“And then there were…”: The case for another HIP

We were asked today to consider: what activity, experience, or pedagogy is not currently considered a High Impact Practice (HIP), but should be? In the five minutes we had to free-write, I thought about independent majors.

If the characterizing features of a HIP are strong and intentional relationships, integrative learning, and dedicated time, my independent major process definitely fit the bill.

In case you didn’t know: I was an independent major. In my first three semesters of college, I came to some deep, driving questions about classroom practice, identity, hierarchy, equity, and teaching and learning. As I struggled to fit my niche interests into an established major, I kept coming back to a single possibility: what if I designed the interdisciplinary space I need for myself?

With some strong mentorship and support, I reflected deeply on my experiences and drafted a narrative explaining my academic development and path. If the characterizing features of a HIP are strong and intentional relationships, integrative learning, and dedicated time, my independent major process definitely fit the bill. I worked with my advisors to self-author my academic experience. With their support, I made meaning of the big questions that drive me, and the wide range of courses and co-curricular activities that helped me answer those questions.

Image of two visual representations of frequency students reported taking academic risks in 360º and non-360º courses.
Research data I collected while writing my major thesis, analyzing student
academic identity development in an interdisciplinary course cluster program.

My independent major continues to influence how I make sense of my academic identity. I majored in “Educational Identity and Empowering Pedagogy” and every major life-decision I’ve made since declaring an undergraduate major back in early 2013 refers back to that degree.

So could this be a HIP?

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