Academy of Graduates for Integrative Learning Experiences

Many of you have already learned of our newly-created Academy of Graduates for Integrative Learning Experiences (AGILE). I thought it would be a good time to share with you in detail my thoughts about AGILE and to welcome your thoughts and feedback on this new initiative.

Through AGILE we expect to augment the students’ cognitive skills with interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Our aim is to integrate the three in a synergistic manner. Our premise for the synergism is that any one of these three sets of skills is useful only when integrated with the other two sets of skills. From a sociological perspective:

  • Will-to-do without interpersonal skills is destructive, and without knowledge is chaotic.
  • Interpersonal skill without knowledge is indiscriminate, if not blind, and without will-to-do is inert, effusive, but not productive.
  • Knowledge without interpersonal skills is egoistic and manipulative, without will-to-do it is impotent.

AGILE will create a synergistic community of doctoral scholars, where peer mentoring is promoted and where inter- and intra-personal skills are cultivated through self-paced participation in structured and coordinated professional development modules. Community meetings, which will be held twice a semester, will enable socialization and open communication links among the group, allow individuals an opportunity to interact with fellow students from diverse disciplines and backgrounds, and facilitate integration of cognitive and non-cognitive skills. The first cohort of AGILE is expected to include ten (10) doctoral students of diverse backgrounds, including underrepresented minority (URM) students. Specific ways in which AGILE will promote the success of URM’s from admission through completion are described below.

Professional training modules from the following centers on campus will be structured and coordinated to serve the needs of URMs at various stages of doctoral study. The centers/offices participating as members of AGILE are:

  • Center for Leadership and Service
  • Center for Excellence in Writing
  • University Wellness Center
  • Office of Research Integrity (DoR)
  • Office of Community Engagement
  • FIU Career Center
  • Communication Arts Studio
  • Office of Academic Planning and Accountability

Representatives from these Centers/Offices form an Executive Committee which will have informal ‘community’ meetings with the AGILE Cohort twice a semester in an effort to integrate their various services and orient the group toward a holistic education.

AGILE will facilitate a one-semester long leadership track of events for its cohort so that students can explore their leadership potential, develop their leadership knowledge, and apply their leadership skills.

The Academy is based on the premise that community service/engagement is the legitimate goal of learning. At every stage of the doctoral experience, the Academy expects the scholars to identify social connections between their scholarship and the community’s well-being. Students in the cohort will be expected to demonstrate at their community meetings, service efforts they undertook within their areas of interest/expertise.

The Academy recognizes the time demands of scholarly research in doctoral programs. Hence, doctoral students in the cohort will be allowed to fulfill their slate of professional training and community engagement programs at their own pace, with the only stipulation that they are completed within a two-year period.

Communication is a crucial element of interpersonal skills. In an effort to forge interdisciplinary communication, the cohort members will be selected to represent diversity in disciplinary interests and cultural backgrounds. At the community meetings, cohort members will be expected to relate to one another’s areas of interest, and will acquire training to address groups outside their own areas of interest.

The Academy will be an active participant in the integrative learning of the cohort members. Its purpose is not just to make professional development programs available; its purpose is to ensure that the programs are coordinated and tailored in a way that they fulfill students’ timely needs to stay engaged and inspired in doctoral programs. Each cohort member will maintain an academic diary and a portfolio of professional training modules. The Executive Committee of the Academy (representing each of the Centers listed under 1) will conduct a rubric-style assessment of each student’s progress toward synergizing interpersonal and intrapersonal skills with cognitive skills.

An essential goal of the community-building exercise of the Academy is to facilitate co-mentoring among the cohort team. The Academy will make a clear distinction between ‘community’ and ‘classroom.’ The community will be formed to facilitate mutual dialogue and synergism, where every cohort member will be a participant in forming a cooperative and dynamic community, and everybody will be a mentor and mentored at the same time.

The Academy recognizes the outstanding potential an outside speaker may have to stimulate and inspire graduate students. While the disciplinary units provide opportunities for doctoral students to attend professional meetings in their areas of study, AGILE will provide an opportunity for the cohort to interact with leading synergistic and interdisciplinary thinkers of our times by bringing at least one expert to campus every semester.