Website SPARKs link between students and faculty

By Will Gallagher

It’s no secret that college students spend a ton of time on the Internet. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or some other site, they’re online practically 24/7. Rider’s new Sharing Pedagogy, the Arts, Research and Knowledge program (SPARK) aims to get students to spend some of that time doing a little learning.

SPARK “is an initiative to organize and publicize scholarly activities at Rider University,” according to Dr. Jonathan Millen, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Education and Sciences (CLAES).

Acting as a central hub on the Rider website, it will promote on-campus events, feature publications by Rider students, host a discussion blog and highlight other notable activities. It was officially launched on March 17 as a part of the monthly Faculty Lecture Series, which featured a lecture by Dr. Justin Burton, assistant professor of fine arts.

The “spark” behind SPARK came from a desire to build awareness for scholarly events at Rider. Based upon the strategic planning of Dr. Patricia Mosto, dean of the CLAES, a subcommittee was formed consisting of Millen and colleagues Dr. Karen Gischlar, assistant professor of graduate education; Dr. Trevor Buser, assistant professor of counseling services; and Dr. Don Ambrose, professor of graduate education.

“The focus quickly shifted from CLAES to the university as a whole,” according to Millen. “The scope has been established broadly to capture a wide array of scholarly activities including lectures, film series and colloquia.”

Through SPARK, Millen hopes that the student body will gain “a deeper appreciation of the scholarly output of community members” in addition to “greater engagement in such on-campus activities.”

One way students can get engaged is through SPARK’s blog “where students and faculty can join the discussion on a scholarly event or topic,” according to Buser. Currently, the discussion is focused on dogmatism and is being moderated by Ambrose.

Some students think that SPARK provides a great opportunity for exploring academic issues more in depth.

“I like that there’s a place for us to get involved with the discussion,” said Travis Przybylski, a junior musical theater major. “It’s cool that we’re able to voice our thoughts alongside professors.”


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