Undergraduate Experience Report

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Undergraduate Experience Report was written by a committee formed in the Fall of 2005 and finished its findings by the quarter's end. It had a difficult birth to say the least.

President Emmert began to consider, as is common with a new president in their second term, how the University of Washington should function as a whole. Acting Provost David Thorud set up a Working Group on Undergraduate Education to explore possible reorganization of the administrative structure that supports the undergraduate educational experience on the Seattle campus. Members of the group were Susan Jeffords (chair), Rusty Barcelo, David Hodge, Christine Ingebritsen, Gus Kravas, Tim Washburn, and Steve Buck. The charge to the group was to "look not only at the most effective methods of conveniently providing current services in a student-friendly manner, but also at how we can most effectively prepare for innovation and new developments in undergraduate education." In the report, they were asked to summarize available models and best practices around the country and some possible arrangements of services and programs at UW that would reflect our overall commitments and goals for undergraudate education. The working group came to a general concensus in early June of 2005. Steven Buck, in an email, described the consensus whose most salient aspects were:

  • All of the operations of both units would be under the Provost;
  • Present OUE operations would be divided into two units (each with its own Vice-Provost) that would be foci for students and faculty, respectively;
  • These two units would coordinate with a third, enrollment services unit by means of a Council on Undergraduate Learning, standing committees on selected topics, and their mutual representation in the Provost's office;
  • Thought needs to be given to contact points with the Faculty Senate and Faculty Councils and to the role of the (faculty) Undergraduate Advisory Council.

The group's suggestions met heavy resistance due to its speed and lack of stake holders, including students, serving in the committee. This became evident on June 10th, 2005 when a meeting found many stakeholders including the ASUW and Faculty Senate very displeased that representatives were not part of the working group. President Emmert proceeded to end the working group and with the new Provost, just appointed days ago, set up a new group to determine how the UW would teach. Provost Wise began to form the group in September where students and more faculty could participate. This was the beginning of the Undergraduate Experience Committee (UEC), sometimes it is referred to as the Baldasty Committee, after the Chair, Gerry Baldasty.

Charge

The charge drew from four questions:

  • What should be the attributes of an excellent undergraduate experience at the University of Washington?
  • What are the strengths of the current UW experience?
  • What are the weaknesses of the current UW experience?
  • What are the national best practices, and what models can be adopted for the UW?

These were very broad questions whose answers will surely impact how the University will operate for years to come. What made this even more critical was that the timeline was short, with the committee ending its work on November 15th, 2005.

The Committee Membership

  • Gerald J. Baldasty, Professor and Chair, Department of Communication; committee chair
  • Jayme Ballard, undergraduate student, Commissioner, ASUW Black Student Commission
  • Phil Ballinger, Director of Admissions
  • Karen Clegg, undergraduate student, President, Panhellenic Association
  • Marilyn Cox, Assistant Vice Provost for Capital Planning
  • Valerie Curtis-Newton, Associate Professor, Drama
  • Janice DeCosmo, Assistant Dean, Office of Undergraduate Education
  • Pete Dukes, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs, School of Business
  • Lee Dunbar, undergraduate student, President, ASUW.
  • Gene Edgar, Professor, Special Education
  • Vennie Gore, Associate Director, Housing and Food Services
  • Eric Godfrey, Acting Vice President for Student Affairs
  • Adam Grupp, graduate student, President, GPSS
  • June Hairston, Academic Adviser, Counselor, Office of Minority Affairs
  • Mike Heinekey, Professor, Chemistry
  • Verena Hess, graduate student, Department of Communication; committee research assistant
  • Lincoln Johnson, Director, Student Activities and Union Facilities
  • Ruth Johnston, Senior Associate Treasurer, Financial Management
  • Paul LePore, Assistant Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Jonathan Lee, undergraduate student, ASUW Board member
  • Jill McKinstry, Director, Odegaard Undergraduate Library, UW Libraries
  • Stephanie Miller, Director of Recruitment and Outreach, Office of Minority Affairs
  • Julia Parrish, Associate Professor, Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and Zoology
  • Devon Pena, Professor, Anthropology and American Ethnic Studies
  • Rick Roth, Assistant to the Chair, Graduate Advisor, Geography
  • Carmen Sidbury, Director of Diversity and Student Services, College of Engineering
  • Barbara Wakimoto, Professor, Biology
  • Betsy Wilson, Dean, University Libraries.

