Minutes: Reinvention Center for Midwest Regional Meeting
April 1, 2008
Case Western Reserve University
A meeting of the Midwest Regional Network of The Reinvention Center took place on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. It was attended by nineteen faculty and administrators from eight universities. The meeting focused on three inter-related topics: undergraduate research opportunities abroad; innovations in student living; and, general education reforms.
Introductions and Welcoming Remarks
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and local host Don Feke began the program by welcoming those in attendance and noted that the meeting was being video recorded and would be available on the Case Western server with links from the Reinvention Center Web site. The link for the video feed is: http://www.case.edu/its/itac/reinvention/index.htm. Lynn Singer, Deputy Provost and Vice President for Academic Programs at Case Western Reserve also welcomed the group and invited the participants to walk around campus and notice the signs of growth. She highlighted the work that Case has been doing on undergraduate education, revisions that reflect the shared goals between Case and The Reinvention Center. Associate Director Margaret Marshall also welcomed the group, thanked the local hosts and highlighted the activities of the Center, especially as it relocates to the University of Miami and becomes a membership-based organization. Margaret invited participants to look at the draft program for the upcoming national conference that was included in the packet of materials participants had been given and asked that participants send additional suggestions for presenters or topics to Director Wendy Katkin. Margaret invited UVPs to attend the meeting in Maryland in June, asked for those interested in joining the Assessment Network to contact Wendy or Bob Thompson of Duke, and encouraged participants to make submissions to the Spotlight feature on the Web site.
Topic 1: Undergraduate Research Opportunities Abroad
Glenn Starkman introduced the first topic by noting the increasing importance of study abroad opportunities as research universities consider how best to prepare students for a global world and what kinds of support structures are necessary for such programs to succeed. The presentations were framed by a set of discussion questions, including: what does research in non-US settings contribute to the undergraduate experience; how do we locate, create and sustain such opportunities; and what challenges do these opportunities create for individuals and institutions. Two reports from the front fostered this conversation.
Leiden University, the Netherlands, Robert Coelen, Vice President International of EuroScholars and Professor at Leiden, presented the EuroScholars program that aims to place high achieving, talented American undergraduates into research partnerships with faculty from twelve, highly-regarded research intensive universities throughout Europe. EuroScholars draws from the recommendations of the Lincoln Fellowship Committee Report to stretch study abroad opportunities into non-English speaking countries and provide a research-based experience. Dr. Coelen, who spent 30 years in Australia involved in study abroad programs there, has spent the last three years at Leiden developing the infrastructure necessary for American students to have a successful experience, including standards for housing at local sites and a central office that can intervene if there are problems. Because the language of instruction is English, students do not have to be fluent in the host country language before entering the program. The program includes 3 credits of language and culture, 3 credits of research methods and literature review, 6 credits of research, and 3 credits of writing and presentation with the goal being that students produce a publishable paper for a total of 15 credits. Students are also brought together with others in the program placed in other universities for a mid-term networking and cultural experience. Dr. Coelen’s PowerPoint presentation
Issues that arose following this report included:
How do the social networks work when the number of participants is so small? A: students are encouraged to integrate with the local students and the mid-term collective experience gives them the opportunity to network with other American students.
Do students continue these
partnerships or return to the hosting country?
A: though the program is still young, there is evidence that students want this connection to continue and in other study abroad programs there is evidence that students who study abroad do return at some point.
How do institutions work out the coordination requirements so that students can take advantage of these opportunities?
Since the programs are in non-English speaking countries, and that was in fact one of the goals, why is proficiency in the host country language not necessary? A: the social interactions create the need to learn the language and there are other important cultural differences that are not only a matter of language.
Faculty relish the opportunity to work with highly motivated students, so recruitment of participants has not been difficult and the European system does not produce successful faculty researchers who don’t know how to tend to the people working on their research team.
