Curriculum Innovation Day helps to chart “a new future” for Pacific

faculty gather for Curriculum Innovation Day

Faculty members brainstorm ideas for new interdisciplinary programs during the inaugural Curriculum Innovation Day.

In a room filled with whiteboards, giant notepads and plenty of snacks, University of the Pacific professors gathered before the start of the semester to develop bold new ideas for future interdisciplinary programs.

More than 50 faculty members from Pacific’s three campuses gathered Jan. 10 for the inaugural Curriculum Innovation Day at the Verschagin Alumni House, engaging in a wide-ranging brainstorming session covering everything from mental health and peace studies to artificial intelligence, sustainability and more.

“I really think we're going to look back at this day as one of the most important in the modern era of Pacific,” President Christopher Callahan told faculty. “This is the day that we are tangibly charting a new future for our university.

“Our mission is about education and the success of our students. And the foundation of that is very simple. It's you. It's our faculty members. You are our idea creators, our designers and our curriculum architects.”

Those present were enthusiastic about the opportunity to cultivate new programs. Professor of Geological and Environmental Sciences Laura Rademacher was part of a table that included professors from the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and the School of Health Sciences. The group tackled subjects that included cities of the future, climate justice, human-centered design and sustainability.

“Realizing we have more in common than we think and there are new creative ways of combining things is really powerful.”

- Professor of Mathematics John Mayberry

“Geology fits into most of these suggestions very well,” Rademacher said. “And I am intrigued by the concept of Design X that someone else wrote on the board. I am envisioning it as like our Media X, but with a much bigger framework for use in community design and problem solving.”

Rademacher sees tremendous benefit in developing interdisciplinary programs to fit the needs and desires of future students.

“My generation grew up in a really siloed environment academically,” Rademacher said. “I don’t think that’s how current or future students think, nor do I think that's how they're currently learning. My kids who are in K through 12 don't necessarily have math and social studies. It's a lesson that is integrating both of those.”

At another table, a mix of faculty from health care, business and engineering suggested collaborations that included financial planning, entrepreneurship, sustainability, cybersecurity and health and wellness marketing.

Peter Witte, dean of the Conservatory of Music, asked, “Why not add performing arts wellness to the mix? Performing artists are fine motor-skill athletes, so the extent to which kinesiology and audiology is often helpful to athletes, why don’t we also apply them to dancers, actors, musicians? That is an emerging field.”

faculty gather for curriculum innovation day

More than 50 faculty members gathered from Pacific's three campuses.

Tracey DelNero, chair and program director for physician assistant studies, also found opportunities to strengthen existing programs by teaming up with other departments.

“The economics department has a course on healthcare economics talking about insurance, copays and deductibles,” DelNero said. “I teach that as a component of the professional practice course in the physician assistant curriculum. To be able to have an economics professor come and explain it, or vice versa for me to say, ‘okay economics students, let me talk to you as a clinician, how will it actually impact patient care?’”

The idea for Curriculum Innovation Day was inspired by the recent launch of Pacific’s new interdisciplinary undergraduate major in data science. The new degree was driven by faculty from the School of Engineering and Computer Science and College of the Pacific who identified the need to prepare students for the fast-growing field.

Mathematics Professor John Mayberry, chair of the Academic Council, was among the lead designers for the new data science program and the chief architect of Curriculum Innovation Day.

“Some of the topics and how they mesh together was mind expanding to me,” Mayberry said, after listening to some of the ideas. “Realizing we have more in common than we think and there are new creative ways of combining things is really powerful.”

Added Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Gretchen Edwards-Gilbert: “This is what we love to do. Brainstorm ideas and come up with things together. It's really wonderful that we were able to bring so many people together.”