Committee discusses what all KSU grads should have in common

Kristine Gill

A new president, a new provost and a new mission statement mean a new approach to undergraduate education.

Part of that approach will center on the results of a new committee’s evaluation of the current undergraduate experience. Put together at the beginning of the semester by Provost Robert Frank, the 21st Century Undergraduate Education Committee is discussing what all Kent State graduates should have in common.

The committee is made up of more than a dozen faculty and staff from various colleges who have been meeting weekly to discuss possible changes to Kent State’s undergraduate education.

“The committee’s goals are to examine and articulate what our philosophy of undergraduate education should be,” Frank said. “A simple analogy would be to take a Kent State student in Chicago, in Kent and in Tokyo and see what would be the characteristics of their experiences at Kent State.”

Once the committee has outlined possible goals, discussions with stakeholders will take place, and a curriculum will ultimately be designed to meet those goals.

Verna Fitzsimmons, an associate professor for the College of Technology, is the committee chair. She said the committee has to define what a Kent State graduate should look like before designing an undergraduate education to serve them.

“When you hear about a student from MIT, or any university, you automatically have some preconceived idea of how they are,” she said. “This group is not going to decide what the Kent State student should look like, but we’re looking at models of other universities to present to stakeholders.”

Fitzsimmons added that students who run into each other at the Hub should immediately have something in common about their experience at the university.

“It’s not necessarily that we’ll all be reading the same book,” said Jonathan Selinger, the committee’s facilitator. “But it might be that we want everyone from Kent State to have some writing ability or knowledge of other cultures or some other kinds of broader-based skills that will help them with not just the beginning stages of their careers, but all through their lives.”

As facilitator, Selinger provides the group with research and models from other universities outlining their philosophy and goals for an undergraduate education.

The committee met with John Tagg, author of The Learning Paradigm College, two weeks ago to discuss research he’s done on the shift of emphasis from instruction to learning.

“That kind of instructional approach helps to achieve these kinds of outcomes that make a long term impression on students,” Selinger said.

Selinger said every university needs to go through this type of self-examination every few years.

“I think it’s natural that every university should periodically re-examine its requirements and what it expects students to learn,” he said. “It’s natural because we have a new president and a new provost.”

As large as the task sounds, the provost gave the committee an April 11 due date for its report. Selinger said the committee will present some ideas to a group of stakeholders made up of faculty, staff and a few undergraduate students, before the final report is due.

“In parallel with us, there is another committee that’s working on trying to design the first year experience to match those goals,” Selinger said. “In the fall there will be yet another committee that works on revisions to the LER requirements.”

Contact student affairs reporter Kristine Gill at [email protected].