By Jennifer Perrow, Contributing Writer
"When students get excited," says Les Steele, vice president of academic affairs, "they get motivated, they work hard, and they learn deeply."
Such excitement often comes about as a result of academic partnerships at Seattle Pacific University. "Innovation means more than just doing something new," says Steele. "It means collaboration — between academic departments, between curricular and co-curricular programs, and between students and faculty."
Examples abound. Because SPU has stellar teacher education programs and cutting-edge science programs, it made sense to launch a master's degree program in teaching science, which begins Autumn Quarter 2011.
"We know there is a huge need in the world for scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. We want to help meet that need, and the strength of our education and science programs makes this new program a perfect fit for us," says SPU President Philip Eaton.
SPU's Global Development Studies major is another example of collaboration and innovation at Seattle Pacific. For a number of years, students were creating "self-designed majors" that pulled together coursework in geopolitics, sociology, and religion. SPU's commitment to global education, combined with a strong interest from students, led to the creation of this popular new major.
"We are meeting real needs in the world," says Steele. "The best learning takes place when students can integrate theory and practice, and apply it to a real-world situation."
SPU's Social Venture Plan competition, now in its fifth year, is a place where students can do just that: identify a problem, and use their learning and skills to create a solution. In this way, SPU students are living out the university's vision to engage the culture and change the world.
The program has been so successful that leaders from other universities have visited SPU with the goal of replicating this program on their campuses.
"The world needs people of competence and character," explains Steele. "Collaborative programs like these help to shape our students in important ways. We are not just teaching job skills — we are pushing students to think critically about world issues so that they can make a real difference wherever they go."