The Furman Advantage is a university experience unlike any other, rooted in the liberal arts and sciences and reimagined to focus more intentionally on preparing students for lives of purpose, fulfillment, and accelerated career and community impact in a diverse, global world.
Many universities claim to offer a unique educational experience, but student surveys show that very few schools deliver on this promise. By building on our existing strengths and innovative pilot programs already underway, Furman University is carving out a space that sets us apart: a personalized educational experience that provides lifelong value for every student.
What distinguishes our program is that it integrates a guided journey of self-discovery into a personalized academic path and tracks both progress and outcomes. Going forward, each student will embark on an individualized, coordinated, four-year pathway of academic study, self-reflection, and mentorship by a diverse network of experts that corresponds with project-based and community-centered learning, career exploration and internships, faculty research collaborations, and immersive global experiences.
The Furman Advantage will reinforce and strengthen the foundation of a strong liberal arts education by:
I. Maintaining the academic excellence and intellectual exploration for which Furman is known
A challenging liberal arts education prepares students to live well and meaningfully. At Furman we believe it is essential to engage all students in a wide range of human thought, perspective and culture to help them have a basis for thinking imaginatively, questioning assumptions, assessing problems systematically, working across differences, and adapting with well-informed thoughtfulness to societal and environmental change. We also believe that students learn the most when they are challenged, are able to overcome failure and setbacks, and learn how to solve problems in an environment of both creative discomfort and expert support.
II. Building a diverse community of students, staff, and faculty from a range of backgrounds, identities, and experiences to foster a dynamic and challenging intellectual climate
Building a diverse intellectual community on our campus is not optional in the 21st century. Not only must we prepare students to enter a world in which the ability to deal with difference is fundamental to their success, but we also know from a growing body of research that students who learn in a diverse educational environment are more likely to have a positive experience while in college and to be more satisfied after graduation. The Gallup Purdue study in 2015 reported that graduates who interacted with people from different backgrounds on a regular basis in college are more than twice as likely to say their education was worth the cost. They are also more likely to be engaged and fulfilled at work. In order to build the most effective environment for teaching and learning, Furman is committed to increasing the diversity of our faculty, staff, and student body. We also must ensure that students who can benefit from a Furman education are not prevented from participating due to race, class, identity, or any other artificial barriers that serve to limit talent and opportunity.
III. Providing students with the cultural competence to live and lead in a diverse, complex, and global world
Students will enter a world that is considerably more diverse than most of them have experienced before coming to Furman. To succeed in the 21st-century classroom, community, or workplace, students must be able to understand the problems, opportunities, and realities of people who come from different backgrounds and have had different experiences than their own. They must also comprehend our connectedness with other societies through the problems and opportunities that we have in common. The Furman Advantage contributes to the development of this cultural competence through classwork and programs that engage students with diverse and international communities on campus and in Greenville, the region, and abroad.
IV. Providing greater support for teaching excellence and strengthening the role of faculty mentors
Our unwavering commitment to the primacy of the liberal arts and sciences, with small classes, cross-disciplinary opportunities, and uncommon access to excellent teachers, advisors, and mentors, ensures that our resident undergraduate students are part of a close-knit and engaged community of faculty, staff, alumni, and other students who are committed to their personal growth and success. We believe that high-touch, individual interactions combined with relevant opportunities for exploration and independence are crucial to the development of these young adults. Furman faculty are personally committed to the success of each student, supporting them while at the same time encouraging them to take ownership of their individual journey and goals. The Furman Advantage will invest in the development of our faculty and staff to continuously improve their teaching and advising and to support students with a level of personalized attention that distinguishes Furman from other universities.
V. Creating greater opportunities for self-reflection and self-discovery
We further believe helping students discern their particular intellectual strengths, their vocational interests, and a sense of calling in the world also is a critical aspect of liberal arts and sciences education at Furman, preparing our students for personal, intellectual, and career fulfillment. Robust new first- and second-year programs will instill lifelong habits of self-reflection and examination of personal strengths, reinforced by an integrated and team-based advising/mentoring system of faculty, Student Life professional staff, and alumni. This approach has already been examined in a recent report on the first- and second-year experience and in pilot programs begun in 2015, and will be further strengthened by data gathered through the Resiliency Study funded by The Duke Endowment.
VI. More effectively connecting co-curricular experiences to classroom learning
Faculty and staff involved in student development outside the classroom challenge themselves to continuously advance knowledge and engage students in the process of discovery and independent thinking. This strong foundation prepares our students to be nimble in a complex and uncertain world engage comfortably with difference and develop intellectual confidence and creativity in solving a wide array of problems. Students are taught to think critically as well as to consider the consequences of their decisions: the question of “why” they should do something rather than just “what” and “how.” Furman is distinctive in being able to offer this purposeful approach, intimacy, and personal attention—the hallmarks of a small liberal arts colleges—embedded in the scale and breadth of a larger university. That scale will enable The Furman Advantage to provide an ever-expanding set of curated opportunities to put students’ critical-thinking skills to work in real-world settings, allowing students to link classroom learning with their potential impact in the world.
The Furman Advantage will build a dynamic model, creating a four-year path that drives students toward a life of success, fulfillment, and impact by:
I. Expanding engaged learning to guarantee that every student engages in real-world experiences
Students will have an extraordinary array of opportunities for service and meaningful contribution that link back to their academic and professional interests and experiences. This extension of engaged learning will build upon and expand areas where Furman has historically been strong: opportunities for students to conduct substantive research and present their findings, broad support from the faculty and the Rinker Center for unique study-away experiences around the globe, and the faculty’s commitment to mentor students and sustain lifelong relationships. We will create tools and training for faculty, staff, and alumni mentors and student peer mentors to better support students across the continuum of exploration and experiences.
II. Creating an innovative team advising model that better supports students and connects them with appropriate opportunities for engaged learning
Under a model that coordinates academic and co-curricular advising, students will begin their program with an assessment of their strengths and interests, with the goal of mapping their classwork, internships, study away, and community-centered learning experiences to their career aspirations. The team will encompass faculty, staff, and alumni who will work together on the student’s behalf and will offer guidance at appropriate times along the student’s four-year journey and beyond, weaving student experiences into an integrated pathway and creating a seamless web of support.
III. Developing a broader community and more diverse of mentors on campus, among alumni and in the community
To complement the team advising model, we will cultivate a broadly diverse community of experts, actively connecting students with employers, civic leaders, and alumni mentors for career exploration, internships, real-world projects with community and global impact, and other relevant experiences on the path to a professional career or graduate study. As students are learning from this community of mentors, project participants will in turn gain valuable knowledge and experiences from their work with Furman students and faculty.
IV. Better tracking student experiences in real time to ensure we live up to the promise for every student
Supported by funding from The Duke Endowment, we are developing innovative new methods for students to collect, make sense of, and share with mentors and employers their pathway of educational experiences and the resulting skills they have developed. As a result, students will develop a portfolio for documenting what they have gained from their Furman education. These tools will also improve our ability to gather and assess timely data so we can track student participation and ensure we are living up to our guarantees for the student experience as a whole. The data we gather will inform faculty research on student learning and outcomes, allowing us to develop models and approaches that can be shared with other universities.
Elements of The Furman Advantage
The Furman Advantage guarantees every student an unparalleled education that combines classroom learning with real-world experiences and self-discovery. This integrated four-year pathway prepares students for lives of purpose and accelerated career and community impact—demonstrating in concrete terms the value of a Furman education.