You know the saying : "if the mountain can't come to the prophet, the prophet will come to the mountain"?
The "mountain" I refer to is the several thousand students on campus. But no, I'm not the "prophet", merely a minor disciple (with no higher aspirations).
My agenda is to move the "mountain". To lead to a transformation. In the way we learn. In what we learn. And in how we eventually use that learning.
I just went through the list of students activities on campus. There are some 15 Associations, 20 Clubs, 8 Hostel Student Councils and a host of other groups which organise probably several hundred activities a year. Some groups are extremely active, other happily exist only in name. Each of course will have their pet projects. Some have new projects every year, trying to find a niche. Often the short lifecycle of the office bearers determines what they do each year. I have over the last year or so told the students to think and plan for long-term sustainability, with impact which may only be seen several years down the road. This is very difficult for the students because they want to see the fruits of their labour during their term of office.
I think most student leaders don't or won't take kindly to meddling by outsiders (like me, for example). I do know that their advisors (lecturers) have veto power (often for the students own good?). Sometimes I almost turn the projects upside down, the students will say "I can see your point and it's good, we'll go back and see if we can incorporate your views" ... most of the time its too late to do anything; their project is already running.
Having sat in this chair for the last 3 years or so, I get a lot of solicitations from students (not the kind you're thinking of). Sometimes, they just want to chat about ideas. Often, it's to get some funding. So, invariably, I have to scrutinise their proposals or ideas. Yes, you can see much thought has gone into the proposal and the paper. However, I find that it is usually very narrow, focussed on carrying out of the project. There is usually very little discussion linking knowledge and its application in the project. I see a need to provide the student groups with toolkits or skills in project planning which better integrates the application of knowledge to achieving specific project goals. If the goals helps USM APEX U agenda, than perfect.
Over the next 2 years (until my term ends!) I will engage and mobilise students for the APEX University agenda. I only have a general idea of where I want to go, and want to be. But it's really all up in the air. I don't want to plan too much. I don't believe a masterplan or a detailed roadmap will get me to where the University wants to be, as far as mobilising the students are concerned. I agree, the students should be in the driver's seat. Experience however tells me that we need to provide some scaffoldings. And we made a start last wednesday 16th Feb 2011.
We hope to hold monthly chit-chats. Are you we with us? Drop me (firstname.lastname@example.org) a line if you have ideas, or what to come join chat.