PSU Chiron studies prospers

Chiron, the successful academic program in which students earn college credit by taking classes from teachers who are also students, is looking for new leadership.

After three years of revitalizing the program from what they described as formerly “a shell,” its two current leaders are moving on to new phases in their academic careers. They are Marc Hinz, chairman of the Chiron board, and Lynn Rogers-Lent, coordinator. The board includes both students and faculty.

Although Hinz and Rogers-Lent have been serving for three years, the Chiron Studies Program itself dates back to 1968. It was started by students and faculty members to develop courses deemed relevant to the special needs of Portland State University and the city it serves.

Hinz and Rogers-Lent say they have discovered only one other program like Chiron in the world, and that is in Australia.

When the two took over leadership, they found the program still intact as an organization but greatly depleted in substance. Now, they feel they have brought the program to a new high level of vitality and interest.

Any student at PSU may enroll in Chiron courses, teach them or serve as a member of the Chiron committee. A faculty member can sponsor Chiron courses and serve on the committee. The program is funded by the student fee committee.

In Greek mythology, Chiron was a wise centaur who taught arts and sciences to Achilles and other heroes. At PSU, Chiron represents integrity and academic honesty.

In general, the courses offered represent the special interests of students desiring to teach them. However, students must go through multiple levels of approval, including the final approval of Terrel Rhodes, vice provost for curriculum and undergraduate studies.

Along the way, approval of each teacher and course must come from a fixed-term or tenured faculty member.

“We are not allowed to duplicate the curriculum of the university,” Hinz explained. “We would never have somebody say we’re taking their jobs.”

Rather, the Chiron courses attempt to fill what students and faculty may perceive as gaps of opportunity in the regular curriculum program. Chiron courses also give students an opportunity to teach academically accredited courses and find out if they like teaching.

“These are not workshops,” Rogers-Lent said. “Some Chiron teachers discover there’s no way they want to teach as a profession.”

There’s more to becoming a Chiron teacher than simply expressing the interest. Teachers must be at least half-time students at PSU. To establish a class, they move through an elaborate system that must include a course proposal package. Along the way, the prospective teacher must develop, prepare and research courses.

The finished proposal must include a course description, a syllabus, a copy of the instructor’s resume and a completed agreement form. Some teachers may receive a stipend of $735.

It is already too late to propose a course for fall term. The deadline for winter term of next year is May 1.

Those interested in developing a course proposal packet may call Chiron at 503-725-5662 or e-mail them at [email protected] Chiron has a general information brochure explaining the program to both students and prospective teachers.

The office is located in Room 203B of Smith Memorial Student Union.

As for finding new leadership, Hinz and Rogers-Lent feel they already are pressed for time. They need to find candidates, get the approval of the Chiron board and institute training.

Hinz listed some of the attributes desired.

“We’re looking for quality,” he said. He seeks people with transferable skills such as budget management and development, supervisory skills, curriculum review and development, coaching and training of teachers, and the ability to cooperate with various departments in the university.

Topics covered by Chiron courses include the Beatles, homelessness and the social impact of technology.

Among classes returning are Vietnamese Language 1 and 2, Caribbean and African in Portland, and Introduction to Disability Studies. Courses may be selected as elective credit, in each case subject to the approval of the student’s major department.

From the standpoint of the university as a whole, Chiron is not an oddball offshoot, it is part of the system.

“We are actually running a small academic department,” Hinz summarized.