Lots of Activity

In the three weeks since my last post, there has been a flurry of activity on campus regarding the integrated clusters and possible changes to many aspects of the way that the University works.

The area that I’m most excited about is, as usual, general education. The Gen Ed Working Group (comprised of members of the Gen Ed Committees and some guides) had a 12.5 hour retreat on April 7 to discuss the development of outcomes for the Gen Ed program. We came to consensus on 4 outcomes and a (very rough draft) set of rubrics for assessing those outcomes. We completed a report this week about the process we used and the results of the retreat and shared it with both the Curriculum Committee and the full General Education Committee. We’re going to discuss the report with the Curriculum Committee this afternoon and with the General Education Committee on Monday. Collaborating with those two groups, we will determine next steps in order to have the faculty adopt the outcomes for Gen Ed and use them to assess the program. We also hope to develop a plan to use these outcomes as the basis of a set of outcomes for the entire University so that we’re all focused on the same things as we interact with students. The goal would be to gather a group of faculty and staff from academic and non-academic offices and departments from all over the campus to determine whether these outcomes will work for everyone and, if not, modify them. The group would then develop a plan for getting the entire campus to adopt them. The task of developing outcomes for the Gen Ed program has been on our radar for years, long before the idea of reorganizing into clusters came about. But this work is difficult and time-consuming, beyond the scope of what the Gen Ed Committee can reasonably be expected to do in its usual, day-to-day work. I’m so grateful to the people who spent 12.5 hours locked in a room together (Annemarie Conlon, Annette Holba, Gail Mears, Sandra Van Gundy, Joey Rino, Michelle Fistek, and me) to get it done.

The group that went to the AAC&U General Education conference at the end of February is putting the final touches on our report of the conference and our recommendations as a result of having attended. We will be sending that out to the campus next week. We are excited that the deans have already agreed to a couple of our recommendations. More will be forthcoming about all of that.

The First Year Seminar (FYS) fellows have our first working meeting this afternoon. We had a series of focus group sessions with students (in classes and in an open session) to see which wicked problems students might be interested in working on. The fellows have had some initial ideas about the wicked problems we might work on in the FYS sections this Fall but now that we have some input from students, we can finalize those decisions. We will make those available to incoming students in a Moodle page through which they be picking their courses before they arrive in June for their orientation sessions. I’m really curious about how giving students the choice to pick their Gen Ed courses (including FYS) before they arrive on campus is going to work. But I’m excited that we’re giving it a try because, as I’ve written before, I think not giving them choice sends exactly the opposite message of what we intend.

At last week’s town hall, President Birx identified his 3 priorities for moving forward with the cluster initiative. They are: 1. identify a couple of clusters to begin piloting a new leadership model; 2. integrate student affairs into the cluster initiative; and, 3. find ways to get more people on campus engaged in the cluster initiative. As a result of this statement of priorities (and several other conversations that occurred during Howard Teibel‘s visit last week), the Arts and Technologies cluster decided at its meeting on April 19 that we would be one of the pilot clusters. We are going to move forward by having the chairs of the departments that have the largest number of programs in the cluster (Art, Communication and Media Studies, Computer Science, English, and Music, Theater, and Dance) begin in the Fall to act as our cluster leaders. Their task over the next academic year is to identify ways that the various departments can begin to break down the walls between them. For example, they might share their budget information with each other to determine which parts of the budgets can be merged and which parts need to remain based in the programs. They might have conversations with each other during the period when they’re scheduling classes to determine which parts of that task can happen in some centralized way and which needs to remain in the programs. In addition, the administrative assistants in these departments will likely need to be part of these conversations since they’re the ones who implement this work. I’m not really sure what all the conversations will be because they haven’t happened yet but I think this is an exciting and pretty painless way to explore the possibilities.

The work that has happened in the past 3 weeks has been difficult to keep up with and has changed daily. I feel like I’m finally getting some glimpses of what we might become through the fog of uncertainty that has engulfed us for the last year and a half. Those glimpses are still a bit fleeting but at least they’re starting to appear.

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