High-Impact Practices

This summer a team of Loyola’s faculty and administrators traveled to the 2017 AAC&U Summer Institute on High-Impact Practices and Student Success. Loyola was represented by:

Jim Dickinson, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President for Career Services

Brian Norman, Ph.D., Professor of English

Barnaby Nygren, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Fine Arts; Committee on the Assessment of Student Learning; Reimagining co-chair

Lisa Oberbroeckling, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Math; Dean of the Class of 2022; Interim Academic Co-Director of Messina

Marie Yeh, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Marketing

The Institute featured 4 days of breakout sessions led by expert speakers and significant team time to explore a project of Loyola’s choosing. We arrived in Boston focused on answering the question “What would it mean to truly embed high-impact practices into the undergraduate experience at Loyola?”

High-impact practices (HIPs) are specific activities that have been linked with students’ ability to develop essential learning outcomes through their higher education experience. HIPs provide students with opportunities to apply their learning outside of the classroom, engage in communities of learning, and develop critical skills to serve them in their lives and careers. They have also been demonstrated to drive more equitable outcomes for diverse students and closely align with views on the value of liberal education. Structured first-year experiences, internships, and service learning are a few examples of these practices.

It quickly became clear to our team that Loyola is a place where HIPs are more woven into the student experience than at many other universities (see Figure 1). From the success of Messina to our active, structured service-learning programs and high percentage of students studying abroad and reporting internship activities, these practices are highly visible on campus.

HIP Figure 1
Figure 1. A Sampling of Loyola’s Existing Implementation of High-Impact Practices

While some of our colleagues at the institute were focused on building initial plans to introduce HIPs at their institutions, our team concentrated on the ways we could better guide students to reflect on and integrate the transformative experiences and deep learning made possible through a Loyola education. Our attention quickly turned to the promise of a universal culminating senior experience that could act as a bookend to Messina.

Loyola’s first-year experience’s name references the mid-16th century beginning of Jesuit education on the island of Sicily. While the first year of college is seen as the beginning and senior year as the end, the latter can also be seen as a new beginning as our students prepare to go forth into the world (see Figure 2). Our team engaged in vigorous dialogue about the form which this culminating experience might take and how it could best help students make connections across their Loyola experience through integrated advising efforts (academic, career, student development, etc.) One way of facilitating these connections could be a series of what we coined “high-impact questions” that students and alumni would be exposed to throughout their time at Loyola and which would inform their development from freshman year to their lives after graduation. For example:

First year: What kind of difference do you hope to make in the world?

Senior year: How have your experiences at Loyola enabled you to make a difference in the world while you were here?

5 to 10 years out: What kind of difference have you made in the world through your life and career so far?

HIP Figure 2
Figure 2. Existing and Envisioned High-Impact Practices and the Loyola Experience

Our team is now excited to continue the dialogue we began in Boston with our peers at Loyola with a discussion of both the form of the experience and the “high-impact questions” that would shape it. Perhaps a senior culminating experience could include weekend retreats to help students tie together their learning from key projects throughout their academic experience. A capstone course, or a 1-credit Ignatian seminar course may allow for semester-long reflection. There are many options we could choose to pursue as a University. Regardless of format, our team returned to Baltimore this summer with excitement about the possibility of every Loyola senior graduating with a clear sense of how they would complete phrases like “I did…,” “I am…,” and “I will…”

We hope you share in that excitement and look forward to transforming knowledge and insights from the 2017 High-impact Practices Institute into powerful enhancements of our student experience.

~ Jim Dickinson, Ph.D., assistant vice president for career services


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