Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 71.29
Liaison Holly Andersen
Submission Date March 30, 2022

STARS v2.2

Bennington College
AC-7: Incentives for Developing Courses

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have an ongoing program that offers incentives for academic staff in multiple disciplines or departments to develop new sustainability courses and/or incorporate sustainability into existing courses? :

A brief description of the incentive program(s):

Central to Bennington’s founding vision was the belief that a dynamic, relevant education could best be achieved when students themselves define its direction. Further, the College envisioned that students, as a result of such purposeful self-reliance, would take with them when they graduated not only what they’d learned but also the way in which they’d learned it. What began as a conviction has been continuously verified over time as the College has grown, resulting in an increasingly intensified intellectual and artistic trajectory for its students.

The Plan process, strategically the framework and essentially the soul of a Bennington education, can be seen as a kind of theoretical map drawn by every student with the aim of reaching an identified curricular destination. This destination often changes, sometimes slightly, sometimes significantly, as students perceive more enriching routes of scholarly and artistic discovery. When such redirections occur, the map is re-drawn, the Plan revised.

With their Plans as aids and reference, Bennington students progressively formulate the questions that drive their areas of study, with the aim of bringing them to fruition in sophisticated work. The process assumes that meaningful learning works best when rooted in a student’s ever- expanding curiosity, rather than being imposed by following entrenched institutional paths. Internal sources of order replace external templates as students, in consultation with faculty, design the content, structure, and sequence of their curricula, taking full advantage of the College’s varied resources.

In devising and implementing a Plan, students are asked to write and rewrite a series of prospective and reflective essays that form the basis of their ongoing discussions with faculty advisors and Plan committees. These focused narratives not only require them to detail their academic goals and strategies,but also to describe their commitment to and deepening immersion in their studies and the degree of progress toward their aims.

When students take responsibility for their Plan and also are invited to be open to fresh influences, two potential problems can be avoided: first, that they might not be sufficiently grounded in the understanding provided through the intellectual focus of disciplines; second, that they might become too discipline-bound and thereby fail to ask the kinds of questions that would lead them to individual explorations. The Plan process seeks to find the point between a student’s sense of educational adventure and the need for a trajectory that is coherent and cumulative. The specifics of that trajectory will, of course, be unique for each student.

The oversight and assessment of your work at Bennington is multi-faceted and broad. It includes individual faculty members, your advisor, your Plan committee, and faculty from the disciplines that make up your declared areas of study.

Your Plan committee provides broad oversight of your work and educational goals, while the discipline groups, or other groups of faculty working across traditional disciplinary boundaries (CAPA, Environmental Studies, etc.) will provide more focused oversight and assessment.

A brief description of the incentives that academic staff who participate in the program(s) receive:

At Bennington faculty get to learn and explore with the plan process to adapt to students interests. Every three terms the course offerings change completely to accommodate each students plan. At Bennington you design your own course of study and work, taking full advantage of the College’s resources both inside and outside the classroom. You identify one or more areas of interest that spark your intellectual curiosity and provide a foundation for your academic and field work, and you pursue that work with ongoing guidance from your faculty. This is your Plan.

A successful Plan demonstrates that you have developed, in increasingly sophisticated ways, several fundamental capacities: to construct a course of inquiry; to perform research; to make your own work; to engage with others; and to communicate your work to the world. Each of these capacities intertwines with, and builds on, the others.

plan vid coverplay video
The Plan
At Bennington your course of study is as individual as you are, and as diverse as your interests.

First Year
Your first year is one of grounding and exploration. You take a variety of courses, explore new subjects, and begin to build an education around your interests.

First-year plan requirements:

Ongoing advising sessions with your faculty advisor.

First-Year Essay: You reflect on your transition to Bennington and articulate your academic interests.

Second and Third Years
The second and third years allow you to dive into a particular discipline, a cluster of disciplines, or a question, discovering the power and limitations of immersion.

Second-year plan requirements:

Ongoing advising sessions with your faculty advisor.

Plan Proposal Essay: You detail the questions and objectives that are central to your Plan.

Plan Committee Meeting: You discuss your Plan Proposal with your faculty Plan committee.

Third-year plan requirements:

Ongoing advising sessions with your faculty advisor.

Plan Progress and Advanced Work Essay: You evaluate your success and progress in implementing your Plan, and propose the curricular structure for your next year.

Plan Committee Meeting: You present your Plan progress to your Plan committee, who determines whether you have made satisfactory progress in your Plan and advises you as to how to move forward for the following year.

The Fourth Year
The final year is an opening outward, when you explore how your own work relates to others' and how your deepened understanding of a subject or craft might matter to the rest of the world. You may also choose to conclude your work at Bennington with a senior project or thesis paper.

Fourth-year plan requirements:

Ongoing advising sessions with your faculty advisor.

Senior Plan Essay: You address the ways in which you are meeting the goals outlined in your Plan.

Website URL where information about the incentives for developing sustainability course content is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

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