Expanding to other countries is possible once the logistics and framework are in place. European universities tend to treat students with much more freedom – as adults -- and provide fewer support systems, so EuroScholars helps to bridge that difference between what American students expect and what European universities typically do.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Peter Mortensen, Associate Provost Fellow and Associate Professor of English, spoke about the goals of expanding undergraduate research and study abroad opportunities that are a part of the institution’s strategic plans. Of particular interest at Illinois are supporting programs that begin in classroom work but that can extend beyond the classroom. Dr. Mortensen described a particular project that began with a Land and Water Resources Engineering course in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. The course, taught by Professor Prasanta Kalita, was designed to run as a design team working on the problem of filtering agricultural run-off from the water supply. Out of the work done in the class, the team was able to apply for a grant from a federal agency. First-phase funding from the agency enabled students to do field testing to see if their design would work and be cost effective. Then, during the winter inter-session, second-phase funding permitted the group to travel to a university in Pantnagar, India, where both the institution and the professor have long-standing relationships. There, students were able to field test again in a different environment. The University also sent along two teaching facilitators, who were able to engage the faculty from G. B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in conversations about different styles of mentoring and to use what they learned there when they returned to campus to work with other faculty. Among the questions the institution is interested in considering is where should resources for study/research abroad best be spent? How can the institution locate similar possibilities that faculty or departments are not currently realizing but might with a bit of support? How do we assess such programs? Dr. Mortensen’s PowerPoint presentation
Issues that arose in discussion:
We make claims about the value of research and the value of study abroad, but when we combine the two, are we saying that the foreign experience enhances the research experience in some way or are we adding another level of experience?
Is using satisfaction indicators an adequate assessment of these experiences?
Can programs like this be expanded to include more students or do we need to “scale” by fostering more small-scale opportunities – individual projects rather than large-scale programs?
What institutional support structures are necessary for these faculty-driven projects to succeed and what are the challenges such programs generate for staffing and budgets?
Topic 2: Innovations in Student Life
Glenn Nicholls, Vice President for Student Affairs, Case Western Reserve, introduced the second topic, which was framed by the questions: how do current models connect student living with student learning; what differentiates first-year living/learning communities from those designed for upper class students; what is the role of faculty in student living communities? Dr. Nicholls noted that universities long ago moved away from “dormitories” with their roots in providing students a place to sleep to a more comprehensive approach to student life outside the classroom and the importance of creating community through that experience. He gave an overview of the factors that led Case to rethink student living, and the complicated process that led to the creation of a developmentally-based cohort approach to student learning which is known locally as “The Case Way.”
Case Western Reserve Sue Nickel-Schindewolf, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, described with more detail both the process and the features of The Case Way which began with a recognition of the need to improve both undergraduate education and student life by focusing on curriculum, faculty/student interactions, and campus traditions as Case and Western Reserve merged into a single institution. How could the institution provide a seamless learning environment so that classroom learning was carried into out-of-classroom experiences? Beginning with a careful consideration of who the students are, how they are distinct from students at other institutions who are the same age, and considering multiple facets (intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social, physical, cultural), allowed Case to craft a comprehensive plan. The Case Way identifies class themes, living opportunities, events, and curriculum appropriate for each year of the four year experience in relationship to the goals of producing graduates who are lifelong learners, active global citizens and ethical leaders. Housing by cohort groups allows support to be targeted to the different needs of first-year students, second-year students, upper-class students and graduating seniors. Attention to the connections between aspects of student life from year to year and assessment that looks for trends has allowed the team to identify challenges and strategies. Dr. Nichols’ and Dr. Nickel-Schindewolf’s PowerPoint presentation
Ohio State Garett Heysel, Associate Director, University Honors & Scholars Center, presented the Honors and Scholars living/learning communities of Ohio State. A much larger institution, Ohio State encourages honors students to live together but requires that Scholars students do so. However, these groupings are not necessarily by major and so afford students the opportunity to explore an interest they might otherwise not have time for. Dr. Heysel reviewed some of the assessment data that has allowed Ohio State to fine tune the program as they create meaningful living/learning experiences for students. Dr. Heysel’s PowerPoint presentation
Issues that arose during discussion of this topic included:
How do we balance the developmental needs and interests of students with the opportunities afforded by a research university where students could live with people who are not like them and who do not share their interests?
