11.27.2007

Another look at Founders College

I've written some things before about Founders College (here), mostly questioning their marketing efforts. Well, apparently, Scott Powell (of Powell History) didn't like what I had to write and linked to my article in a poem in a misleading way. He's admitted as much in a private conversation with me. Now, I like Mr. Powell from everything I've heard and read by him. And I believe he has a sharp mind and thorough understanding of history and pedagogy. To honor that respect, I promised to re-evaluate Founders College and write a post about it. So here it goes.

I started with Founders "How we are different"
Founders is based on a revolutionary idea: A college education should be an integrated, logical whole that trains your mind to think clearly and incisively. The experience should inspire in you a lifelong passion for knowledge. College should not be a hash of disconnected, propaganda-filled courses that are lacking in meaningful content. Most of all, it should not be boring; it should be intellectually challenging and thrilling. Our revolutionary teaching methods and unique, structured curriculum produce a learning experience like no other.
Well, besides the marketing hype, using such words as "revolutionary", there is promise to the idea behind Founders pedagogy. Yes, education should be integrated and logical. Yes, minds should be trained to think clearly and incisively. No, education should not be a hash of disconnected, propaganda-filled courses without meaningful content. I have no problem with this. The real question is whether or not Founders actually fulfill these promises. Well, it is simply impossible to determine this from their website. I have never meet any of the professors, nor does the website address why their choice of class sequence is logical and integrated. They merely state that it is. For example, why is the first philosophy class primarily about ethics? I can imagine some reasons, but I'm not sure if my reasons reflect the thinking behind the curriculum committee. Why does science education wait till the 2nd year? Why not the first year? You see, there are a lot of decisions that have been made, but very little explanation as to why this curriculum is integrated and logical. I'm not saying they are bad decisions, but I don't have enough information to judge it one way or another. At best, I can say they have a good start by recognizing the importance of integration.

Founders also claims to provide a classroom environment that is far superior to other schools, where classes are not "boring". Here, they have done a better job recently explaining how that will come true. I remember seeing their claim that all faculty must take 60 hours of training in how to teach. A year ago they didn't discuss what was involved. They have finally posted something of substance about this training. Again, ignoring the marketing hype "superlative", "revolutionary", "rigorous", they finally describe some of things that go into the training (although interestingly, they no longer claim it is 60 hours). Topics covered include "the selection of course content, student motivation, structuring knowledge so that students can retain and use it, appropriate use of examples, how to answer questions most effectively, and how to lead students from one concept to the next in an effective manner". These are all important topics. I would agree that these topics should be taught to professors and gets a hardy two thumbs up from me. Is the content of these topics the best pedagogy? I have no idea, but imagine it couldn't be horrible. The fact that they are required to receive some pedagogical training is far better than what most schools require. As new faculty at Louisiana Tech, I was required to attend sessions on advising, sexually harassment, the student information system, and had the option to attend several other sessions, none of which had anything to do with learning how to teach better. The fact that Founders requires this training is a huge plus.

So, what is my overall evaluation of Founders College? Overall, on the positive side, but with a lot of unanswered questions. I do not like their marketing tactics, as if that wasn't evident from my comments on this page and in my other post. However, I distinguish those tactics from the content. If someone is interested in a liberal arts education, I would recommend they check out Founders College and see if they live up to the hype. The real measure for success will be how Founders graduates perform several years down the road. But that will not be observed for many years to come. Until then, I wish them luck and hope to learn more about their program in order to form a better idea what they have to offer.

5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. Founders Student5:14 PM

    From the inside, I can tell you that they aren't livng up to it. It is sad but true.

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  3. Founders student,

    You may not feel at liberty to say, but I'd be interested in hearing more about your experience with Founders.

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  4. Anonymous7:31 PM

    http://www.thenewsrecord.com/founders011407.htm

    http://www.thenewsrecord.com/foundersside011408.htm

    http://www.thenewsrecord.com/founders020708.htm

    Those are some very interesting links for anyone thinking about Founders College.

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  5. Anonymous6:13 AM

    This story discusses the piece of property next to Founers that was supposed to contain an educational facility. Founders Colelge CEO/Chariman Tamara Fuller discussed a tv station in the over 800 housing units for people to watch the classes at Founders. She also mentioned a Nordstroms, cinema, ponds, golf course and world-class equestrian center.

    This part of the business model was touted over and over again, complete with large, architectural renditions.

    http://www.thenewsrecord.com/founder050508.htm

    With Founders College now defunct, the owners of Berry Hill Estate are on
    the brink of losing a large tract of land that the college acquired last
    year for a much-heralded expansion that never materialized.

    A public auction has been scheduled for June 20 at 10 a.m. on the steps of
    the Halifax County Courthouse to field offers for 390.4 acres that Founders
    College Development, LLC purchased from Eva Harris in May 2007. The sale is
    a foreclosure action, said Edward Hodges, an attorney with Clement &
    Wheatley in Danville, which is serving as trustee to the transaction.

    ³There¹s been a breach of the terms of the deed of trust and to that extent
    the beneficiary [Harris] Š has asked us to proceed² with the auction, said
    Hodges. ³I can¹t really comment on the degree of the breach, only that it¹s
    a circumstance that gives them the ability to basically ask the trustee to
    exercise the power of sale under the deed of trust.²

    Hodges said a public auction was the customary way in the state of Virginia
    of handling foreclosure cases. The trustees reserve the right to reject any
    and all bids; if the property fails to sell, the previous owners reclaim it
    under Virginia law.

    Founders College Development LLC, then headed by Tamara Fuller, purchased
    the 390-acre tract from Eva Harris for $2.1 million with the intent of
    developing the site as a multi-use residential and commercial area near the
    college. Plans called for the construction of townhouses, shops and a golf
    course close by to the main mansion.

    The Town of South Boston, acting at Fuller¹s request, rezoned the site as
    planned developmental-residential prior to the college¹s demise early this
    year.

    Mike Harris, who handled the original sale of the property for his mother,
    declined comment yesterday when asked about the possibility of foreclosure.

    The land in question is made up of three tracts which together will be
    offered for sale at auction. The properties will be sold ³as is² and
    qualified bidders must show the ability to meet a cash deposit requirement
    of $250,000 or 10 percent of the sale price, whichever is lower.

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