Part of that sense of community involved providing students a common way to communicate in and out of the classroom – an iPad and accessories for every new and returning full-time student through the college’s innovate2eleVAte pilot program.
University of Virginia President James Ryan joined UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna Henry and college information technology staff in the David J. Prior Convocation Center to issue and set up new iPads with software packages for every freshman and transfer student before the traditional fall convocation.
“The beauty of education technology is that it allows us to do new things,” Ryan said before the convocation as he watched students working to set up their iPads for a new semester of classroom and personal use.
Each student will be able to access software that can help them create presentations, write papers, turn statistics into graphic projects, record lectures and photographs, work on collaborative projects and share lecture notes with professors.
“It allows faculty to teach in different ways and for students to learn in different ways,” Ryan said. “It will make it easier for students to know professors’ office hours and to access student services. It will make it easier for students and faculty to communicate and to share ideas.”
The approximately 300-strong freshman class joined returning upperclassmen to be welcomed by college and student officials.
“This is the formal opening of a new academic year,” College Provost Sanders Huguenin said. “It also looks forward to the future with the promise of renewal and progress.”
Huguenin told the students that the history of universities and colleges began with the concept of them being a community of teachers and students before the modern concept of places of learning.
“Here, it continues to be a who, a community of scholars,” Huguenin said.
Ryan tied the convocation tradition and students’ new technology to his own childhood experience in a family trip to Disneyland.
“Don’t be afraid of Space Mountain,” Ryan said as he recounted how he first was scared and bailed out of the line to the then-new Disneyland rollercoaster ride. He said his father told him it was alright if he was scared, as long as he wanted to tell a school friend that he did not ride it.
“The next morning, my sister told me she’d kill me if I left the line,” Ryan said. “It was scary but it was fun. If you really want to do something, don’t let your fear of the unknown stop you. College may be your own personal Space Mountain.”
Chancellor Henry said the innovate2eleVAte initiative means changes in how faculty and students use computers and technology, but the changes can strengthen UVa-Wise’s main role as a liberal arts institution.
“The mentor and mentee relationships will continue,” Henry said. “The classroom discussions and debates will continue. In fact, this initiative truly injects even more power into the liberal arts.”
Henry said the combination of technology and professor-student interaction will help students master course content and use information and communication in new ways.
“We are innovating the liberal arts experience, bringing it into the 21st century,” Henry said. “We will elevate ourselves, our communities, the Commonwealth and the nation as a result.”