Nineteen: The Four Dimensions

Dear DU community members,

Welcome to spring term! I know we are all looking forward to the sunnier months ahead.

In February, I shared my vision for strategic imperative number one. Today, we explore the 4-Dimensional Experience, the heart of strategic imperative number two.

When I came to DU, I was struck by how comprehensively we approached student learning. Listening to faculty and staff, it became apparent that DU students are learning 24/7—in the classroom and out. And this was affirmed as I read DU IMPACT 2025, which outlined DU’s aspiration to teach the whole student.

Why a holistic, 4D experience? Because we want our students to have lives of purpose and careers of fulfillment, and we want them to be servants of the public good. But the world is complicated. Climate change, increasing wealth inequity and injustice are pervasive challenges. Students need more than just a great intellectual and academic journey; they also need experiences from which they can build comprehensive life skills. This is what the 4D experience aspires to deliver.

I believe a holistic, 4D experience will help DU meet the challenges higher education faces. I also believe it has the potential to put DU on the map as an innovative institution providing students with what they need to build the lives they desire and serve society.

This past fall, we launched our pilot of the 4D Experience. Below is a glimpse into what the 4D Experience pilot looks like practically, from the perspective of a student. This is loosely based on the real lived experience of one of the students in our pilot, Colleen.

Jeremy Haefner

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    Exploring Character

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    Pursuing careers and lives of purpose

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    Advancing intellectual growth

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    Promoting well-being

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    July 16, 2020

    Colleen, an incoming first-year student, registers for the Design Your DU first-year seminar (FSEM). She is now one of DU’s very first 4D students.

    This FSEM is a part of the pilot launch of DU’s 4D Experience. Through this pilot, 4D will be shaped by the feedback of Colleen, her peers and the faculty members who taught the nine Design Your DU classes this academic year.

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    September 7, 2020

    Colleen begins her first year at DU—and her “year of discovery,” which, as a 4D student, includes holistic co-curricular learning.

    Colleen will be a 4D student from her first day at DU to graduation day. The first year of the 4D Experience focuses on exploration. Breadth, not depth. Each quarter, in addition to her classwork, Colleen will participate in one learning experience outside the classroom (co-curricular learning) in each of the four dimensions—twelve co-curricular experience per academic year. She and her 4D peers choose learning options from a menu of options curated by the 4D implementation team.

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    September and beyond

    Colleen connects with other 4D students and faculty members.

    In this pilot phase, the Design Your DU FSEMs serve as the “home base” for Colleen and other 4D student during their first quarter at DU. Through a research-based curriculum, customized by her professor, Colleen develops a language about the four dimensions and how she can explore and build upon them through her life. She also engages with her 4D cohort and receives mentorship and guidance from her professor and the 4D cohort coordinator. Colleen’s entry into DU feels supportive, and she immediately builds connections and friendships with a diverse student cohort.

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    September 23

    Colleen learns a new way to promote her well-being.

    Colleen decides to take a workshop on identity theft and scams. This satisfies her well-being co-curricular learning experience requirement for the quarter. It also helps her learn more about a new and sometimes confusing topic. Learning how to protect herself and her finances makes her feel more confident as she becomes more financially independent.

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    October 7, 2020

    Colleen starts exploring how to pursue a career and life of purpose.

    Colleen is flautist pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in performance. She wants to pursue a career as a musician, but doesn’t know exactly what that looks like. To connect with professional musicians and other students, Colleen attends a flute festival hosted by the University of Arlington. She also meets with a 4D program coordinator to talk about career goals. These activities meet her career requirement for the quarter, and Colleen feels like she has a better sense of the path forward to her long term goals.

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    October 8, November 2, and every other week all quarter

    Colleen makes choices to invest in her intellectual growth.

    In addition to the exceptional learning Colleen experiences in her classes, she attends her professors’ office hours for additional support and sets up tutoring for French to build her skillset. With this, she can meet her intellectual growth requirement for the quarter.

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    November 14, 2020

    Colleen builds skills that help shape her character.

    To meet this quarter’s character requirement, Colleen attends a lunch-and-learn about conflicts and how to handle difficult conversations. Colleen has never had any formal learning on these complex topics as a young adult, and she feels better prepared to tackle difficult moments as she encounters them on campus, at internships, or with friends and family.

What’s next for Colleen and her 4D peers?

Colleen’s first quarter at DU as a 4D student was a success. She met all her goals, and in doing so had new, interesting, valuable experiences and connected with people across campus. She feels supported, engaged and already has a sense of belonging.

Next quarter, there will be fresh programming in each dimension for her to choose from. Though 4D, Colleen and her peers will receive certifications, which they can use to pursue internships, scholarships or even jobs after they graduate. Next year, Colleen’s sophomore year, will be even more tailored. Instead of a “year of discovery,” she’ll embark on “a year of defining.”