Academic Policies Committee - 15 Oct 09

Official Minutes

Attended by:  Ashwin Patel, Chair, Kevin Nelson, Scott Newman, Julie Luekenga, Jason Mullins, Scott Cohn, Robert Cohen, Anthony Miccoli, Debra Clark, Harry Heil, Martha Violett, , Reid Edwards

Excused:  Gary Pierson, Jessica Schocker

Absent: none

Call To Order:  The meeting was called to order at 3:35pm

Approval:  The minutes from the October 1st, 2009  meeting and the October 15th 2009 agenda were approved.

Old Business

First Year Experience for Students – The discussion for the first year experience for freshman continued, with feedback from the committee members’ departments regarding a requirement for freshman to declare a major.  Not all departments had the chance to meet for official votes.  Those for the requirement believed that undeclared freshman were looking for any kind of area which would give them some kind of focus.  Discussion then turned to the possibility of having students declare an “area of interest.”   Those against the measure felt that enrollment might suffer if students were forced to declare a major, even though they could easily switch.  Others believed that if declaring a major was mandated, that there must be clear language that states the students would not be locked into those majors.  The discussion then turned to 18 year olds’ readiness to declare majors, and pointed out that some institutions prohibit freshmen from declaring majors, and that Western should create a culture that highlights Western’s identity as a liberal arts institution and encourages students to look at their choices and explore their possibilities.  It was pointed out that not all departments at Western fall under the “liberal arts” label, and that the professional programs’ students don’t see Western as a liberal arts institution.

The committee also discussed the problems associated with undeclared majors, who tend to be problematic for advisors, and that undeclared students hurt the college and its departments financially.  Having incoming freshmen declare majors would give the departments themselves more numbers and thus bring each department more resources.  The issue of students who were taking less than a 15 hour load was then raised, and that students taking less than a 15-hour load were hurting Western institutionally because FTEs and headcounts didn’t add up. 

Kevin Nelson pointed out that the average student load has been 12-14 hrs, and that a better path might be to let the Academic Resource Center take on the undeclared majors in Fall 2010, and that the college needed to deal with retention more directly, rather than concentrate solely on students declaring majors; students forced to declare a major wouldn’t necessarily translate to a 5% increase in retention.  Nelson also stated that undeclared advising was “broken,” and that what the college was doing now was not working. 

It was suggested that the best possible approach might be to try different scenarios and pilot programs with smaller groups of students, rather than a unilateral, sweeping approach.  It was also suggested that advising for undeclared majors be done by the Academic Resource Center.  Julie Luekenga stated that it had been done once before, with more focused advising being performed with students who hadn’t majored by their second year. The committee decided to table any motion regarding the first year experience or declaring majors until the November 5th, 2009 meeting, after all department representatives could meet with their respective departments. 

Julie Luekenga then handed out information regarding first year experience programs at Mesa State, Adams State, UNC, Chadron, Bemidji, Western Oregon, Eastern Oregon, U. of Minnesota – Morris, Northern Colorado, Elon, and Drury.  Discussion focused on requirements and whether or not the FYE courses were for credit.  Ashwin Patel agreed to find syllabi for the courses and distribute to the committee. 

The committee agreed that if Western were to adopt an FYE course, it should be for no credit.  

Clarification was asked for regarding where the original charge to Academic Policies originated from, and what our recommendation should look like.  The original charge came from the Senate, and was to explore any and all options in terms of retention for 1st year students;  Academic Policies should explore any and all options of what an FYE course should look like and how it could aid in retention. 

Since discussion had then turned to the role of the Academic Resource Center, Julie Luekenga was asked what an FYE course would look like in a “perfect world.”  Luekenga responded that it would be a 1-credit course that encompassed life skills, and establish a common culture and values emphasizing how to engage in the opportunities a liberal arts college has to offer.  She also stated that the Academic Resource center is currently unequipped to deal with taking on all first year students and second year undeclared majors now. 

The group then discussed the logistics of such a course, including where it would be housed, who should teach it, and what the parameters of the course would be.  It was pointed out that the exact parameters of such a course, if it were offered for credit, would fall under the curriculum committee.  It was then brought to the attention of the committee that peer institutions have FYE programs of the type that were being discussed but that their retention rates were still similar to Western’s. 

The discussion then turned to possible service and/or volunteer programs.  It was pointed out that service/volunteer programs would fall under residence life, and that Academic Policies had begun their conversation during the October 1st meeting with Resident Life programs and retention.  Kevin Nelson then stressed that enrollment and retention requires a blended approach from multiple fronts.  The committee then briefly discussed extending orientation programs to an “orientation week.”

The discussion was tabled. 

A motion to approve the new “PETITION FOR COURSE/CREDIT HOUR OVERLOAD” form, which would now include a section for advisor/chair comments.  The motion was approved unanimously. 

Meeting adjourned at 4:50