On Wednesday, June 21st through Friday, June 23rd, Lehigh hosted the 2017 Educational Transformers Unconference, sponsored by the University and Big Beacon. The event took place on Lehigh’s Mountaintop campus, and the CCE sent Director Sarah Stanlick and Undergraduate Fellow Katie Barr to participate. Hoping to affect change in their home institutions, attendees came from the US, Peru, Brazil, the Netherlands, Australia, and even Singapore to discuss ways to improve their schools and themselves.
The Unconference provided an unusual space to take on these goals. Rather than providing participants with a schedule of various speakers to sit through, the Unconference worked more organically. Lecture-style presentations were replaced with more active components, such as small group conversations, partner work, and even creative activities like painting masks, daily poetry, and fluegelhorn-playing. Participants were also provided with open afternoon sessions in which they decided the topics to be discussed. Conversations included fostering creativity and curiosity in engineering, improving faculty-student relationships, building spaces for interdisciplinary collaboration, and more.
Though participation consisted mainly of faculty, the Unconference also saw student involvement. Undergraduates from Lehigh, James Madison, and Purdue Universities took part in the conference, as well as students from Singapore and Brazil. The diverse nature of the program inspired unorthodox discussions, as students and international educators provided unique perspectives.
Unlike other conferences, the Unconference sparked deep personal connections which many participants hope to revisit in the future. Plans are in the works to create a platform that will maintain connections between these educational transformers as each heads home to his/her home institution. Many thanks to Lehigh and Big Beacon for sponsoring the 2017 Educational Transformers Unconference, and to Dave Goldberg, Bill Whitney, Khanjan Mehta, and the many others who made this event possible.