New initiative seeks to ‘enhance the student learning experience equitably’
A $20 million gift from Patricia and Jon M. Baker will enable Georgetown University to develop a new paradigm of learning that engages, adapts, and responds to the complex needs of the 21st century.
“This university-wide collaboration will bring applied learning from the margins to the center of the educational experience,” says Randall Bass, the vice provost for education, who will oversee the new initiative. “The Baker Trust for Transformational Learning will serve as an integrative force, helping to drive change by working across boundaries to enhance the student learning experience equitably, so that it is the new norm for every Georgetown student.” (Learn more about educational innovation at Georgetown in a Q&A with Randy Bass.)
The Trust’s work will begin in Spring 2019 and will touch all the schools on the Main Campus, seeking to expand student experiences beyond the classroom by incorporating capacity-building activities, leadership opportunities, internship, research, fieldwork, and other kinds of personal and professional development into the curriculum.
“Our University is deeply grateful to Pat and Jon for their extraordinary generosity,” shares President John J. DeGioia. “Their leadership will enable us to provide learning opportunities that extend beyond the classroom, preparing our young people to successfully engage with the complex challenges of our world.”
Supporting the ‘Freedom to Experiment’
A few years ago, Georgetown parent Patricia Baker heard Bass speak at an event in Boston. As leader of the Georgetown’s Designing the Future(s) of the University initiative, he shared his vision for how Georgetown could build on its strengths and develop an ever-expanding new model of education that will better address today’s challenges, including access and affordability.
Mrs. Baker left the meeting feeling energized.
“I liked what he said about ‘the freedom to experiment’ and the idea of ‘extending ourselves’ as we think about what education can achieve,” she recalls.
Patricia Baker, now a member of the Board of Regents, co-chairs a committee on Georgetown Learning Initiatives. Its members are focused on reinventing what a Georgetown education might look like five, 10, or 15 years from now, while maintaining our Jesuit ideal of cura personalis, or “care of the whole person,” as well as a commitment to the traditional core values of inquiry and excellence.
She and her husband Jon – parents of Jon (B’89), Catherine (C’91), Carlin (C’94), and grandparents of Sarah (C’20) – believe in Bass’s vision for these efforts.
“He’s been focused on this work for nearly two decades, and we want to support its integration across the university,” says Jon Baker, a 1964 alumnus of Georgetown College, former member of the Georgetown Board of Regents, and 1991 recipient of the John Carroll Award, the highest university honor bestowed on alumni.
The couple began meeting with Provost Robert Groves and President DeGioia in late 2018 to discuss the new Baker Trust.
“This all needs to happen at Georgetown: the Jesuit mission and D.C. location make it a perfect fit,” adds Jon Baker. “If done right, it will be transformative globally.”
Creating Synergy on the Hilltop
In 2014, the Bakers’ $10M gift established the Baker Center for Leadership & Governance within the McCourt School of Public Policy. The Center’s primary mission is cultivating students to become future leaders, preparing them with the skills, capabilities, and adaptive mindset they need to meet the rapidly evolving challenges of 21st century government, business, and civil society.
The Baker Center’s programming will be sustained within the new Baker Trust.
“We saw the Center gain momentum through its collaborative relationships with other Georgetown entities,” explains Jon Baker. “We would like to see that level of synergy continue—and grow. The Baker Trust will set up more experiential opportunities across Georgetown’s campuses.”
“Everywhere you look at Georgetown there are initiatives seeking to find new and creative ways to connect theory to practice, as faculty guide students in asking the biggest questions about the world’s most intractable problems. The Baker Trust will allow us to take a major leap in how the university supports and scales these examples of curricular and co-curricular creativity.”
Georgetown is poised to lead the way with these new ideas, having established the Designing the Future(s) initiative in 2013 to explore educational innovation, especially courses that develop critical skills and competencies through deep student engagement, in classrooms and many settings beyond.
Over that same period of time, Georgetown has launched innovative programs in every school, seeking to connect classroom learning with applied learning. “Everywhere you look at Georgetown there are initiatives seeking to find new and creative ways to connect theory to practice, as faculty guide students in asking the biggest questions about the world’s most intractable problems. The Baker Trust will allow us to take a major leap in how the university supports and scales these examples of curricular and co-curricular creativity,” says Bass.
New Paradigms for Learning
There will initially be three elements to the Baker Trust: the Collaborative for Experiential Learning, the Baker Catalyst Fund, and the Baker Programs. Each will leverage the university’s strengths.
The Collaborative for Experiential Learning will connect the schools and academic programs to the many diverse sources of experiential expertise across Georgetown. Learning designers will curate team-based development and support around new experiences.
The Baker Catalyst Fund will create inspiring and persuasive models for high-impact learning, spanning from first-year core curriculum to non-credit programs for young alumni.
Finally, the Baker Programs will build on existing offerings – such as the Baker Center’s negotiation and conflict resolution clinics – to enhance student learning opportunities. Some will be delivered as an “infusion” in credit-bearing courses, others will be one-credit stand-alone courses, and still others will be connected to experiential learning, such as internships, socially-conscious entrepreneurial projects, and community-based learning, including the new Capitol Applied Learning Lab (the CALL).
“Our plans for the program are extensive and ambitious,” says Bass. “We hope to develop a brand-new ecosystem for transformational learning and look forward to getting started.”
Interested in learning more about educational innovation at Georgetown? Read a Q&A with Randy Bass