As a liberal arts school, Knox understands that dialogue is an important part of a full “human-powered experience” and has offered classes in the past that are dialogue-based, allowing students to facilitate their own intellectual discussions with mindful care. The conversations in these classes are never promised to be easy, but are always important and thought-provoking.
Interdisciplinary courses are often missed on the Registrar portal and not always advertised. Not enough students are aware of dialogue-based classes, therefore not enough students are taking advantage of these options. Knox’s liberal arts status steers us away from generic general education classes, but does ask that we fulfill multiple requirements in order to graduate. Having a social justice dialogue credit be mandatory in order to graduate sounds right up Knox’s requirement alley.
Next year, social justice dialogue courses will be offered during Winter and Spring Terms, also offering courses to cultivate leadership skills in the setting of dialogue. Learning how to have a respectful, provocative and educational dialogue with others, no matter how different they may be, is a skill that Knox’s core values require. Starting next year, completing a social justice dialogue course should be made a requirement for graduation from Knox.
We are a residential liberal arts school. That is known to most of our students and must be made clear to all high schoolers considering Knox for secondary education. The experience is special and it is a unified experience Ñ it is impossible to talk about learning and growing as a person at Knox while only talking about academics. In being a residential liberal arts school, we are not freed from all of the issues of large universities and we take on some problems unique to schools like us.
It is clear that the position of liberal arts colleges, especially those in the Midwest, has changed in the past 20 years. We are not seeing the growth we expected, and needed.
The Integrative Business and Management major suggests one way we can go forward here Ñ keeping the Knox experience unique while also making sure our practices, especially our catalog, are in line with what potential students expect from their college choices.
Our residential experience is a central place where this can happen. The plans for expanded Living Learning Communities are in line with this, as are the discussions around looking at the first-year experience as a whole. Promoting our offices, centers, cultural clubs and other opportunities for greater involvement in the community, one’s interests and one’s identity is another way forward.
The need for purposefully creating resources and taking the initiative to engage students is especially true for minorities and others who are underrepresented in our faculty and staff. Every professor goes beyond their job description but this is even more true of faculty of color. But we have failed to listen to these faculty members adequately over the past year that these issues have been repeatedly brought up.
The efforts to reach out directly to students must especially happen with the freshmen, because we know from retention numbers that the transition to sophomore year is where the most students are lost.
Interdisciplinary studies are also key here. Faculty are our greatest resource and the liberal arts education relies on having a wide variety of courses not just being available but being required. So we must be committed to continuing to require a second specialization and general requirement courses. These could even be expanded at a future date, once the outcomes of the upcoming curriculum change are known.
Knox has done a lot to appeal to recruit and retain students. Recently, the institution even added new majors and minor the place of which in a liberal arts institution is arguable at best.
I think a part of these efforts is due to the fact that we have to be able to compete with all other ACM institutions despite the fact that some of them have much larger endowments and are located in much more exciting cities than Galesburg.
Still, there are things Knox can do to make the Knox experience one that is unique and life-changing.
Perhaps we should start at the beginning. Knox needs to develop a more inclusive list of summer readings for freshmen. The new list should represent different identities in a way that is not catered to a white audience. The point of summer readings should not be to make the readers of the incoming class to feel “lucky” in being privileged but to make them recognize their privilege. This can only happen through dialogue and radical anti-oppression training and education.
On a different note, Knox should make it a part of the diversity graduation requirements that students take the classes early on in their education so that the rest of their Knox career develops under the shadow of inclusivity an understanding