Board of Regents

Education Committee Minutes, October 2007

University of Wisconsin-River Falls
River Falls, Wisconsin
October 4, 2007

Regent Davis convened the meeting of the Education Committee at 1:37 p.m.  Regents Davis, Crain, and Thomas were present.

1. Approval of the minutes of the October 4, 2007, meeting of the Education Committee

Approval of the minutes from September 6, 2007, were deferred to the November meeting because the Committee lacked a quorum.

2. UW-River Falls Presentation – Living the Promise:  The Global Connection

Regent Davis welcomed people to the Education Committee meeting by noting how beautiful the UW-River Falls campus was.  She then turned to UW-River Falls Interim Provost Connie Foster to introduce the campus’s presentation on “Living the Promise:  The Global Connection.”  Provost Foster described UW-River Falls’ efforts to educate its students as future leaders who would interact more intentionally in a global world.  These efforts were an integral part of UW-River Falls’ new strategic plan, expressed through the plan’s third goal to “expand global literacy and engagement.”  This goal included three initiatives:  1) to provide opportunities for a greater number of students and faculty to pursue international travel and study abroad; 2) to increase the number of international students at UW-River Falls; and 3) to internationalize the curriculum and campus programming.

Provost Foster then introduced Mr. Brent Greene, Director of International Education Programs and of the new Global Connections Center.  Mr. Greene remarked that the places in the world chosen for travel and study abroad by UW-River Falls students reflected the institution’s values and soul, adding that “the world is our classroom.”  He detailed the kinds of study abroad experiences available to River Falls students, ranging from short-courses, to service-learning projects, to traditional semesters abroad.

Dr. Kristine Butler, Professor of Modern Languages, next presented a short video of unscripted campus voices describing the impact of study abroad on their lives.  She then introduced three students and asked them to share their study abroad experiences with the Education Committee.  Nick Bisley, a senior Conservation major, recounted his experiences in China, where he participated in a service project helping to develop eco-tourism in a remote area of the country.  He described his interactions with yak-herders, their ancient culture, and the ways that small understandings across language barriers led to greater cultural respect.  The experience helped him to refine his career goals and his commitment to working further on conservation.   

Rachel Mottet, a senior majoring in Animal Science, explained her cultural immersion in the United Kingdom, where she developed an independent research project growing out of her love of horseback riding, and culminating in an 80-page research paper on the increasingly controversial topic of fox hunting in England.  At the end of her four months in the United Kingdom, she toured on her own to nine additional countries.

Katie Leisch, a senior majoring in Health & Human Performance and Biology, described for the Committee her trip to Uganda as part of a service-learning project with the global non-profit “Building Tomorrow.”  The organization works with local governments to build new schools.  UW-River Falls was one of three campuses sending teams of students to Uganda in January 2007.  Ms. Leisch recounted in emotional terms the human connections made with Ugandan children in a very short time, the eye-opening exposure to the devastation wrought by various public health crises such as HIV-Aids and polluted water, and the extreme poverty in which many Ugandan families live.  The event was life-changing for her as it lifted her out of her comfort zone, forced her to confront her own race as a white person for the first time, and compelled her to pursue a career in public health.

Mr. Greene concluded the presentation by noting that students who studied abroad experienced phenomenal academic and personal growth, and he thanked the Regents for their support and advocacy.  Regent Davis thanked each of the presenters, observing how impressed she was with the informed global perspectives they provided.  Remarking on how powerful the students’ testimony was, Regent Crain asked if they were giving presentations to other students, both at UW-River Falls and especially to secondary and elementary school students.  Ms. Leisch responded that she was doing more outreach as a result of her experience, in addition to continued fund-raising for the “Building Tomorrow” program. 

Regent Thomas asked the students whether they experienced financial barriers to studying abroad, as so many students do.  Ms. Mottet and Mr. Bisley explained that they were able to work abroad, in exchange for living expenses, and that loans taken out to travel were well worth it.  Mr. Greene reported that many students do struggle with finding the resources necessary to study abroad.  There are some funds ear-marked at the federal level but not enough to meet the demand and need.

In response to a question from Regent Davis, the students responded that their experiences helped them to crystallize career choices they intended to pursue upon graduation, bringing home the relevance of their majors in very different ways than in-class learning could.  Regent Davis commended their passion and expressed her hope that they would continue to share their stories with other students

3. UW-Stout:  Summary of Academic Quality Improvement Program Accreditation Review and Institutional Report on General Education

The Committee heard next from UW-Stout Provost Julie Furst-Bowe, who described Stout’s re-accreditation process.  UW-Stout is the only UW institution to use the Academic Quality Improvement Program, known as AQIP, which is an alternative reaccreditation process offered by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) focusing on continuous quality improvement.  Provost Furst-Bowe explained that, given UW-Stout’s long-time commitment to continuous quality improvement, the AQIP process works extremely well for the institution.  For the past five years, UW-Stout has participated in AQIP’s strategic planning forums, reporting annually on action projects and documenting processes and results in an AQIP Systems Portfolio.  In May 2007, an AQIP evaluation team visited the University of Wisconsin-Stout.  Following that visit, AQIP declared UW-Stout to be in full compliance with all AQIP criteria and with all HLC accreditation standards.    

