Editorial: A decentralized campus is beneficial

Editorial Board

Universities offer, as their name implies, a multitude of choices and opportunities for student learning, whether it’s formal or extra-curricular. With its eight colleges, Iowa State University provides students with a wealth of courses of study. 

At ISU, the colleges operate in many ways in a decentralized fashion. For instance, the College of Business has its own resident academic advisors, its own publicity staff and its own development officers who coordinate their efforts with the ISU Foundation. Of course, the faculty of the college determine curriculum for the majors offered by the college, which differs significantly from courses of study in other colleges.

Because different areas of study have very different world views, investigate research questions from alternative viewpoints and methods, and have different approaches to educating and training students, such independence and decentralization is beneficial.

However, sometimes students want to build bridges across colleges and courses of study, perhaps to see the same issues through a different lens, perhaps to feel more deeply prepared for a career, such as journalism, that does not fit into a narrow frame and is enriched when entrants have a broader understanding of people and events.

The university provides possibilities for learning about other fields in the lecture series, visiting scholars presentations, movies and events. But, we raise the possibility that Dr. Wintersteen, our incoming president, put on her agenda exploring ways to make formal learning and class work across colleges easier for those students who would like to take courses in more than one college and earn degrees from both colleges. 

For instance, currently students seeking two degrees must repeat all their general education requirements in both colleges rather than create a fruitful synthesis that reduces repetition. Sometimes coordinating between colleges adds what feels like unnecessary time and procedures to a student’s already busy schedule. 

We appreciate and value the decentralization that allows differences to flourish and reflects the very different goals and underlying views of ISU’s colleges, but when students want to bridge those differences in their courses of study, we would like to see tools for easier communication and coordination.