Staying Ahead of the Curve

22 May 2021

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Fostering curricular innovation remains core to Carleton’s academic experience.

Carleton professors are always searching for new and better techniques to engage students in the classroom, and one goal of the Every Carl for Carleton campaign was to provide resources to sustain this tradition. 

“Our faculty put time, effort, sweat, and heartache into making sure that learning in their classrooms is vibrant—that it touches students, inspires them, and kicks them into new directions,” said President Steve Poskanzer. “But it’s not just in the classroom. Our professors derive enormous satisfaction in being guides and mentors. These relationships matter intensely to them, and to the students.”

Here are just a few ways that Carleton professors are continually innovating:

  • Statistics professor Katie St. Clair sends her students into the community to learn how to put numbers to work. Her students have helped the Northfield school system assess how well students studying English as a second language are learning compared to their peers and did consulting work with the city council for a project on making Northfield more age-friendly. 
  • A bit farther from Northfield, Carleton professors and students are working to save the Dakotah language from extinction. Computer science professor Jeff Ondich and linguistics professors Mike Flynn, Cati Fortin, and Cherlon Ussery have partnered with the Dakotah Language Institute to catalog the language, ultimately creating a multimedia encyclopedia that combines Dakotah language and culture. 
  • Research projects aren’t just for senior comps anymore. Even students in introductory courses are working with real-world data and tackling unsolved questions. Environmental studies professor Kim Smith uses Carleton itself as a research subject, with projects like analyzing how Carleton manages the Arb and deals with campus pest control. 
  • Research at Carleton has a global reach. As part of a collaborative project between chemistry professor Deborah Gross and environmental studies professor Tsegaye Nega that developed a more efficient, affordable, and cleaner stove for people in Ethiopia, students traveled to Ethiopia to teach families how to use the stoves. 
  • History professors Susannah Ottaway ’89, P’ 19, and Austin Mason also bring learning to life as their students researched and designed a video game based on an 18th century English workhouse, creating digital tools like 3-D models and interactive websites.