Academic Policies Committee - 01 Oct 09

Official Minutes

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

Excused:  N/A

Absent: none

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

Approval:  The minutes from the September 3, 2009 meeting and the October 1, 2009 agenda were approved.

Old Business

First Year Experience for Students – The committee continued its discussion for a first year experience class for incoming students.  A number of different options were discussed, including outdoor leadership and teambuilding, community and campus service (including peer mentoring), or any combination thereof in a volunteer program.   It was pointed out that students may not be leaving Western due to a lack of essential skills, but instead because of a lack of belonging.  The options discussed spoke directly to a perception that incoming freshmen lacked a sense of community or class identity, and that the students most likely to leave Western felt a lack of support.  It was unclear whether or not the students felt a lack of support from Residential Life, academics, peers, or the institution in general.  The committee also discussed whether or not any kind of FYE program should be offered, and if so, for credit.  According to previous reports from outside consultants, a for-credit class statistically helped with retention; but it was pointed out that offering any program for-credit would create a burden on departments and faculty.

Current orientation and Residential Life programs were also discussed, as was the length of the orientation itself, and whether or not extending orientation might help to increase student interest and ultimately retention.  Gary Pierson explained that the Res. Life staff is expected to implement programming on their floors designed to engage residents.  He was in favor of exploring the possibility of a pilot program to evaluate the impact of Res. Life programming.

Another possibility to further engage students was raised by Harry Heil, who offered the following suggestions:

  1. Every incoming freshman should declare a major; even if they decided to change their major later, students would still be more engaged in an academic community
  2. Dorms should be divide up according to majors; increasing a sense of unity among majors
  3. Any outreach programs should be student-run, via a mentoring program.

Julie Luekenga asked that the committee keep essential skills under consideration during the process.  She will be working with Kevin Nelson and Gary Pierson to find FYE models that include community service components. 

The committee was reminded that in order for the FYE experience to remain under the purview of Academic Policies, it must be for-credit and/or a graduation requirement.

Scott Newman made a motion to consider requiring Freshmen to declare a major.  The motion was seconded. 

Meeting adjourned at 4:58pm