Issue Date: Mar 20, 2006
By Ashanti M. Alvarez, Greg Trevor
In a 10-1 vote, the Rutgers Board of Governors approved President Richard L. McCormick’s proposals to enhance the quality of undergraduate education across the university’s New Brunswick/Piscataway campus. The recommendations reflect the president’s vision to remake Rutgers as a “new public research university.”
“We envision a campus in which students are empowered, faculty are reconnected to undergraduates and the public gains a much clearer understanding of a Rutgers education,” McCormick said. “We will bring the more than 26,000 undergraduate students in New Brunswick/Piscataway into full participation in the dynamic life of discovery and of service to society that characterizes Rutgers at its best.” The board approved the president’s recommendations at a special March 10 meeting.
A single School of Arts and Sciences will serve undergraduates throughout Rutgers University's largest campus, uniting all arts and sciences faculty and students with a common academic mission.
Uniform admissions and graduation requirements will apply to all arts and sciences undergraduates. Students will have full access to programs and services, no matter where they choose to live. All first-year students in New Brunswick/Piscataway will have an opportunity to take special seminar courses taught by senior faculty. And a new residential college will serve Rutgers women with world-class educational programs.
McCormick proposed the creation of the Douglass Residential College. Located on the Douglass campus, it will provide special academic and co-curricular programs for women students who choose to be a part of the residential college. These programs also will be open to students across the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus, regardless of where they choose to live.
“It is clear that there is value both to our students and to Rutgers in upholding the tradition and spirit of the New Jersey College for Women and Douglass College even as we establish a single, degree-granting School of Arts and Sciences,” McCormick said. “Based on Rutgers’ long tradition of providing educational opportunities for women in all fields, the Douglass Residential College offers one model for learning communities and, more specifically, for other residential colleges that may develop in New Brunswick/Piscataway.”
The proposed change to Douglass College was a contentious topic throughout last semester’s discussions. “It is a compromise. Not everyone will find it perfect but I seek your support on it,” McCormick said.
After the board’s action, McCormick announced three appointments. He named Barry Qualls as interim vice president of undergraduate education. Qualls is dean of humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences-New Brunswick and chaired the Task Force on Undergraduate Education.
McCormick also named Michael Beals director of implementation and chair of the steering committee in charge of implementing the reforms. Beals is dean for educational initiatives in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences-New Brunswick and served on the task force as the structure working group co-chair. Cheryl Wall, professor of English, will serve as vice chair. And Lea Stewart, professor of communication, will head a committee concerning nontraditional students.
Earlier in the week, McCormick appointed internationally known scientist Joan W. Bennett to serve as an associate vice president for academic affairs responsible for women-centered initiatives in science, technology, engineering and math.
Most of the changes will apply to the undergraduate class that enters the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus in fall 2007. McCormick said that the implementation steering committee will move aggressively to ensure the necessary changes are in effect by that date.
McCormick stressed that transformation calls for “clear accountability measures” and pledged that one of at least a dozen implementation subcommittees will be responsible in years to come for tracking and publicly reporting measures, such as graduation rates, faculty and student participation in first-year seminars, student satisfaction, use of student services and advising, and diversity measures of future classes.
McCormick’s recommendations to improve undergraduate education on the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus include:
• Establishment of the School of Arts and Sciences. All arts and sciences undergraduates in New Brunswick/Piscataway will receive their degrees from this school.
• Unified admissions standards, general education criteria and graduation requirements for all arts and sciences students in New Brunswick/Piscataway. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences will have the authority to establish these standards.
• More participation by arts and sciences faculty in undergraduate education, consistent with the role of faculty at peer research universities. Faculty will have greater opportunities to focus time and energy on undergraduates.
• Cook College renamed the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and continuing as a distinct professional school within Rutgers-New Brunswick/Piscataway.
• A campuswide honors program for all undergraduates to serve as a magnet for high-achieving students.
• A core curriculum for undergraduates, developed by the faculty.
• Improved student services throughout New Brunswick/Piscataway. Deans, staff, facilities and other resources at each residential campus will maximize quality and convenience.
• Creation of a first-year seminar program open to all first-year students in New B Brunswick/Piscataway. Highly regarded senior faculty will teach these one-credit courses, which will immediately connect first-year students to the university’s rich academic and research opportunities. McCormick has indicated he hopes to teach a first-year seminar.
• Encouraging Rutgers students to end their undergraduate careers with a “capstone experience,” such as a senior thesis, a research project or a service learning experience.
• Acceleration of plans to expand the student center on the Livingston campus, a top priority of Livingston students. McCormick announced a 2007 groundbreaking for the project.
The final recommendations resulted from unprecedented campuswide discussion among students, faculty, staff and alumni. These discussions followed the July 2005 release of a 178-page report developed by the Task Force on Undergraduate Education, appointed in April 2004 by McCormick and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Philip Furmanski. After the task force released its report, students, faculty, staff and alumni discussed its recommendations in depth at nearly 40 hearings, forums and meetings organized by university groups. Several Rutgers community members produced alternative proposals.
“We have held an extraordinary and lively discussion over the past eight months,” McCormick said. “The conversation has been enlightening and important and has revealed some valuable insights.” McCormick said his recommendations reflect the comments that he received from students, faculty, staff, alumni and university organizations, particularly the University Senate, the New Brunswick Faculty Council and the Rutgers Board of Trustees.
Furmanski said the president’s recommendations will reduce substantially the challenges caused by the university’s present structure, a system of arbitrary hurdles that confuses students and hinders their access to academic programs and other opportunities.
“These much-needed, decisive reforms will break down many barriers and significantly enhance opportunities for generations of Rutgers undergraduates,” Furmanski said.
Furmanski also praised McCormick’s leadership. “The president has shown tremendous courage in his unflagging commitment to reforming undergraduate education at Rutgers and creating an environment that best serves our students,” Furmanski said.
To accomplish the transformation of undergraduate education, the university will marshal existing resources and will make many of these changes a priority in the university’s next capital campaign, McCormick said.
This article was published in the Mar 20, 2006 edition of the Rutgers Focus and is available online at http://urwebsrv.rutgers.edu/focus/article/link/1781/