All First-Year Students Experience Integration Learning

What do you get if you examine such topics as empanadas from different countries, children's books with a science slant, the powerful presence of social media and technology in today's society, see the San Diego River from multiple viewpoints, learn about and then sing protest and social justice-infused songs and get a closer look at the media's portrayal of police brutality and eating disorders?

The answer is the same for all first-year University of San Diego students or transfers: it's a great way to research and gain multiple perspectives to expand one's knowledge and interpretation.

For those who spent time on May 8 inside the Hahn University Center Forums or ventured downstairs in a UC room for exhibits, discussions and interactive participation, you experienced a slice of what first-year USD students learned this past academic year in classes aligned with one of five Living Learning Communities and more about the knowledge methods being using in USD’s Core Curriculum through an integration model.

"This event is a great way to reflect upon what you've learned and what you've accomplished over the course of this year," said Dr. Noelle Norton, College of Arts and Sciences Dean, at the LLC First-Year Integration Showcase. "It should help launch you into next year and definitely your junior and senior years, too.”

Transfer Learning Community

New learning wasn’t limited to first-year college students, either. The university, two days later, hosted a similar Integration Showcase for spring semester transfer students in the Inspire TLC. A similar showcase was done last fall for transfer students and the goal was the same: get deeper knowledge through interdisciplinary work and connectivity. Issues at the spring transfer showcase included examining racial discrimination through multiple disciplines, the history of currency, a psychological look at good and evil, a historical examination of architecture and the action of migration from the perspectives of history and biology were each poked and prodded.

Dr. Susannah Stern, a Communication Studies professor and the Faculty Integration Coordinator for the TLC, likened the TLC’s outcomes and goals to a song lyric by musician/activist Ani DiFranco.

“What I think best summarizes it is ‘I know there are strengths in the differences between us but I know there is comfort where we overlap,’” Stern stated. “To me these lyrics capture the spirit of the intent of the TLC. One of our goals is to promote integration. We want to foster the intentional, thoughtful engagement of different voices and different perspectives from cross-disciplines. The second goal is to promote community, a sense of belonging … I hope the TLC has brought each one of you some comfort and has given you a sense of identity as a USD student.” 

The LLC Showcase marked the first time all first-year students, some 1,200 were together in one space since the fall convocation in early September. Hundreds of projects were displayed on posters, laptops, via PowerPoint, video, spoken word and artistic performances. Likewise, the TLC had laptops, video and poster presentations.

Core Curriculum Connection

The 2017-18 academic year was the initial rollout of USD’s Core Curriculum, one that for new students was a fresh perspective on meeting education requirements, attaining knowledge and making community connections. Aligned with a new-look Living Learning Communities lineup — Advocate, Collaborate, Cultivate, Innovate and the Honors Program’s Illuminate — both showcases serve as a fitting final exercise for students’ first taste of college.

“The introduction of integrative learning asks students and faculty to connect across disciplines, to synthesize disparate areas of knowledge, and to pose the ‘big questions.’ Core curriculum components connect and build on one another, the latest advances in research are integrated into the quest for understanding, and a continuous engagement with the complex problems of our world inform the questions we ask and the answers we seek. Integrative learning is an approach that creates an opportunity for students to make connections among ideas and experiences to synthesize knowledge.”

This process will continue during a USD student’s time so that when graduation arrives, students should:

  • Recognize broad connections between multiple disciplines, perspectives, and/or approaches to learning.
  • Articulate how the integration of different disciplines, perspectives, and approaches to learning can enhance one’s understanding of practical issues and problems.
  • Synthesize knowledge and/or skills from multiple disciplines or perspectives.
  • Transfer and apply knowledge and/or skills from multiple disciplines or perspectives.

During the LLC and TLC showcases, USD officials thanked students and faculty for their work, faculty and staff leaders for their role in bringing this type of learning to what’s an already outstanding academic institution. Deep knowledge enhances USD’s reputation as a solid liberal arts institution that’s steeped in the Catholic intellectual tradition. Each step in this process, especially the first one for a student, is important. Each successful step indicates a move forward.

“Can I get a shout-out for completing your first year at USD?” Vice President of Student Affairs Carmen Vazquez inquired while attending the LLC Showcase. Cheers ensued. “You are all trailblazers … what you are learning in this work only matters if you put it into action so go forward and change the world!”

— Ryan T. Blystone


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