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Pace Path: A Q&A with Michael Rosenfeld

News Story

Director of the Center for Academic Excellence Michael Rosenfeld shares the importance of faculty and staff supporting students along their own Pace paths and why early adoption is critical to success.

In your own words, how would you describe the Pace Path to someone who is not familiar with it?

Beginning even before students arrive on campus, the Pace Path is an intentional and comprehensive curricular framework that systematically extends the undergraduate student learning experience beyond the classroom and the major. Complementing both, the Pace Path integrates and helps to make explicit the often implicit and informal educational value of activities and experiences occurring within residential life, student development, career services, study abroad, internships, community service, and a variety of other academic-related activities. The educational competencies acquired through these experiences—such as self-management, interpersonal relations and awareness, or organizational literacy—in combination with Pace’s rigorous academic training, prepare our students for successful lives as leaders in their professions and communities after graduation. The Path is a comprehensive and continuously evolving four-year educational map that each student builds for him or herself in consultation with faculty and professional advisers that helps them connect all the distinct points of their Pace education into a formative whole.   

Why is the Pace Path, especially during the first year, so important for Pace students?

The first year is an incredibly important time in the life of a college student. Educationally, socially, and emotionally it is a period of great transition between late adolescence and early adulthood—though not made by all students in exactly the same way or at exactly the same moment. That transition pulls together previous learning and experience while opening up new fields and vistas for students to explore and master. The first year is the “launching pad” for this, and the Pace Path an integral component of that launch. Done successfully—and that is our goal—it will help introduce students to the complex, competitive, and collaborative world of higher education and professional life; enable them to see themselves in relation to those worlds; support them in  building and maintaining momentum toward graduation, and to realistically and strategically envision and plan for their future after graduation. 

What do you feel is the most important element of the Pace Path?

There are many key components of the Pace Path. That is why I think the idea of “gestalt” needs to be noted. Put simply: the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Each student, over the four years she or he will spend completing the Pace Path, will have a unique and individualized educational experience developed in partnership with faculty, advisers, mentors, as well as others both in and outside the University. That said, I would note such specific elements as four year planning, mentoring to link a student’s curricular experiences with professional life, and the intentional nurturing of the “soft skills” so critical to personal and professional success, as among some of the most important elements students will encounter on the Pace Path.

Describe your involvement with, and application of, the Pace Path both in and out of UNV 101 classrooms.

Although I would describe myself as an early believer in the Pace Path, I would also have to say that my role has been mostly on the sidelines. Before we began to operationalize the Pace Path two years ago, the idea had been intensively discussed and planned for by the President, senior university administration, and faculty. Once the decision was made in spring 2014 to pilot the following fall, the critical players became the PLV and NYC First Year Experience and CAP program directors, respectively Cathy Raynis Meeker and Mike Verdino along with Maude Meisel and Jere Greland. They had the not inconsiderable task of mapping out the overlay of Pace Path theory with UNV 101 and introducing it to more than 100+ UNV 101 faculty and almost 2,000 incoming first-year students. Without any diminution in their other activities, they engaged this new Pace initiative and succeeded in launching the pilot in September 2014. Of course many others were involved and equally essential, but at that moment these four individuals were critical to the pilot’s successful launching. As Sue Maxam noted at the time, they were building the bridge as we were crossing it.

But Pace Path extends well beyond UNV 101. The work that the schools and colleges have done, CHP, Seidenberg, School of Education, for instance, has been tremendous, providing faculty and professional advisers to help students navigate the Pace Path after their first year, linking the learning objectives of their curricula to those of the Pace Path, building faculty mentoring models, developing experiential learning opportunities, or designing such specific programs like the Lubin Professional Experience or the Dyson Advantage. Without the support of the deans and associate deans, of all of Pace’s schools and colleges and their respective faculties, the Pace Path would never have become a reality. Nor can we leave unmentioned Brian Evans, whose organizational vision and esprit keeps all parts working together and the whole moving forward.

The Pace Path is still in its infancy. How do you anticipate it evolving in the coming years?

The Pace Path has the potential to become one of the key components of the “Pace brand,” a phrase the humanist in me is not 100% comfortable using. But parents, potential students, and the prospective employers of our students and graduates all want to know what makes a Pace education different or unique (and worth the cost). Once fully articulated and implemented, the Pace Path can help provide a solid answer to that question by presenting a comprehensive picture of the formative and distinct higher education a student graduating from Pace has received.

What are some ways faculty and staff not involved in UNV 101 can support students on their Pace Path journeys?

As the Pace Path continues to be rolled out and more and more of our undergraduates find themselves embracing it, all faculty or staff will most likely find themselves—to the extent that they interact with undergraduates—involved with it to one degree or another. So for those not already involved, my suggestion would be to join in on the conversation, speak with the deans or associate deans of the schools or think about how particular learning activities and experiences in your courses can be aligned with the learning goals and outcomes of the Pace Path. In classrooms and other settings help foster student agency and understanding of professional accountability and standards. Discuss with Brian Evans the possibility of offering a Pace Path Personal and Professional Development (4PD) workshop for students. Here is an opportunity to help our students acquire an education for the 21st century. Helping them and us to grasp what this can mean, in the fullest and most comprehensive sense, is an important way to begin your involvement.

Stay tuned each month for a new Pace Path Corner in Opportunitas. For more information about the Pace Path, visit www.pace.edu/pacepath.