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FRANKLIN — Nestled in a quiet town in the shadow of Indianapolis, Franklin College provides for many students the perfect combination of a small school environment with big city opportunities.
But there's another pairing the college is especially focused on this year and administrators hope it helps take their students from college to a career — the combination of a traditional liberal arts education with a heavy focus on real-world experiences.
Faculty and administrators have been working for the past year and a half on the most comprehensive curriculum reform in the college's 185-year history. It's called the Pursuit at Franklin College and it is all about helping students experience engaging, cohesive and transformation experiences that will lead to careers in the workforce.
"Throughout all of history, we can find examples of how innovative ideas have driven economies and changed the world. Some of the most inspirational innovators are from Indiana, which continues to be a springboard for thinking big," Thomas J. Minar, president of Franklin College, said. "Hoosiers such as Colonel Eli Lilly, Madam C.J. Walker, Frank Ball and Orville Redenbacher are some of greatest examples of innovators who achieved extraordinary success because they recognized opportunities, developed ideas and pursued dreams. They knew how to think, and we believe Franklin College graduates can build on their impactful legacies."
Freshman Devin Wilham is just beginning his college career and will be one of the first students to go through this new curriculum. He has dreams of becoming a doctor in the future and the new science building and hands-on opportunities attracted him to the college in his hometown.
"So with the new science building, I was like, 'Ok they're going to have like the top of the line equipment," Wilham, who is kicking off his first year with two laboratory science classes, said. "Both of them are going to be real hands-on and that's what I like because I feel like once you are hands-on you actually know what you are going to be doing and you can use that in the future."
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Another student is finishing up his career at the college and looking ahead to a career in the workforce.
Ian Jenks is a business management and marketing student who has taken full advantage of the college's push for internship experiences.
"With Indianapolis being in our backyard, I really valued that for internship opportunities, and ultimately jobs after school," Jenks said. "You get to see what different companies look like and what kind of company you want to work for or what job responsibilities you might want as well."
Jenks completed multiple internships over the past three years including ones with United Healthcare and Eli Lilly. He encourages new students to try to take multiple internship opportunities.
"If you only limit yourself to one, you are kind of, you don't really know everything that's out there," Jenks said. "Some of those internships have kind of shaped what I want to do and I'm hoping to do that after school."
Jenks is hoping to get into the medical sales industry post-graduation.
Lori Schroeder, provost and dean of Franklin College, was very involved in the curriculum reform. Schroeder said the Pursuit at Franklin College is about combining what the college does well with liberal arts education, while making those real-world experiences part of every student's college journey.
"They are now going to be part of every students experience. Every student will be gaining professional experience that is relevant to their area of study," Schroeder said. "They will have interactions with professionals in the community. They will have internship opportunities. They will have opportunities to get outside the bubble of academia and really learn the kinds of skills that we not only think employers want, we know they want."
Some changes include adding a week called Pivot where students learn life skills. The college also wants to teach students how to better market their skills to employers.
"We think it's just a terrific winning combination of liberal arts with relevant skills and introduction to the workforce," Schroeder said.
The Pursuit hinges on six high-impact educational practices:
1. A robust first-year experience: All new students will participate in a topic-based seminar and will benefit from a subsequent series of workshops, peer interactions and skill-building opportunities, as well as from individualized guidance by trained staff and advisers. Another key element of the first-year experience is a yearlong program called Launch. It is specifically designed for new students and provides resources to help with the transition into college.
2. A relevant and responsive liberal arts experience: Specially designed courses will help students learn to see the world through a variety of lenses and to understand how values are formulated from different perspectives.
3. Immersive, applied experiences: Learning will take place somewhere other than in a traditional classroom. The college will expand opportunities so that every student completes one internship, but also, so that every course students take during January's Immersive Term will be experience-based.
4. Overt opportunities to use technology: Whenever possible, both in- and out-of-classroom experiences will involve technology.
5. Undergraduate research opportunities: Over four years, students will conduct research of an increasingly professional caliber, gaining the confidence and ability to pursue and answer meaningful questions.
6. Cohesive professional development opportunities: Every major will integrate customized opportunities for a student's professional development, helping forge their clear vision of the path between college and career.