How do we balance who our students are and what they think they want/need with what we think they should be?
What advice would you give to institutions that are just beginning to think about living/learning communities? A: the process is important
After lunch, the group had the third installment of this topic during a walking tour of the newly constructed upper class North Residential Village. The Village provides apartment-style living for upper class students, but attends very carefully to community spaces that fit student needs and profiles. Thus, large common spaces include kitchen and eating areas that encourage students to socialize; small group study rooms were included because so many upper class students are engaged in collaborative projects in courses and needed spaces to meet; and the entire village was oriented around a redesigned football/soccer/track field that brings physical and social activities to the doorstep for a student population that is inclined to study rather than socialize. The process included attending to the concerns of neighbors and attention to creating an eco-friendly environment. A garage was redesigned to address neighborhood concerns about lighting at night and students were invited into the construction process as part of their course work in engineering. A virtual tour of these facilities is available at: http://studentaffairs.case.edu/living/facilities/tour/.
Topic 3: Revising General Education: Phases of the Process
Don Feke introduced the afternoon session by suggesting that we add concerns for accountability to the public and experiential learning being incorporated into the General Education courses to the other questions that framed this session including: what issues motivate General Education reform; what processes might be considered “best practices”; and how are revisions of General Education being assessed? The topic featured two “reports from the front.”
Case Western Reserve Part I Glenn Starkman described the process of initiating reform at Case Western and identified the motivations as new and (hopefully) improved pedagogy; translating research into classroom practices; enhancing communication skills, and differentiating oneself in the marketplace – what gives us both distinction and distinctiveness. When the process began at Case in 2001, there were also a large number of funded students and a low retention/satisfaction rate with the perception that the institution had bought students who didn’t really want to be there. Dr. Starkman highlighted the positive and problematic features of their process, which began formally with The President’s Commission on Undergraduate Education and Life (PCUEL). PCUEL was a faculty committee charged with redesigning General Education, but the perception was that this was owned by the administration and when the president left the institution, there were various levels of support and allegiance to this plan versus others that had originated simultaneously from the College of Arts and Sciences. The seven faculty members, one undergraduate student, and two administrative deans who formed the committee meant that the group was small enough to meet regularly and for extended periods to consider a wide range of data and input from different campus and community stakeholders, but the failure to include senior faculty who more typically held leadership positions created some credibility problems once the plan was unveiled. In the end, the group identified five educational objectives – disciplinary depth, educational breadth, creativity, leadership, societal engagement – coupled with a commitment that each of these would be assessed. The plan included introductory seminars, educational plans, senior capstones and required significant expenditures especially for hiring faculty. Dr. Starkman’s PowerPoint presentation
Case Western Reserve Part II Peter Whiting, Director of SAGES, Associate Dean, Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Geological Sciences, spoke about the implementation of the plan and specifically about how the plan is being assessed. SAGES – the plan to include a first-year seminar, two university seminars in the second year, a junior-year departmental seminar, and a capstone experience – is one part of the General Education reforms put in place. Like the student life plan, SAGES is developmental and intentional. Dr. Whiting noted that when you start working on General Education, you have the opportunity to address other related concerns, like advising. First-year seminar professors serve as the advisor for those students who take the seminar, giving them an intensive contact with those students, though it doesn’t guarantee that advising conversations happen or that faculty or students are satisfied with that structure. The assessment Case designed is both formative – allowing for adjustments and revisions as they go – and evaluative – providing data to support judgments about whether the reforms are good or not. Using existing assessment instruments like NESSY and course evaluations, including both students and faculty in the assessment process, and evaluating at different times has allowed Case to use the results to make changes, communicate the results to stakeholders and show participants how their responses have made a difference. Dr. Whiting’s PowerPoint presentation
Ohio State University Katherine Meyer, Associate Provost and Professor of Sociology, provided an update to the General Education Reforms underway at Ohio State. She first reviewed the process that the institution used to arrive at their plan – a blue ribbon panel with highly regarded faculty members who spent a year making recommendations, a two-year process of review and revision by the entire university community and implementation beginning in 07-08. Though only the first year of the new plan, assessment is built into the process as a regular feature via a university oversight committee. Issues identified in this first year include: what effect does the reduction in credits for graduation have, especially on the sciences? How are the interdisciplinary clusters for the first-year working? And how will the oversight committee assess the data and make revisions?
