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Eight things: Analyzing, thinking independently

January 24, 2014

Photo of a mortar board and tassel on a stack of booksEditor’s note: This is the second of a four-part series on student learning outcomes, the focus of NIU’s general education requirements, in advance of the Jan. 29 General Education and Integrative Learning Symposium on campus.

by Michael Kolb

Critical to the success of NIU’s students is a well-rounded education. This means a robust general education experience.

In a continued discussion on NIU’s eight Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs), we’ll discuss the third and fourth SLOs.

Analyze issues that interconnect
human life and the natural world

A crucial piece of general education is acquiring the ability to analyze issues that interconnect human life and the natural world. This skill, otherwise known as environmental literacy, means understanding the impact of one’s actions as an individual and as part of a community on local, regional and global environments.

Students with environmental perspective have working knowledge in the form of experience with varying physical environments as well as political, economic, ecological, biological and philosophical education on global environments.

Harry and Jaymie Simmon join Anthony Roberts.

Harry and Jaymie Simmon join Anthony Roberts.

Anthony Roberts, a junior in biomedical engineering, a Research Rookie and Simmons Scholar, addresses the interconnection of the natural world and human life through his specific research interests.

With the help of his mentors Martin Kocanda and Ibrahim Motaleb, faculty in the Department of Electrical Engineering, Roberts is designing a microbial sensor that will be able to rapidly detect bacteria and biomarkers.

His research illustrates the human life/natural world SLO as he seeks to develop new methods to detect minor variations between pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacterial strains. He hopes his research will improve medical patient management by streamlining the ease and cost of how microorganisms are detected.

Demonstrate critical, creative and independent thought

Patrick Price

Patrick Price

There is no doubt a research project requires creative thinking. In fact, we hear that term used quite often. The ability to demonstrate critical, creative and independent thought is key in being a well-rounded student.

NIU wants graduates to develop their inquisitiveness and demonstrate a comprehensive exploration of issues, ideas, artifacts and events before accepting or formulating an opinion or conclusion.

Creative thinking is both the capacity to combine or synthesize existing ideas, images or expertise in original ways. The experience of thinking, reacting and working in an imaginative way is characterized by a high degree of innovation, divergent thinking and risk-taking.

Patrick Price, a junior medical illustration major, honors student and a McKearn Scholar, exemplifies this combination and synthesis of existing ideas.

Biology has always been one of his greatest passions; a love of art is the other. When it came time to choose a career, Price, with the help of his faculty members, was able to create a course of student which would allow him to use both passions equally.

Whether through a mentored research project or a specialized course of study, the ability to find think creatively about our world is a major key in success. Finding connections, studying the effect of one on the other and combining seemingly opposite ideas into a singular study require flexibility of the mind and best exemplifies the SLO of critical, creative and independent thought.

Michael Kolb is general education coordinator and professor of anthropology at NIU.