Provost Furst-Bowe indicated that one of the distinguishing features of AQIP is that it requires annual reporting, in contrast to the more traditional Higher Learning Commission accreditation process which occurs every ten years.  It also allows the institution to set its own agenda, goals and priorities while still meeting accreditation criteria, and facilitates campus-wide involvement in the process.  Stout was commended on many fronts, including for its development and assessment of student learning outcomes, its innovative use of technology for teaching and learning, its placement rates in high-demand fields, its broad-based participatory strategic planning, and for being a data-driven campus.  The AQIP review did not indicate any areas requiring follow-up but did signal several areas of improvement, including succession planning for leadership positions and the refinement of data collection to focus on the most important measures.

Discussion focused on whether the AQIP process would be appropriate for other UW institutions.  Senior Vice President Martin observed that the continuous improvement approach is less common in higher education compared to the corporate world but that AQIP was a particularly good match for UW-Stout because of its long-term institutional focus on continuous quality improvement.

4. Report of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Senior Vice President Rebecca Martin began her report by noting that the analysis of routine committee work would be deferred until November when more members of the Committee would be present.  She further observed that the discussion would also benefit from the full Board’s decision on its 2008 meeting schedule, which would be made the next day.  She then shared a handout with the Committee which listed the full range of priority topics and areas identified at the September meeting.  As Committee members reviewed the list, Dr. Martin noted that the Strategic Framework Think Tank teams would be looking at some of the areas identified by the Committee.  She added that two of the topics—charter schools and accountability—would be taken up in November by the full Board. 

Committee members asked that Think Tank representatives join the Education Committee, where possible, to discuss with them the priority issues encompassing collaboration, operational excellence and resources, and preparing students.  Senior Vice President Martin responded that she would try to arrange that for the November and December meetings, thus giving the Education Committee the opportunity to provide some input into the Strategic Framework process.  She also noted that President Reilly had put together several task forces to supplement the Think Tanks, including one on Tuition and Financial Aid, and another on the UW Colleges.  On the topic of expanding or different roles for UW institutions, she added that the Committee would examine the issue of comprehensive institutions offering clinical doctorates at the December meeting.

Regent Davis posed the question of what was meant by diversity, and how it differed from multiculturalism as the UW System moved forward with its post-2008 planning.  UW-Oshkosh Provost Lane Earns stated that he hoped the System could move beyond Plan 2008 in its conceptual framework, especially in the context of all the data institutions were collecting through the Equity Scorecard and the Climate Survey.  Regent Davis said that she would prefer calling the successor to Plan 2008 a “Strategic Framework for Diversity Post-2008.”

In response to a question from Regent Crain, Senior Vice President Martin noted that the topic of graduate education might warrant the Committee’s attention in terms of what graduate education throughout the UW System should look like, not just at UW-Madison and -Milwaukee.  Such a discussion could complement the report on overall academic program array the Committee would hear in November.

UW-Platteville Provost Carol Sue Butts asked that the Committee spend time looking at online delivery of academic programs, adding that the growth in higher education is coming through alternative delivery of programs to time- and place-bound adult learners.  Regent Davis agreed that the topic belonged on the list under topics in teaching and learning, and further added clarification to several other topics:  the transfer topic would focus on transfer within UW institutions; the teacher education topic should be a part of the preparing students topic and the Committee should invite the input of Regent Burmaster given its policy implications.  She also recommended that the prioritizing of the list of priorities should wait until November when more Committee members would be present.

Regent Thomas returned to the distinction between diversity and multiculturalism, observing that, in her view, the former topic referred to attracting and retaining faculty and students of color, while the latter referred to how the UW educates its white majority students on issues of tolerance and inclusion.  Regent Crain asked that the next iteration of the priorities speak more broadly to the educational environment for UW students, to think about what traditional vs. non-traditional students needed, and to query what a university education ought to be in this day and age.

Regent Davis observed that some of the topics on the priority list were there to provide contextual understanding for the Regents in support of their stewardship and policy-making roles.  She asked Senior Vice President Martin and staff to come back to the Committee next month with a refined and re-organized list that would include basically three categories:  1) Priority Topics that would be covered by one or more of the Think Tanks charged with developing the UW System’s Strategic Framework to Advantage Wisconsin; 2) Topics that would require Committee action; and 3) topics that the Committee would take up for information purposes to deepen its understanding of major policy areas.  She proposed that next month, the Committee would work to achieve consensus on a set of 2007-08 priorities, keeping in mind that the number of topics the Committee would be able to take up would hinge on how many meetings the Regents would have.

Regent Davis thanked those present for a productive discussion and the meeting adjourned at 3:15 p.m.