Superior Edge Taking Shape

 

In order to achieve the Superior Edge, NMU students will complete requirements in four focus areas leadership, citizenship, diversity and real-world applications and leave with an e-portfolio to document their experiences.

These are the proposed components of the value-added initiative presented by the Superior Edge Task Force at a forum last week. The event included small-group discussions (pictured), which provided feedback that will help fine-tune the plan. Four task force members were scheduled this week to visit Purdue University-Indianapolis, a school that has successfully implemented a similar model.

 

Kathleen Thompson (Nursing), chair of the committee, said members have wrestled with a variety of issues related to the depth and breadth of the program since the group formed in October.

 

"We have struggled to reach a balance between inclusiveness versus exclusiveness, involving many students in some activities versus involving a few students in intense experiences, and balancing extensive program demands with limited available resources."

 

The four focus areas correspond to the desired outcomes of the Superior Edge program. The goals are that students will grow as competent, ethical and effective leaders; become engaged, involved citizens; develop a world view and better understand and appreciate diversity; and develop the ability to relate theory to practice.

 

All would require students to compile an e-portfolio record and write a reflective paper. Most would be comprised of about 100 hours of related activities or experiences on top of specific educational requirements unique to each area. For example, the leadership edge would include a choice of the Student Leadership Fellowship Program or a military science minor and at least one ethics course. The citizenship edge would involve attending local political and governmental meetings.

 

Students pursuing the diversity edge would choose from three options: a combination of study abroad and diversity presentations; a diversity class beyond the World Cultures requirement plus 40 hours or related activities; or 100 hours of diversity-themed experiences. The real-world edge (working title) would require students to select at least two of the following: an Academic Service Learning experience (40 hours); relevant approved campus/community employment (40 hours); internship, practicum, teaching and research apprenticeships for course credit; and noncredit professional activities outside the classroom, such as tutoring or professional conferences.

 

Students would receive a certificate, be honored at an annual reception and recognized on their transcripts for each edge certification. Completing all four areas would enable students to achieve the Superior Edge. In addition to the benefits above, they would be nominated for scholarships/fellowships for national student engagement graduate programs, be eligible to compete for one of three annual Superior Edge awards, be listed in the commencement program and receive a special cord to wear at graduation.

 

"It's an intensive program that involves a major commitment of time and energy to accomplish all four specific edge goals," said Dave Bonsall (Student Activities and Leadership Programs), a member of the task force. "It's not for everyone, but it's available. The nice thing is its flexibility and the fact it can be adapted to personal interests. Students could complete only the edges they're really interested in, or they can do all of them."

 

The general consensus among those attending the forum was that the time commitment was realistic, albeit challenging. Several pointed out that students are already fulfilling many of the requirements; this program would coordinate and document their efforts to maximize the benefit for career or graduate school preparation.

Paul Duby (Institutional Research) said the task force is exploring the idea of taking organization and coordination a step further by creating a Center for Student Development and Civic Engagement.

"We've done a lot at NMU with Academic Service Learning, community service programs, leadership programs, and student activities and organizations," Duby said. "It would be nice to have one center to pull all of those elements together with one person to devote time and energy into that area. That person could also do ASL and community service grant writing, which would allow us to tap into funds we know are out there.

 

"Whether it's a center or office will be hammered out in the end. The important thing is finding a way to do a better job of organizing and handling the increase in operations. Right now, we offer a great experience for 50 students a year in the SLFP . Can we ramp it up so we're helping 200 or 500 students become leaders? To do that requires a different approach a way to effectively increase the scale."

 

The Superior Edge Task Force will be giving presentations to various campus groups through April, and members will share their progress with the NMU Board of Trustees on May 6.

 

 

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Updated: October 26, 2005

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