Evidence suggests that a carefully planned and executed first year undergraduate experience builds a foundation for a student’s personal and academic success. Establishing basic academic, personal, institutional and community skills, the first-year experience helps the student transition into more mature models of thought, behavior and functioning both in the classroom and in the community at large. For University of Colorado Boulder students, Residential Academic Programs (RAPs) play an important role as one component of this experience. RAPs provide an immersive learning experience, educating through focused missions, community populated courses, and co-curricular experiences designed to educate experientially, individually and collectively.
In 2013, the RAPs underwent their first Academic Review and Planning Advisory Committee (ARPAC) process, evaluating their visions, identities and goals for the future. Via the ARPAC process, both internal and external reviewers highlighted a series of areas for consideration to improve the overall RAP experience. Amongst its recommendations, reviewers advised that a task force be convened to, “explore the future of RAPs and alternative first-year experiences.”
In response to this recommendation, the RAP Task Force (Task Force) was established on October 21, 2016. The Task Force comprised a range of representatives, encompassing all concerned constituencies. The Task Force was given a broad charge to look at the specific recommendations included in the Final Report. The Task Force subsequently divided the language of the charge into five overall points as follows:
Based on this charge, the Task Force began with research. Meeting on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, the Task Force studied the RAPs themselves – their current visions, operating models, outcomes – as well as their histories. This research was accomplished by combing through the 500+ pages of ARPAC materials (original RAP self-studies, the Internal and External Review Reports, the ARPAC Final Report, and subsequent responses by the RAPs), coupled with historical information (processes under which the RAP program was initiated, expanded, and has subsequently been operating).
This research allowed for significant discussion on each of the aforementioned focus areas. The intent of the Task Force was to research, dissect and understand each individual area of concern and then, once fully acquainted with the issues at stake, endeavor to address each within the context of enhancing and supporting the first-year experience.
Once this context was developed, the committee divided into three subgroups to address the Purpose of RAPs, the Administrative Structure, and the Financial Structure. The Task Force reviewed the subgroup recommendations and then hosted a series of fora to obtain additional feedback on these areas from RAP Directors, the Boulder Faculty Assembly, the Arts & Sciences Council, finance staff, as well as individuals in open fora.
Finally, the Task Force reconvened to consider and incorporate recommendations as well as to address the broader issues of personnel and alternative programs. The following sections present the results of the Task Force discussions in the context of this overall process. Finally, an overall set of recommendations is provided as advisory recommendations for consideration by an implementation committee which should be convened as soon as possible.
The RAP Task Force makes the following recommendations to the Provost in response to the letter charging this committee to action. Should the Provost choose to accept, modify, and implement any of these recommendations, it is the committee’s expectation that there be an implementation phase and appropriate collaboration between relevant units. Additionally, given the constraints related to enrollment, space, and academic management, it is unlikely that any major changes should occur during the 2017-2018 academic year.