Introduction and Summary

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            Planning for the Academic Affairs retreat began with the identification of four major areas of concern at FIT: interdisciplinary work/integrating knowledge; global and international issues; faculty and student research; and the transformation of pedagogy resulting from new technologies. A date was set, and an invitation list was drawn up attempting to balance faculty from the various schools, senior and less senior faculty, people with particular expertise, and including appropriate administrators.

            Some participants were then asked to be on panels that would introduce the themes of the retreat, and some were asked to be workshop facilitators. Still in preparation for the retreat, Reginetta, Bill Mooney and Jackie Corrigan met with as many of the prospective panelists and workshop leaders as possible. Out of these meetings a list of issues and questions was drawn up which could serve as points of departure for the workshop sessions.

            The day of the retreat, all arrived at the IBM Palisades Conference Center ready to begin work by 9:30.  President Brown was present to welcome the group and to emphasize the importance of the discussions ahead. Then an introductory panel (Sandra Marcus, Jeff Buchman and Anna Blume) began the program with remarks on the focus of all discussion, the FIT student of the 21st Century.

            Throughout the day, panels on each of the four areas of concern were followed by breakout workshops on each subject. Discussion was energetic and covered a lot of territory. The group as a whole had the energy and discipline to engage in serious dialogue on the topics throughout the day, until 5:30, when we drifted off to the reception, dinner and a relaxed evening of playing pool, walking the grounds or disappearing into rooms to contact family and retire for the night.

            Saturday morning was more relaxed. At a single plenary session, workshop leaders for each topic presented a coordinated report on the discussions in each meeting. What follows is derived from these group reports and from the notes of various workshop participants. You’ll notice that the order of the workshops has been reversed for this report:  key questions from the later sessions turned out to be important for the earlier ones also.  Below you will find:

  • Common themes that emerge
  • A list of particular projects we might want to work on

            We hope that the retreat has begun an ongoing dialog that can help the college take significant strides forward in all these areas.

Summary of the Workshops

I. Transforming Learning with Technology: Critical Challenges

Strong discussion of:

  1. Establishing a clear policy on intellectual property regarding faculty/student work.  This was viewed as essential if we are to move forward on e-publishing, hybrid courses, etc.
  2. Hybrid courses. There was a consensus that FIT should taking advantage of these flexible pedagogical opportunities ASAP, recognizing that contractual language — based on language for existing classroom and on-line courses — will have to be negotiated to cover new models. Whatever structures are put in place should be flexible enough to allow for a variety of kinds of courses.  Also recognized was the need for good training and on-going support as we develop and teach hybrid courses, in addition to clear ownership-sharing policies on course content.
  3. Support for emerging teaching and learning technologies. The enduring question here is the best way of providing support for new pedagogical application of technology. Suggestions ranged from a designated point person to work with departments, to an expanded CET.
  4. E-publishing to support the creation of specialized and interdisciplinary publications. This is needed for a wide variety of internal and external “publications.” Steps should be taken to create processes to administer/manage such a system of web publishing, to establish a clear IP policy, and to further pursue the specific ideas people came up with for FIT e-publications of all kinds. Gregg Chottiner says that the college already has the technological capability.
  5. E-portfolios (for teaching/learning, not those used in admissions).
  6. A fully supported digital image library that would serve the teaching and research needs of the entire college (building on FITDIL).

II. Student/Faculty Research at FIT: Current and New Directions

Two issues stand out, with a wealth of specific suggestions in the notes.

  1. Communication/publication: leveraging use of the web to better communicate a) among ourselves and b) with communities outside FIT such as specific industries and academic audiences. Ideas for “publishing” ranged from an in-house database of student work to high profile academic or industry journals and working to establish FIT as a clearinghouse for the kinds of research related to FIT’s programs and mission.  The steps to achieve this (as mentioned under E-publishing or Workshop 4, include: creating mechanisms/processes to appropriately manage such a system of web publishing and establishing the technological base for such a system (unless we already have that – see above).
  2. Institutional support. Two aspects of this stood out, the need for faculty time to produce research, and support for communication or publication of research in a variety of ways.  Some form of released time/sabatical for a wide variety of publications, targeted funds from the CET, released time for research (research versus classroom appointments?), etc.

