The Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts
Wagner College is a case in point…
Richard Guarasci’s first project upon becoming Wagner College’s provost in 1997 (and president in 2002) was to work with faculty on a reconfiguration of the curriculum, which was called the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts.
Each student in Wagner College’s signature undergraduate curriculum participates in three learning communities during his or her academic career. Focusing on learning by doing, these learning communities are immersive and multi-disciplinary, and feature both civic and field learning, as well as internship placement for each student. Wagner College is deeply embedded — connected — to its neighboring communities and is well positioned to take advantage of internships in a number of New York City institutions.
Learning communities consist of classes led by two faculty members who teach two seemingly disparate or complementary courses that are linked by a third, more reflective tutorial, and share an overarching common theme or topic. Students spend several hours a week in off-campus activities: in their tutorial, students discuss, analyze and document the connections between the concepts in their classes and their off-campus experiences. Fourth year students participate in a capstone course, a senior thesis or project, and a certain number of hours invested in either community work or an internship.
Participation in these learning communities provides students with a sense of purpose, an understanding of their interests and their capabilities, and influences not only their college experience, but their future professional lives. In addition to gaining knowledge and skills, in addition to realizing that the issues they encounter in the greater world are interrelated, students gain the ability to think for themselves (while recognizing that others have different and valid viewpoints) and begin to understand the impact they will have on the world.
Foundation Hall, the first new residence facility opened on the Wagner College campus since 1969, welcomed its first residents in January 2010. Accommodating 200 students, the facility was envisioned as a means of transitioning senior students to life after graduation. The facility, designed by Joanne Pizzo and Barry Eiswerth, consists of suite style and apartment style living arrangements organized into neighborhoods. A large, 150-seat forum space on the ground floor serves as a place for the building’s residents to gather, for college and civic events to occur, and for job fairs and seminars geared toward soon-to-graduate seniors.
Wagner College — curriculum and infrastructure — truly provides a path for success in higher education, life, work and society.