Lehigh teaches a lesson to us all
Editorial | University education should be more than grades and shortcuts
Lehigh University may have set a new standard for the higher education experience, as far as we’re concerned.
Who would have thought Lehigh, right? A small school in a Pennsylvanian town with a name that most people only heard of in the Bible. But, alas, hearing about the Lehigh Mountaintop Experience made us really jealous — and should make all college students really jealous, too.
Reminiscent of the “Eureka!” moment that is often called a “mountaintop experience,” the program on Lehigh’s Mountaintop campus encourages students and faculty to work together on personal and student-facilitated projects that explore a variety of fields. The students get to decide what their project is and how they want to go about it, and they get to enjoy the mentorship of their school’s top experts in their — and others’ — area of study.
Of the many projects that separate student groups explore are identifying bacteria available in soil that can fight against tuberculosis, creating a prototype for durable refugee housing, and developing educational uses of 3-D printing for students in developing countries.
Clearly, the Mountaintop Experience is encouraging students to not only explore their education, but also to do so in ways that ingeniously contribute to society and the global community as well.
As university students should.
Sad as it is to say, many Rutgers students — like probably most university students in the country — exist in a world where all that matters is grades. Their education is contained to getting that A and chasing any shortcut to make getting a good grade as effortless as possible. The Mountaintop Experience recognizes that the greatest reward comes from doing the work.
Lehigh is currently doing exactly what all universities should be doing: giving students the opportunity to apply their education on a project of their own accord — and before they try to get a job. It’s also amazing that the Mountaintop students not only get to benefit from the expertise of professors on a personal level, but also that they get to do so while working with professors and other students of fields that extend far beyond their own. The experience also fosters a creative space and instigates creativity for students, especially those that might traditionally not have much room for it in their area of study, such as engineering students.
We don’t think we need to remind you that this isn’t even an Ivy League school — yet we’re sure the educational experience of Mountaintop students rivals or surpasses that of students in better-funded and more overrated universities.
It’s just sad that we trap ourselves in a framework where the only measure of our performance is grades.
As a research university, we have a reputation to uphold, and while our research continues to win stellar awards and recognition, there is still so much more to be soaked up from the education available to us. We think it’s time that all undergraduate students revisit the way they “do” college. It’s not about framing our degree on the wall behind our work desk where it will gather dust for the rest of its life — it’s about the sweat, toil and the remarkably irreplaceable journey we embark on to attain it.