Issues that arose in discussion of this topic included:
· What’s the connection between General Education and major/minor requirements?
· What influence do the accreditation agencies have on the process of General Education reform or the discussions about curriculum more generally? Are those pressures similar across different regions?
Wrap up and Looking Ahead
Margaret Marshall highlighted the recurring themes that ran throughout the day’s discussion and noted that these same themes seem to appear regardless of the topic. Active learning and global connections that make our students life-long learners; general education and it’s connections to other course work and to research opportunities; using our uniqueness as researchers and bringing that perspective into the classroom even at the undergraduate level; the balance between new technology and the need to use it well; communication skills and the problem of naming these abilities appropriately since what we’re after is less a matter of “skill” than it is habits of mind; interdisciplinary perspectives; changing and adapting institutional structures – we are still in nineteenth century institutions but we aren’t in the nineteenth century. So, what lessons might we take from these themes? Change is slow; changing a culture is even slower. We like working with big ideas – and cultural change is certainly a big idea – but big ideas are often shaped by small particulars that are local, dependent on personalities and subject to the financial constraints of material conditions. Learning from one another can give us both the patience and the hope to keep doing this work. Making our work more explicit and visible to ourselves and our constituents, especially our students, can also help us be more patient and hopeful. Dr. Marshall asked the group to consider what other themes they would identify from the day’s discussion and to consider what these themes suggest we should be doing next? Especially what should the Reinvention Center be doing?
Issues that arose in discussion included:
Change is slow, but institutions are made up of faculty who stay a generation’s length – maybe forty years – so we have to be certain not to reinvent what we experienced ourselves as students.
Process makes a difference – it isn’t just about the end result but also about the opportunity to have these conversations that make change possible.
Align students, faculty, and institutions. Faculty and administrators see a small part but students experience the institution wholistically.
Continue to identify the big questions and give concrete case studies at the regional meetings – it gives us specific ideas and helps us think about the underlying issues.
Repeat similar themes at each of the national meetings so that participants would come more than one year and networks would be strengthened (we may just need to identify these themes better).
The Reinvention Center
Margaret Marshall, Associate Director
Case Western Reserve University
Don Feke, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Professor of Chemical Engineering
Don Kamalsky, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs
Glenn Nicholls, Vice President for Student Affairs
Sue Nickel-Schindewolf, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs
Sheila Pedigo, Director, Support of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors
Lynn Singer, Deputy Provost and Vice President for Academic Programs
Glenn Starkman, Chair-elect of the Faculty Senate and Professor of Physics
Gary Lee Stonum, Oviatt Professor of English
Peter Whiting, Director of SAGES, Associate Dean, Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Associate
Jeffrey Wolcowitz, Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Adjunct Professor of Economics
Robert Coelen, Vice President International, EuroScholars
Christopher Hayden, Assistant to Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Coordinator for Undergraduate Research Grant Program
The Ohio State University
Garett Heysel, Associate Director, University Honors & Scholars Center
Katherine Meyer, Associate Provost and Professor of Sociology
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Peter Mortensen, Associate Provost Fellow and Associate Professor of English,
University of Kentucky
Phil Kraemer, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education
Evie Russell, Advisor/Program Coordinator for Undergraduate Studies
University of Notre Dame
Dominic Chaloner, Undergraduate Research Coordinator, College of Science and Research Assistant Professor Department of Biological Sciences