Go the distance, Experience it
As the crowds get larger and more faculty are hired around the university, students find themselves looking for their role in this university.
Dr. Brian Birch, the new associate vice president of Academic Affairs, is making it his mission to help students do just that through the fairly new Center for Engaged Learning; however, not very many students are aware of what that even means.
“I don’t know anything about it,” said Paul Forster, a Spanish major. “Never heard of it. I just come to the school. I have seen signs. I have never, ever wondered what it meant. I thought they were just advertisements.”
The concern for this lack of awareness on campus has come to the attention of administrators, which has called for a new organization within the Academic Affairs department.
The Center for Engaged Learning was founded in 2007 under the leadership of Jack Christensen and Vince Fordiani. They helped develop the early programs.
According to Birch, some reorganization will take place to reach out more and to make the center more integrated with the academic life of students.
Birch has been teaching at this university since 1995. He is a Salt Lake native and holds a Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Religion and Theology from Claremont Graduate University. His love for Philosophy branches off from his interest in Religion.
He is in the process of writing a book entitled Mormonism and Christian Thought which has been contracted with Oxford University Press. He will be overseeing the Center for Engaged Learning, which may instead become the Office of Engaged Learning.
“One important part of my job will be to take what we are already doing and to integrate it and coordinate it so that more students and more faculty know what we are already doing,” Birch said.
He is hoping that more students will get involved and go the distance to experience what they are here to learn. He is anxious to give them the resources and the opportunities they need to do it.
“We are in the early days of our organizational plans,” Birch said, “but we are already planning to integrate a group called the Student’s Engagement Initiative, where we are hoping students and former students will be the creative part of this group.”
Birch hopes that the engaged learning profile will communicate the distinctive flavor of the university to everyone.
He mentioned that the most important part of this program is to give the students the grounding and the context to be able to apply what they are learning. He also wants to enable them to make connections so that when they graduate, they have a stronger profile and the right connections. He wants them to know how to apply their learning, whether it be in their professional lives, as citizens or in any other area they choose to pursue.
These are just some of the highlights from the new associate vice president and the Center for Engaged Learning. Birch said that within a few months, students should be able to notice the differences. The offerings and opportunities they have at this institution will be more apparent and they can become more involved.