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Friday, June 05, 2015

Will a polytechnic university move away from liberal arts? by Scott Piepho

Scott Piepho, Cases and Controversies summarizes "In the two weeks since University of Akron President Scott Scarborough’s speech to the City Club of Cleveland, people have been dissecting, commenting on and, in many cases, pushing back against his vision for the university. Or maybe just his vision for marketing the university."

President Scott L. Scarborough at the City Club of Cleveland. He said UA would thrive by fully embracing its identity as a polytechnic university and creating new programs to give students even more competitive advantages. 
Photo: The University of Akron

In his speech Scarborough outlined a plan to market The University of Akron as “Ohio’s polytechnic university.” Aside from the presidents of other area state universities who objected to the “we shall triumph and they are doomed” part of his speech, the majority of attention has been focused on the “polytechnic” part of the speech.

Now is the time for some full disclosure. I am currently a student in a consortial graduate based mostly at Akron. Before that I thought at Akron part time. My wife recently retired from there; my brother still works there. In short, I have a vested interest in the place.

But for that matter, so does everyone else. Much of the success of the city of Akron in surviving the transition away from heavy manufacturing can be traced to The University of Akron. In particular, local tech industries in areas such as materials science have arisen here to monetize research performed at the university.

Scarborough’s speech generated considerable controversy, not least because in the present environment, “polytechnic” sounds like it will lead to an emphasis on STEM disciplines at the expense of everything else. A local newspaper story following up on the speech quoted Scarborough as acknowledging that most people do not know what polytechnic means, which raises obvious questions about the wisdom of a marketing campaign that constantly needs to define the term it is built around.

Scarborough took pains to reassure people that it does not. For instance, he noted that one of the three new centers whose formation he announced that day is the National Center for Choreography – a partnership between the university dance department and DANCECleveland.

What Does it Mean to be a Polytechnic University?

New pages on the university’s website define polytechnic as follows: “Polytechnic universities combine active classroom learning with in-the-field experiences and current technologies that better develop student competencies. They unite the arts and humanities with science and technology in ways that provide students with skills employers value.” In accompanying videos, various university personages emphasize the training future employees and above all, practical learning.

Source: Akron Legal News and The University of Akron Channel (YouTube)

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