ADEA CCI Liaison Ledger

Campus Spotlight: University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry

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While student involvement in innovation may be possible on any campus, some schools make it easier than others. The University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry (Pacific) prizes its humanistic, student-centered approach, and that attitude is evident at the school whose namesake famously declared, "At Pacific, we build people, and along the way they become doctors."

According to Dr. Nader A. Nadershahi, Acting Dean of the dental school and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Pacific attempts to involve students "at every level of the conversation about what happens in the school."

Dr. Patrick J. Ferrillo, Jr. is Dean of the dental school and Interim Provost at Pacific. He has continued the tradition that students sit on every standing committee, including committees that deal specifically with faculty and curriculum issues. Students are regularly invited to interact with faculty and administrators-over brown bag lunches; at small, private gatherings; and at a semiannual dinner where students are encouraged to raise their questions and concerns.

"All issues brought up during these dinners are guaranteed to be addressed by the school," Dr. Nadershahi points out, so students feel their involvement pays off, including in the area of innovation.

"We like to say that innovation is a tradition here at Pacific." Those are the words of Dr. Robert Brodnick, Associate Vice President of the University. "Innovation has long been a core value at Pacific," he adds. "Our most recent strategic plan elevates it to a strategic commitment."

What shape does innovation take at the dental school? The integration of case-based learning across Pacific's three-year curriculum is evidence enough that the school and its faculty are willing to strike out in new directions, and students have shown their desire to move into uncharted territory as well. Recent examples of student initiatives include the formation of a group for future dental educators; the launching of an alumni/student mentor program; and the development of a Leadership Institute.

Several student-led projects have also grown out of the school's pioneering Helix Curriculum, whose goal is to graduate lifelong learners and critical thinkers able to integrate the science and technology of dentistry. Students are paired with faculty mentors for large, literature-based research projects. Several students presented the resulting papers at organized dentistry conferences, and many of the mentoring relationships have outlasted the projects' completion.

In 2009, Pacific received the first Excellence in Institutional Innovation and Integration Award from the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) in recognition of its new strategic plan, which SCUP hailed as "an active, dynamic lever for innovation." In 2006, Pacific's President backed the plan's call for innovation with the establishment of a $1.5 million grant fund. Each year $50,000 of this money is awarded to projects that impact student learning, service, or organizational performance. Students are eligible to apply, and to date, two students have received awards. Neither was in the dental school, but surely that day is not far off.

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