Ocelot Scholars was designed as part of the HASTAC #FutureEd initiative on the history and future of higher education. “Open, worldwide, HASTAC-led and user-inspired, ‘The History and Future of Higher Education’ assesses the educational legacies we’ve inherited in order to design new ways of learning for present needs and future aspirations.” Most importantly, the initiative “is led by those with the most at stake in transforming higher education: students and faculty.”
The Ocelot Scholars website was designed to give Schoolcraft College students a voice in the #FutureEd initiative and to allow them to interact with other students, faculty members, administrators, and the general public; not just with others at Schoolcraft College but also on the international stage. Such interaction is important for both Schoolcraft College students as well as the larger #FutureEd initiative.
Benefit to Students
Students benefit from Ocelot Scholars in four distinct ways:
- By publishing their research
- By getting feedback on their research
- By learning that they have a voice
- By contributing a unique perspective to the #FutureEd discussion
Publication: The research process involves four steps: investigation, evaluation, creation, and publication. However, most undergraduates are unable to complete the cycle because they do not have venues for publication. Ocelot Scholars will allow students to have the full research experience enjoyed by serious scholars.
Feedback: Typically, the only reader of student research is the professor who assigned the project. At best, a few colleagues in the student’s class or possibly the entire class are able to see the results of the student’s efforts. By publishing their projects on Ocelot Scholars, students have the ability to get feedback from a larger audience; feedback that will both treat their observations seriously and push their critical thinking skills.
Voice: Because they are generally not given the opportunity to share their research, students rarely realize that their voice matters. Ocelot Scholars takes students’ voices seriously.
Unique Perspective: Students who are asked to organize their projects around a theme are pushed to develop critical thinking skills. For example, a student interested in a particular historical or cultural topic cannot simply regurgitate information from other authors because it is unlikely that the topic has been studied in terms of its relationship to the history and future of higher education. Having a unique perspective makes their published research worth reading.
Benefit to #FutureEd
The most active participants in HASTAC as well as most of those whom have already announced their participation in the #FutureEd initiative tend to be university faculty and students; especially graduate students. This is both understandable and unfortunate. In a worldwide initiative that discusses the history and future of higher education, community college faculty and students have much to contribute. Ocelot Scholars provides one way to give community colleges voice.
#FutureEd benefits from the unique perspective of Ocelot Scholars in four main ways.
- Student Voices
- Community College Voices
- Meaning of Higher Education
- Defining Higher Education
Student Voices: The primary purpose of Ocelot Scholars is to give undergraduate, community college students a voice in the #FutureEd discussion. Ocelot Scholars also provides an opportunity for faculty to learn from and to interact with students on a professional, collegial level.
Community College Voices: University faculty and students have much to learn about education from the perspective of those who teach and study at community colleges. Ocelot Scholars provides a venue to make those voices heard.
Meaning of Higher Education: Students who provide content on Ocelot Scholars will do so within the context of their introductory courses; courses where the history and future of higher education is a theme but not the focus of the course. As a result, the Ocelot Scholars will push the meaning of higher education in ways that might not have been initially considered by HASTAC. For example, an Ocelot Scholar might consider the implications of gladiatorial schools as higher education or the meaning of higher education for Barbadian slaves.
Defining Higher Education: Ocelot Scholars will contribute a wider range of definitions and issues facing the historical role of higher education in society than do the twentieth and twenty first century texts currently listed in the bibliography of resources for the #FutureEd initiative.
The fact that Ocelot Scholars will provide unique perspectives on the work being done by HASTAC and discussions being coordinated by others through #FutureEd is not a criticism of what is currently being accomplished. Welcoming unique perspectives is one of the strengths of the #FutureEd initiative. The Ocelot Scholars will be pushed by the perspectives which other scholars around the world are pursuing in similar ways in which we hope to push others.
Ocelot Scholars is one model for participating in the #FutureEd initiative. But it is not the only model or way to participate in discussions of the history and future of higher education. The following links provide other approaches to the #FutureEd initiative:
–Steven L. Berg, PhD