Structure The UEC had five sub-committees loosely based on student development:

  • Pre Entry/Initiation
  • First Year Experience
  • Intellectual Discovery
  • The Major
  • What’s Next?

The entire group met once-a-week for the next month and half. In early November the 5 merged into writing teams to determine the final report, which was finally submitted in Early December.


Full Text of the Report

ASUW Response

The ASUW made a written response as requested in March 2006. Below is the full text.

1. Navigating UW

  • One-Stop, No-Stop Service

This is absolutely necessary for students to come to the right place and get the right service they need. This will require significant cooperation, but can be done. One-stop does not mean merging offices, but integrating them. This needs to be done as soon as possible. In a decentralized university, the school must first be able to address the diverse needs of each student. In a sense the school must take a page from Nordstrom. What makes them successful is not that they have quality products but they are adept at customer service. Having the best product and services will not suffice if the marketing and administering of it is lacking.

  • We need to address financial aid.

Grants, loans, scholarships require help in understanding them; it is one of the core questions. How do we make it available? One stop service both physically and electronically is critical in this area.

  • Improve Advising

For many students, advising is the single most important component of the undergraduate experience. Consistent, comprehensive and customized advising will allow students to effectively navigate through college while maintaining a focused and rigorous collegiate experience. Trained and experienced academic advisors simply do not suffice. In addition to increased inter-unit, inter-departmental advising communication, advising must take a holistic approach. Student life and academics are mutually inclusive and inseparable. To properly address this problem, the ratio of advisors to students must be decreased and the types of advising must be diversified. As there is no one type of student neither should there be one type of advising.

  • Go where students are.

This has been discussed at length by OUE. As efforts are made to engage students in the residence halls, in cafes, in the Greek Houses, and in commuter-focused space, the university requires community buy-in. A Greek House already purchases tutors for a tough class if a member wants one, how does the university get the same commitment for an advisor to visit their house? Without involving the groups you target and nearly every level of implementation, these efforts will run the risk of failure. If you do however, these efforts will be successful. Student representative groups can be a great medium for this, as well as student staff.

  • Expand the pool of mentors to assist all students.

Students will benefit greatly from this and there are many potential partnerships from willing groups including students themselves, the alumni association, and local community and business leaders. Incentives can be in place that give support to events that bring these people together as well as recognition to those who participate.

  • Address Bottleneck Course

Being able to navigate through the UW also means that there are no traffic jams that come in the form of bottleneck courses which can be alleviated through proper advising. Transfer students are the most important in terms of getting advising giving the pressure and requirement to satisfactorily complete their degree within a given period of time etc.

  • Assist career choices

The University of Washington needs to establish some form of a comprehensive career center, with an integrated website that links all majors with applicable internships, volunteer opportunities and scholarships. Linking all of the pertinent scholarships and career opportunities with all of the majors and providing most of it online would ensure that students can make the transition between college and their careers. Additionally, this could be a great service for the Alumni to help recent graduates.


2. Living and Learning Communities

  • Community needs space.

Space is a fundamental element of community. We must provide space for student activities and major events, renovations to the HUB are a great first step that is being taken, from here the future of the Ethnic Cultural Center must also be determined. As it stands now the ECC is too small for its purpose, booked solid. Space in the residence halls and other buildings must be more event friendly after recent renovations have reduced the available space. Further, Athletic Department and Student Affairs need to overlap more in their policies regarding student use and event planning. The process for planning major events requires this, and it is must be streamlined. The funds have been there for events but without a venue we can only go so far.

  • Build Tradition

UW athletics provides a great sense of community. There are a limited number of school-wide activities to look forward to. UW needs the kind of events that are difficult to avoid (Red Square, the Quad) that are common to the first weeks of school. We can go beyond these and coordinate community events throughout the year with a variety of partnerships between students, UW Alumni, and Student Affairs. How are we going to provide events that students are actually inclined to participate in? Again, involving these groups insures buy-in and participation. This goes beyond events and into small steps that are already being taken. Giving the fight song to FIGs as well as taking a class picture at freshman orientation has helped students to gain a sense of ownership and affiliation.

