Compass Institute - 2010 Post Institute Write Up

On November 10-12, 2010, approximately 110 higher educators came together for the UW System’s Compass Institute.  The participants comprised faculty, academic staff, and administrators from the UW System’s 14 campus-based institutions, and UW System Administration.  Also present were colleagues from the System’s national partner, the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U); the two other Compass state systems, the California State and the Oregon University Systems; and workshop leaders from Massachusetts, Oregon and New York.

View Compass Institute full agenda (pdf)

The Compass Institute was convened as a part of the grant project Give Students a Compass:  A Tri-State Partnership for College Learning, General Education, and Underserved Student Success.  The Compass grant is one of the UW System’s signature projects in its collaboration with AAC&U on the LEAP Campaign (Liberal Education and America’s Promise). 

The Institute was designed to feature, celebrate, and advance the good work in which UW System institutions are engaged on:  Curricular Redesign; Inclusive Excellence; High-Impact Practices; Underserved Student Success.  In general, the Institute brought people together to dialogue on how we can work together to make sure all our students persist and graduate from our institutions with as relevant a 21st-century liberal education as we can give them. 

The program included an intentional balance of presentation and interactive sessions featuring UW System people, as well as colleagues from beyond Wisconsin to bring a valuable external perspective to the work we are doing.  In addition to keynote addresses from Estela Mara Bensimon, Professor and Director of the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California, and Ken O’Donnell, Associate Dean in the California State University Office of the Chancellor, the Compass Institute featured sessions on inclusive curricular transformation, the politics and pitfalls of change initiatives, high-impact practices, and outcomes-based assessment, led by nationally recognized consultant Peggy Maki.

The program also included “team time.”  Each participating UW institution submitted proposals for a team and a project working towards Compass goals.  Embedded in the Institute schedule for the two-plus days was dedicated team time, during which campus teams worked on their projects, including the development of next steps towards implementation upon return to their home institutions. 

In the end—at the heart of the Compass project—is the working hypothesis that state systems can serve as generative catalysts for change, in collaboration with, and supported at the campus level. For a creative and persuasive framing of that hypothesis, check out Ken O’Donnell’s keynote presentation, “Mobilizing Change in Higher Education” (35.1 MB .ppt). Judging from the participants’ high energy, commitment to student learning and success, and willingness to engage with the big questions and challenges that continue to vex higher educators, the Institute affirmed that working hypothesis while also confirming that, in the end, this is all a work in progress—Compass, LEAP, and Inclusive Excellence—and we still have a lot of work to do!

The Compass Institute was made possible through the generous funding of the UW System Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, AAC&U, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Lumina Foundation.