IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Q&A with Flagship 2030 task force chair Michael Grant
As the University of Colorado at Boulder progresses with the Flagship 2030 Strategic Plan and positioning as one of the nation's leading public research universities, nine task forces representing key components of the university have been formed in order to help develop strategies for implementing the 18 initiatives outlined in the plan. The task force reports will be submitted in the fall of 2008. Meet Michael Grant, chair of the undergraduate education task force.
The undergraduate education task force has been charged with identifying ways in which the undergraduate experience can be greatly enhanced now and into the future. The group’s recommendations focus on strengthening the methods through which undergraduates learn about, understand and participate in the scholarly, creative and cutting-edge research work at the university. Its vision also emphasizes the development of greater student-faculty interactions, innovatively utilizing modern information technology (IT) tools, generating and maintaining a cohesive and sustainable curriculum, as well as other fundamental strategies aimed at making CU-Boulder a premier residential campus.
How do your duties as a task force chair fit in with your background and current position at CU?
I'm just now beginning my 35th year at CU-Boulder. Most of my years have been spent as a regular faculty member in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology doing the usual faculty work: teaching, research and service. I've been very fortunate to have been recognized by the campus in several ways: the BFA Teaching Excellence award, President's Teaching Scholar, the Hazel Barnes Prize for teaching and research, U.S. Professor of the Year nominee, etc. I've been department chair and associate vice chancellor for undergraduate education for several years. In the latter role, my job focuses on campus-wide programs that don't belong to any particular school or college.
What inspires and challenges you in creating and meeting your task force goals?
For me, the most inspiring thing is the obvious enthusiasm and commitment of the task force members to authentic improvement in undergraduate education and the willingness to break with traditional methods when better ones are known. The challenges are many and include the significantly more expensive models of teaching that we are recommending, the common resistance to changes in curricula or pedagogy and the enormous scope of the undergraduate environment.
If you could envision anything for the future of higher education, what would be your greatest aspirations?
I would envision a situation in which any student could earn a college degree if they so desired. This means that all barriers would be minimized to the point where the following were no longer significant barriers: finances, cultural attitudes, an unwelcoming or hostile environment, minimal anti-intellectualism, etc. I would envision institutions that are more nimble, more flexible and more responsive to the changing needs of our students, our society and our world.
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