Dear Alumni, Parents, and Friends of Colorado College,

_JillIt’s no secret that the Block Plan works. Our signature program offers a powerful learning approach that delivers what many students are looking for today: intensive explorations across and between academic disciplines; meaningful experiential learning opportunities; and close student-faculty interaction. When Colorado College recently received an $800,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to support our strategic plan, it was mostly on the basis that we encourage more innovation in the Block Plan — and learn more about this teaching model so we can enhance it and share it with others.

Over the years we’ve seen broad interest from other institutions on how the Block Plan supports student learning. With an academic schedule that allows students and professors to examine one subject at a time, classes are highly focused and hands-on. It’s incredibly well-suited for today’s students. Although many of them possess the technological savvy to approach complex questions, they need to develop the abilities to concentrate deeply, reason carefully, collaborate effectively, and communicate well. Furthermore, as they work together to develop a more complete understanding of the subjects they are exploring, they increase their appreciation of each other’s cultures and experiences. The block environment promotes these skills and helps our students expand their point of view.

After nearly 45 years of cultivating the Block Plan and hearing from several generations of alumni who credit it with their personal growth, it’s time to delve into the unique academic experience the block offers. With a more deliberate process of reflection and analysis, our study will open up new perspectives on what we are doing and how we can do it better. For example, a systematic analysis will address the block’s effectiveness across disciplines and different learning styles; how it helps students build liberal arts skills, retain knowledge, and apply it to the real world; and how it develops such traits as grit, creativity, and perseverance, which are so important for successful lives and careers. Our new Center for Immersive Learning and Engaged Teaching, the centerpiece of the college’s strategic plan, will be the ideal home for this work because it will bring together theory and practice in one dynamic place.

As we share what we learn, we will extend our reach by becoming better known for what we do. In fact, our faculty and staff are already brainstorming ways to collaborate and disseminate information. Activities might include workshops on immersive, intensive teaching for scholars and other leaders in higher education (many who would like more guidance on teaching block-like summer and January courses); a national conference on language immersion; and a scholarly journal that could become a major resource for high schools, other colleges and scholars researching intensive learning programs of various kinds including field study, which is something we do so well because of the Block Plan.

This combination of focusing on both the day-to-day realities of the Block Plan and its far-reaching impact on learners has the potential to make the college a recognized leader in scholarship and active progress in this field. As the Block Plan benefits from a higher profile, so too will Colorado College.

With warm regards,

Jill Tiefenthaler