Editorial: Rowan Should Encourage University-Wide Academic Collaboration

A painting of a canyon, created by Jessica Heritage for Intermediate Painting, hung in the hallway of Westby Hall. The Whit staff proposes that academic feats like this should be recognized across the university's many departments. - Editor-in-Chief / Kalie VanDewater

Delivering The Whit each week brings us to all of the academic buildings on campus, and it gives us the unique opportunity to get a glimpse into the academic lives of all students, whatever their program of study. One of these buildings is Westby Hall, which is almost entirely used by art majors.

To say that spending even a minute inside Westby is worth the trip would be an understatement. Its hallways are filled with artwork created by students in their classes, and some of them are, quite frankly, incredible. For instance, one of the paintings on display was of a very realistic painting of a canyon done by Jessica Heritage in Intermediate Painting. The perspective of the painting makes it feel like you’re on a trail in the bottom of the canyon, looking up at the rest of the path and the sky, with a ladder to climb on the way.

It’s incredibly sad to think that Heritage’s painting and other works would have never been seen by a member of The Whit if we didn’t deliver to Westby Hall every week, and it makes us wonder what other academic feats outside our major we aren’t experiencing and celebrating.

Every Rowan student has their personal reasons for attending Rowan, whether it’s the community, the available opportunities for involvement, the cost of tuition or something else entirely. But we’re all here to get an education and attain success. Since we all have this in common, why shouldn’t we come together to highlight and celebrate the academic achievements of students across the university?

By coming together to honor the achievements of all Rowan students, we will become more successful on an individual level. Some students have grown up with a great support system and have friends and family who encourage them to apply themselves in their schoolwork and recognize when they’ve overcome academic challenges. This support has made them strive for academic excellence on their own and learn to push themselves.

On the other hand, some students don’t have the same level of support academically and have learned subconsciously to be content with passing classes. They then don’t apply themselves in ways that make them successful. However, having a university-wide academic support system would uplift these individuals and help them achieve their full potential.

The individual successes of students will in turn affect the successes of the university. With such a high-achieving student body that prides itself on academic feats, Rowan’s academic standards will be elevated. The combination of those heightened university standards and students’ determination to succeed will further push our university community to strive for achievement in ways hitherto unseen at Rowan.

Aside from supporting students’ achievements, we can also enhance the sense of community and belonging among the student body by bringing people together on an academic level. We already have yearly university-wide events like Back to the Boro, Hollybash and Homecoming that bring the whole campus together, but these are all recreational and volunteer activities, and we typically spend this time with our friends or people in our major — people we already know. With our friends, we have non-academic activities that help us bond; with students in our major, we are brought closer through knowing and experiencing the same academic challenges and achievements.

However, there are so many other students at Rowan outside both of those groups that we don’t know. When looking at the grand scheme of things within the university, spending time with only friends or only people in the same academic programs can be isolating. Let’s say you have 50 friends at Rowan and you know all the people in your major. According to the Fast Facts on Rowan’s website, there are nearly 16,000 people enrolled in the 90 undergraduate programs offered across all the campuses. While the number of undergraduates varies vastly from major to major, for the sake of this exercise we’ll say they have approximately the same number enrolled, which gives us an average of just under 180 students in each program. Even if your friends didn’t overlap with people in your major, you’d only know 1.5% of the undergraduate population at Rowan.

So how do we connect with the 98.5% of students we don’t know, and how do academics fit in? We propose that interdepartmental projects should bear the weight of this task. Not only will these types of projects help build community among our Rowan peers, but it will also encourage us to work with people we have nothing in common with. For instance, a theoretical project might involve creating an interactive news article like many of those published by The New York Times. For Rowan, this might look like a collaboration between computer science majors and journalism majors, an effort that would require communication between the two groups of students and the application of each group’s skills. Collaborative work would likely be the only way to accomplish something like this at Rowan, as journalism students generally don’t have knowledge of coding and computer science students typically have no reporting experience.

As we graduate and move on from Rowan into a steady job, we will have to learn to work with people with whom we have nothing in common; instead these people will likely have skills and knowledge that are complementary to our own. The more opportunities we have in college to work with those unlike us, the more prepared and thus more successful we will be when it comes to a post-college career. After all, isn’t college meant to prepare students for their future careers and all the eventualities involved with them?

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