At the University of Maine at Presque Isle, we believe that education must be much more than pre-packaged information that faculty dispense and students remember. Rather, education must play a transformative role in the lives of graduates and the society in which they live. In other words, we don’t simply prepare people to “fit into” a pre-existing (and at times unjust) society; instead, we provide the tools by which students engage, evaluate, and ultimately transform their world. Thus, we recognize that our graduates both must be prepared for today’s economy as well as the responsibilities and challenges they will face as global citizens. In this sense, we espouse the values of an Experiential Education as defined by the renowned American educator John Dewey, who wrote in Experience and Education (1938) that the classroom must be a purposeful and cooperative enterprise between students and teachers that embraces intellectual freedom as its ultimate goal:
The only freedom that is of enduring importance is freedom of intelligence, that is to say, freedom of observation and of judgment exercised in behalf of purposes that are intrinsically worth while.
Dewey recognized that a university must be responsible not only for delivering essential knowledge and guiding individuals in good citizenship, but that it must provide both a physical and social environment in which students can build worthwhile experiences. The university must, in other words, encourage students to be both problem solvers and problem posers, to learn both how to apply their skills to the world they know and, simultaneously, envision a better one…as well be capable of turning that vision into reality.
In other words, at UMPI we reject the notion that higher education is simply a Google “search engine” or a data bank. We are committed to the importance of civic, ethical, and cross-cultural learning as priorities for all of our programs and each of our students. Furthermore, we believe that all students should gain proficiency in skills and experiences in Essential Learning Outcomes that educators as well as employers cite as increasingly essential—including the areas of Science and Technology, Global issues and Cultural diversity, Civic knowledge and engagement, Written and oral communication, Critical thinking and complex problem solving, Ethical decision making, and Applied knowledge in real-world settings. (You may find a full report of these essential outcomes in “Raising the Bar: Employers’ Views on College Learning in the Wake of the Economic Downturn,” at www.aacu.org/leap .)
The University of Maine at Presque Isle embraces proficiency-based education (or PBE) as a vital component in both preparing our graduates for future careers and creating a better world for future generations. We pledge to you that as a student at UMPI you will find your education to be:
- Experiential and project-based;
- Co-designed by students and their teachers, who engage both the intellect and creative process, inside and outside the classroom;
- Learner-centered, in that we believe an attention to the learning process is just as important as what is being taught;
- Focused upon a mastery of proficiencies of essential skills and abilities that best prepare graduates for their careers and future educational goals;
- Engineered to provide our future graduates maximal opportunities to explore, apply, refine, and continually demonstrate the knowledge and theory they develop through service learning, internships, and other experiences both on and off our campus.
To this end, each of our programs—whether it be Athletic Training, Biology, Business, Criminal Justice, Education, English, Fine Art, History, Mathematics, Medical Laboratory Technician, Physical Therapist Assistant, Professional Communication and Journalism, Physical Education, Psychology, Social Work, or any of our other majors—is sustained by three commonly held core values: student empowerment, dialogue, and critical thinking and communication.
Student empowerment ensures that our students are active and invested in their education, co-contributors to the learning community in general and to their own learning process in particular.
Dialogue, as John Dewey recognized, is the starting point of any true educational experience, as it positions the professor as a learner, as a “teacher-student” who serves as facilitator or director of investigation rather than the banker and assessor of facts.
Finally, educating people to be critical thinkers means providing them with the tools to be aware of how society functions and to think beyond the boundaries of an individual discipline or profession. Critical thinking means active participation in one’s process of learning; it means analyzing rather than passively accepting information, and, ultimately, questioning one’s own and each other’s opinions and knowledge.
This, indeed, is the purpose of an Experiential Education and the goals to which it aims. To achieve it, one need only realize that, indeed, one has always a great deal more to learn.
Dr. Ray Rice, Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs