February 18, 2013


B. Questions to the President.

From Bill Beckner (mathematics): “I would like to ask the president how he sees the suggested recommendations from the study in this news release might directly impact our programs.”

President Powers explained that the Ohio State University President Gordon Gee chairs an American Council on Education (ACE) commission on student success. Higher education leaders have met over a period of time to discuss current challenges in education. President Powers noted that UT Austin has done a great deal already by starting a flagship network at the Association of American Universities (AAU), which has grown to include about seventeen other universities, to discuss issues such as blended and online classes. The ACE commission is posing questions such as: how can a tier-one flagship university respond to technology, budget challenges, and similar issues? A report was released and presented at five different places in the country, including UT Austin.

While the president acknowledged that the report contained good information, he did not think that all of the recommendations would work for all colleges, large and small, or regardless of their constituencies, and he did not agree with every detail. He said the report was not prescriptive, but it allowed different campuses to use what was beneficial for their particular situations and needs. President Powers did note, though, that student success, graduation rates, etc. should be taken very seriously as has been done at UT with the Commission of 125, curriculum reforms, and other measures. For anything to get done, there needs to be a champion who really focuses on the issues, as Professor Paul Woodruff (classics, and inaugural dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies) had done with the undergraduate core curriculum. Further examples noted by the president included the course transformation project being led by Professor Gretchen Ritter (vice provost for undergraduate education and faculty governance) and Professor Harrison Keller (vice provost of higher education policy and research), the handling of the budgetary process by the Office of the Provost, and the championing of student success, enrollment strategies, and graduation rates being initiated by Professor David Laude (senior vice provost for enrollment and graduation management and professor, chemistry and biochemistry). President Powers felt that UT Austin’s approach was very compatible with the recommendations in the report. He reiterated that the report was not dictating specific courses of action, but he thought the report included mostly good ideas that may or may not be suitable for adoption at UT Austin.

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