Teaching good principles inside the classroom is always enjoyable and the proper thing to do. However, as one obtains a college degree, he or she must be able to apply those skills learned inside the classroom, outside within the community and larger society, thus, being productive and capable citizens in society. This is the exact thing that is occurring at the University at Buffalo; in addition to, at several other institutions of higher education that are branching out in the community ensuring their programs are equipping their students with the skills necessary to be productive in society.
Ms. Traynor, an assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning, has decided to make the old Belt Line of the city the focus of her studio course this semester because city officials and developers were showing increased interest in it. The Belt Line is the old industrial rail line looping around the city, a 15-mile railroad loop where many industries once housed their companies. Recently, developers have shown interest in this area in efforts to revitalize the city. Ms. Traynor thought this would be a good opportunity to expose her students to the practical aspects of their inside classroom training.
The urban and regional planning development department at the University at Buffalo has for, quite some time now, helped the city of Buffalo, NY revitalize a few areas of the city that were in need of repair, upgrade, and renovation. Some projects are or have been small in scale, others were large in scale and extensive. For example, the planning of the new medical district, which have brought thousands of jobs to the Buffalo, NY area, was assisted by the urban and regional planning development department faculty, staff, and students at the school. Regional economic development plans have also been assisted by the school’s staff and students that have included, the up building of the waterfront on Lake Erie, the renovation of the City of Buffalo extensive park system, freshening up the Buffalo River, and spearheading the creation of the high-profile economic development plan called the Buffalo Billion. The Belt Line project will allow the students to use the city as their textbook.
The Belt Line project and other initiatives spearheaded and driven by the school have influenced former students to pursue dreams of their own in community rebuilding. For example, Doug Swift, a former student of Mr. Shibley, dean of the school, has just opened up RiverWorks. RiverWorks is a well-developed complex on the Buffalo River just up from the General Mills plant that bakes Cheerios for the nation. RiverWorks includes two outdoor ice rinks, an indoor roller-derby track that doubles as a concert site, a restaurant, and four bars. Still to come are a brewery in one former grain elevator and a beer garden in the leftovers of another. Mr. Shibley has been on the school’s faculty since 1982 and has been dean since 2011.
Community outreach on a large scale or a small scale is a good and excellent thing for institutions of higher learning to engage in. The University of Illinois at Chicago is one of the nation’s premier institutions of higher learning engaging in beneficial research and community outreach. One area of research that is of great importance to UIC, the nation, and the world is their research in energy.
Physicists and researchers at the university are working alongside researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory with the creation of a quark, an elementary particle and fundamental element of matter that will aid in the development of technologies in science that will further aid in the support of U.S. industry crossways various sectors. The quark particle is also important because of its interaction with the Higgs boson, an essential component to the workings of the universe. Without the Higgs boson, everything would be like free-floating particles of light that could not combine to create matter. Hopefully, by analyzing the quark and its properties and relationship with Higgs boson, researchers and scientists can better map ways of utilizing this particle within various areas of industry across the world. “We have observed one of the rarest ways to produce the top quark,” said Nikos Varelas, professor of physics and one of the scientists who worked on the DZero experiment at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. “Being the heaviest among all elementary particles, the top quark couples the strongest with the Higgs,” he said. “We still don’t understand what makes the top quark so special to have the mass that it has.” It will be interesting to see how things develop in this arena in the near future.
Wagner College is piloting a first year introductory course series that allows first year college students to gain valuable hands on experience, along with in classroom lecture experience, that will help expose and propel students to the level of productivity necessary to be capable and productive outside of the classroom. This environmental Learning Community, LC as it is dubbed at Wagner College, is essential in allowing students to gain practical experience that aids in the learning process, as well as, help students’ productivity later on in society. The environmental Learning Community at Wagner College research environmental issues from different perspectives, biology and economics. Each student researches an aspect of a particular environmental/health issue in Toms River, New Jersey, such as groundwater pollution, which has been associated with a childhood cancer cluster found there, and develop ways of incorporating their civic responsibility. After experimenting with the LC, the researchers concluded that when the experiential component of a learning community is relevant to the theme of the LC, is project-based, and includes faculty, the experience improves student interest, brings importance to the lecture material, stimulates critical thinking, and increases student understanding of their accountability within the scope of public togetherness.
Being able to equip students with the necessary skills to cope and function in the global community is vital. Understanding how to effectively accomplish this goal is of utmost importance to the faculty, staff, and students of the higher education community and general public family. Being able to see these things take place on a daily basis is what is needed all of the time.