III. Global Perspectives/International Experience: New Options

  1. Communication/publicizing opportunities and initiatives for study abroad. This was a common thread in all the Global workshops. We have to find ways to make the opportunities (for students and faculty) better known to all. Among the ways of doing this were having students share their experiences when they return from abroad, student-to-student information exchanges, more international events, for example during orientation week. Better use should be made of technology: the web, blogs, pod-casts, etc.  But this issue also relates to issue #2, increased “institutional support” for all things international.
  2. Increase institutional support. “Expand Office of International Programs” is a bullet point from Robert Vassalotti’s summation of workshop group leaders on this issue, but people seemed to be thinking in broader terms: creating a culture at FIT that facilitates and encourages both student and faculty interest in going abroad and welcoming international faculty and students here. The notes are full of particular points that might become action items, e.g., use FIT dorms to house visiting faculty; increase preparation (“bridge” courses) for abroad study and teaching; loosen up Liberal Arts substitutions in abroad study, make the FIT curriculum more flexible, etc.
  3. Outreach to other organizations fostering international reach, such as COIL for taking the FIT on line courses international.
  4. Electronic exchange/international communication:  Communication/publication and technology were linked throughout. Here the emphasis is on the international reach of the web for creating both institutional partnerships and individual experiences, even international courses taught using video-conferencing with other countries.
  5. Globalization of coursework and life at FIT.
  6. Concentrations/minors: Desirable in all areas.  The model of the Liberal Arts Asia Concentration was noted; Minors or Hybrid programs between A&D and B&T were advocated; curriculum in majors should be made flexible enough to allow for minors; any contractual difficulties should be resolved by Admin./Faculty (Union) cooperation. 
  7. A Creative Arts Lab: This arose out of CJ Yeh’s presentation, the idea being that the work of artists in studios is enriched because of interaction with peers working in a social space. Computer work stations typically interfere with this natural cross-fertilization.  Solution: create “studios” for digital work in A&D, designed to break down the isolation of digital artists created by the disposition of work stations.

IV. Interdisciplinary Possibilities: Integrating Knowledge

  1. Team teaching: All felt that team teaching is a desirable possibility which can encourage interdisciplinary curriculum and instruction, and encourages “integrating” knowledge.  Encouraging team teaching across the college will involve developing new models, i.e. for ways faculty teaching loads are allotted, for ways AOP issues are handled, for class-size/compensation if two faculty work together throughout. The college needs a strategy to foster development of the new models which can then be used as a basis for Admin./Faculty(Union) cooperation to make the Collective Bargaining Agreement flexible enough to allow innovation in this area.
  2. Faculty communication; a common-room for interaction: 
  • Remedying the isolation of faculty in departments, or the lack of good opportunities for interaction among faculty from different departments and schools, was cited as important for the germination of interdisciplinary ideas and projects.
  • Faculty relaxation/work space (an old idea that keeps coming back) would be helpful, something more convenient/informal/welcoming than the 8th floor faculty cafeteria in the A building – perhaps that could be exchanged for one or several smaller spaces nearer departments and equipped with coffee, seating, perhaps work areas open to mixed departmental use.
  • All other means of increasing communication (in person, portal group, blogs, journal and list serves, etc.) among faculty must be pursued so that all become aware of current and future successful interdisciplinary and team-teaching efforts. (Better communication became a common theme of the retreat for all the topics.)

    3. Common first year:  Possibilities range from a single freshman seminar to a common first year for all FIT students.

  • One practical suggestion is common first year programs for students in related majors (some faculty are working on this for several A&D majors; AMC and FMM have considerable common ground).
  • The 2+2 where curriculum is rigidly controlled for the A.A.S. is seen as something of a barrier for a broader foundation-year program.
  • People working on a “first year experience” should be made aware of the broad interest in the idea of an academic common first year.
  • Common delivery of any skills employed across several departments should be considered and cross-listed for several departments if that is helpful.


For reports from the workshop leaders and the raw notes transcribed from the meetings, click on the “page” dedicated to a particular topic. 

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