadership & Public Service; Donna King, Entertainment & the Arts; Ken Mayer, Computing & Technology; Emily Medlock, Education; Dave Morgan, Liberal Arts & Sciences; Greg Nordstrom, Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering; Kimberly Reed, chair, Liberal Arts & Sciences; Karen Robichaud, Pharmacy & Health Sciences; Leanne Smith, Business; Nina Morel, Professional Studies: and Stacia Watkins, ex officio, director of general education. Reed said the committee was formed by Provost W. Craig Bledsoe and have been working on developing this program for the past two years.

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—Photos by Kristi Jones