Published: April 25, 2018

There are two challenges Academic Futures has faced over the last year: making sure the committee has the context it needs for its deliberations and weaving the voice of students into the conversation. Happily, these two coincided this past Tuesday at the Academic Futures Committee meeting, as student teams from the Program for Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) gave their final presentations on the future of education.

Vice Provost and Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty Affairs Jeff Cox
Vice Provost and AVC for Faculty Affairs and Convener of the Academic Futures Campus Conversation Jeff Cox

Research & Innovation Office Grand Challenge Director of Strategic Projects Emily Cobabe-Ammann
RIO Director of Strategic Projects and Facilitator of the Academic Futures Campus Conversation Emily CoBabe-Ammann

At the beginning of the spring semester, Rolf Norgaard, a teaching professor, and Lev Szentkirályi, an instructor, inquired whether the Academic Futures Committee would be interested in having teams of PWR undergraduates develop reports on some of the themes that had emerged in the fall. How could we say no? Student teams chose from a variety of topics, including the future of higher education, undergraduate research experiences and elevating arts and humanities at CU.

Over the spring, the teams went to town—they looked at current educational research on their topic, evaluated peer institutions and model programs, identified metrics for success, assessed CU’s current assets and made recommendations to the committee. Their final products included their short presentations to the committee and a full consulting report to be submitted in May.

The presentations by the PWR students were remarkable, not just in terms of the poise and clarity with which the students delivered their reports but also in terms of the caliber of ideas they brought to the committee.  

We heard about current and future trends in higher education, including how students are demanding greater agency in defining their educational paths, essentially un-bundling degree programs and mixing and matching to suit their needs and their interests. We learned about the increasing importance of interdisciplinary studies, with the caution that these programs have to provide a significant level of depth in multiple fields to be effective.

Students spoke about the increased role technology, through blended learning models and online education, can play in undergraduate education, so as to more effectively meet student and teacher needs. We heard about the importance of research experiences for undergraduates in supporting student retention, along with an explication of the critical elements these programs need to be successful. Students outlined the importance of strong arts and humanities programs at CU and the value of service learning as a component of community engagement for students and the university.

All of the teams identified programs across the country that excited them, from Purdue’s Theater Engineering program to UCLA’s Food Law and Policy Clinic to UC Berkeley’s DYI Workshop for faculty to develop online courses. Many of these programs were new to the committee and represent the kind of exploration of working models they need to do their work effectively.

The work done by the PWR students this spring was an experiment, a unique partnership between undergraduates and the campus visioning process. The outcomes surpassed our expectations, with the students presenting all of their research in the context of their own recommendations for where the university should head. We invite you to review these great presentations on the Academic Futures website.

Jeff Cox,
Vice Provost and Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty Affairs
Convener of the Academic Futures Campus Conversation

Emily CoBabe-Ammann,
Director of Strategic Projects for the Research & Innovation Office
Facilitator of the Academic Futures Campus Conversation