  • As a research institution we should play to our strength.

The UW can not make the mistake of forcing this. Finding where undergraduates fit in the UW’s research and where dedicated undergrads will be willing to give their time energy is a long term task. Creating campus wide recognition for academic achievement, recognizing undergrads specifically will connect students more to the great things we do here. We can build a culture of academic participation and excellence for undergraduates.

  • Create Connections that are positive

o The Greek Community must go beyond the recognition agreement of 1993 and have a more positive relationship with the UW. There are opportunities for student development and recognition that have not been taken.

o The Commuters who come to campus need a specific space for them that is designed around what they need on a daily basis. (Ex. microwaves, transportation information, nap rooms) This can be implemented easily, not requiring a specific center.

o The Residence halls must be engaged with the academic advising and programming that is built for the residence halls. This requires significant cooperation and experiment. Beyond a number of academic houses that are tied closely with colleges and departments, we must find ways to tie the residence halls with the overall university. One step, taking 2nd year RA’s and training them as Peer Advisors and putting two in each hall would be easy and effective.

o The Ethnic Cultural Center (ECC) must interact with offices outside the OMA. Until the ECC is brought closer geographically it must have a strong relationship with OUE, the colleges, and other parts of the university.


3. General Education, Exploration

  • Gain Coherence and Direction in General Education Requirements

There need to be ways for courses that can be picked and tailored to ones interests from the beginning. These should provide the means to find direction and discover passions. It should progress to the decision of choosing a major.

  • Diversity

Courses relating to cultural competencies and ideas and interests dealing with social issues relating to diversity should be a goal in General Education

  • Writing

Courses that teach writing at its most basic expressive level are necessary. Writing specific to a class through course links should be required in order to introduce the styles and mannerisms specific to each major.


4. The Major, integrated experience

  • Capstone projects must be comparable across disciplines

It must be driven by the same set of values of interdisciplinary work and critical thinking. While Colleges and Departments will be incredibly different, a shared experience is also the end goal. This will be the final way to make Art, Business, Biology, etc. majors feel more attached to the university. Every department must show what they believe a capstone experience is, common values should be drafted, and from there each is changed, some by slight degrees, to integrate the shared values we wish to teach as a university. Doing so gives students something to look forward to as it is instilled in them since they are a freshman. These capstones require adequate resources for the faculty and staff that must make them possible. Professors must be limited to a set amount of students in this regard.


5. Investing in faculty

  • Faculty must be diverse

The efforts made today must be integrated with those students who are impassioned by this issue. Too many times has the university taken the steps and made the mistake of not speaking to what they are doing and measuring it effectively for the community. Involving those students who take this task upon themselves will give them the connection they need. Remember, President McCormick gave the ECC new computers and facilities but due to not connecting at a more profound level, students marched inside his office demanding they be a priority. Communication is essential. Recruitment is one thing, retention is another. Faculty of diverse backgrounds must realize that they are essential to achieving the critical mass we need for a more under-represented minorities to attend the UW. They must feel connected with that core mission and with the university at large.

  • Faculty Incentives

Faculty who are essential to the teaching of students must have a set of incentives that drives them to continue their great work. Many of these professors are not particularly connected with a research grant or national recognition but instead mold those who do. We have to promote teaching by itself.


Where do we go from here?

The University Budget for '06-'07 and the State Budget Request for '07-'09 reflect an emphasis on more integrated services, more advisors, and more faculty incentives for retention. In April 2006 it was finally announced the Office of the Vice-President for Student Affairs would be changed into the Vice-Provost for Student Life while the Dean of Undergraduate Education would be changed into the Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs. It is theorized that the two would also report with the Vice-Provost for Graduate Academic Affairs in a joint meeting.

Further changes are likely in determining the organization of UW's colleges and school. A new group Committee on the Organization of Schools and Colleges is charged with seeing the "optimal structure for the delivery of the best learning xperience to our undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. We wish to ask whether our configuration serves the growth of interdisciplinary research collaborations and takes advantage of evolving programmatic interactions. This analysis complements the review of the undergraduate experience and the leadership, community, and values initiative (LCVI).

It is forming in consultation with the Faculty Senate, to gather information and opinions of the University community about the organization. Once established, the committee will employ multiple approaches, similar the those used in the leadership survey.



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