A Journey Back, A Look Forward: How the BOV Helps Shape MICDS’ Vision
Imagine you’re an alumnus from the 60s. Since graduating from Country Day School, you’ve enjoyed a successful career as an author, which has taken you to the East Coast. You set foot on campus in mid-October, and immediately, you are swept back in time. You see what is now Polk Pond and remember fondly the times you helped throw students into the murky waters. Traveling down the sidewalks, you remember classes you took on the earliest Warson Road campus, and you wonder how the School is continuing to carry the legacy of academic excellence you helped build.
Now imagine you’re an alumna from the 70s. You live on the West Coast, and you’ve contributed your time as a medical researcher at a company you helped grow for the majority of your career. On that same weekend, you come back to campus. You see the tree you once sat and studied under—now painted with red leaves in the peak of fall. You see young girls walking the sidewalks you once walked, with lofty goals to become researchers, doctors, lawyers and teachers. You remind yourself that, through your MI education and subsequent career, you helped make their dreams tangible realities.
Finally, imagine you’re an MICDS alumnus from the early 2000s. Your software business startup in Texas is just taking off, and you are pleased to see the company growing. You come back to campus, and it feels a little more familiar, though with a few differences and enhancements. You wish the new STEM building had been there when you were a student. But as you continue to seek young, talented employees for your business, you also hope MICDS—and educational institutions in general—continues to balance that STEM emphasis with a preparation for critical thinking, strong communication and compassionate leadership.
These narratives are similar to those of a group of alumni known as the International Board of Visitors (BOV), who live in various parts of the United States and internationally and who come back to campus each fall to help advise MICDS as the School continues to live into its Mission to prepare leaders for lives of purpose and service. Established in 1998 by the Board of Trustees and with Senator Jack Danforth `54 as its Chair, the BOV at MICDS has long played an integral role in providing vision for the School. Made up of 45 members spanning CDS, MI and MICDS classes from the 1960s to the mid-2000s, each year the group hones in on one specific theme. In 2016, the theme was “Preparing Students for College and for Life,” and in 2015, it was “Entrepreneurship.” This year’s theme—“To be Human: Balancing the Humanities and STEM for Lives of Purpose.”
Balancing Humanities and STEM
During this year’s two-day meeting, the BOV discussed how MICDS can best balance the humanities and STEM disciplines so that our students are fully prepared to become“responsible men and women who can meet the challenge of this world with confidence and embrace all of its people with compassion.” While on campus, they met with faculty and administrators, heard from students and discerned various texts surrounding the central theme. At the end of the two days, they provided a list of recommendations. The full list from the last three years can be found here, and this year’s list of recommendations includes:
- Maintain core requirements – Continue emphasis on reasoning, verbal communication, listening, writing and leadership skills;ensure a broad foundation across the disciplines to include art, language and culture along with the “hard” sciences; expand existing leadership opportunities; reinforce concept of educating the “whole child;” build mission-accountability into curriculum.
- Leverage the community – Employ guest speakers with real-world examples of how humanities and STEM disciplines are linked; utilize recent graduates and alumni survey data to demystify the job market and the notion of a linear career path.
- Foster empathy – Put the discussion of ethics in every class or consider re-introducing Ethics as a course requirement; sensitize students to think about what it means to be human and humane so that they are equipped to deal with conflict as good global citizens; provide training and support to teachers to facilitate these discussions; require more project-based learning and service/volunteer experiences.
- Blend the disciplines – Dissipate the physical divide between STEM and Olson Hall; incentivize faculty to integrate STEM and humanities concepts in the classrooms; encourage team-teaching; consider theme-based courses; ensure collaboration of JK-12 Department Chairs.
At MICDS, we are continually grateful that members from the BOV come back year after year for what proves to be an extraordinary use of time. Throughout the years, we have taken their recommendations and turned them into tangible takeaways and programs that we’ve implemented into our curriculum, within our co-curricular and enrichment activities and for our parents. We look forward to seeing what recommendations this visionary group will have in the coming years as we continue to live fully into our Mission.