SENATE Reports from the Annual Meeting April 17, 1996

Dr. Rodin announced that Provost Stanley Chodorow had been required to fly to the West Coast on short notice, to fill in for Trustees Chair Roy Vagelos at a major University affair. She delivered the following remarks on his behalf.

From the Provost: Updating the Senate on the 21st Century Project

The impetus for the 21st Century project is to prepare our students for the challenges of the next century. Last year, the Provost's Council on Undergraduate Education determined that such an effort called for:

This year, Council of Undergraduate Deans has taken on the responsibility of overseeing the further delineation of these goals and their subsequent implementation. Given our time constraints today, I will focus only on three of these.

Curricular Planning

First, curricular planning is going well. The four undergraduate schools have spent the past year developing "University Minors." First proposed by the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education, these are joint minors between departments in two different schools. They enable a student enrolled in one school to take courses in another in a structured, intellectually coherent way.

In addition to these efforts, the Council of Undergraduate Deans recently solicited directly from the faculty proposals for new courses that involve faculty from multiple disciplines and multiple schools that eventually could serve as a focus for a University minor.

The four undergraduate schools also are considering the development of additional joint undergraduate degree programs similar to the two that already exist--Management and Technology and International Studies and Business. Wharton and Nursing, for example, are planning a joint program in health care management.

The Provost has also established a committee of faculty and students from the four undergraduate schools to consider the teaching of foreign languages across the curriculum. Known as FLAC, the program would join WATU--writing across the University--and similar initiatives in numeracy and speech--to create four key elements of undergraduate education.

FLAC courses most probably would appear as sections within upper-level courses, generally for seniors, and would be taught in a language other than English. A history course, for example, might include a section taught in Russian.

The target opening for FLAC courses would be fall 1998, with perhaps one or two experimental courses offered in spring 1997.

This ongoing process of cultivating interdisciplinary programs, minors, and foreign language courses will take time, particularly as the undergraduate deans also intend to look at the obstacles that students face when they try to take courses outside of their home schools. The deans hope to reduce or eliminate these obstacles while recognizing that school faculties must still be the principal determiners of the curriculum for their students.

College Planning Board

The Board has completed its work and has proposed the development of what it calls "collegiate communities." The idea is to provide students--both those who live on and off campus--with human-scale communities that would integrate students' educational and social experiences and also serve as sites for the provision of some student services. The Board believes that these smaller communities could increase the interaction between faculty and students across schools and disciplines, particularly outside of the classroom. It sees other advantages as well:

These collegiate communities probably would be most important for freshmen and sophomores--it is expected that upperclassmen will be more involved with their schools and departments--but these communities could provide juniors and seniors with a home if they wanted one; in particular, they might bring off-campus students on campus more frequently either for social or intellectual activities.

In the course of their work, the Collegiate Board developed four pilots, two of which are currently underway and a third, which will begin next fall. These four pilots are intended to test four categories of student experience--writing, research, technology and community service--to learn whether and how these could be part of the proposed collegiate communities. The four pilots are:

Writers House, which is a non-residential center, or hub, that brings together a widely disparate group of students, faculty and staff who share an interest in the creative word. Affiliation with the Writers House is designed to be independent of school or student choice of discipline and might be one way of catering to a variety of intellectual interests and personal needs.

Science and Technology Wing: This program is currently housed in King's Court/English House and was established as a venue for students outside of the classroom to discuss science, engineering and technological innovation and its effects on society. This is a first year program that has effectively kept significant numbers of its former freshmen involved in its ongoing program, connected in large part by technology--in short, a virtual community. For fall 1996, 50 former first-year residents who are now upperclassmen have chosen to continue to live together on two floors of a High Rise and to participate in the program.

EFFECT: The goals of this project are to promote research and to create networks among students engaged in such work as well as with faculty directors of student research, and to give students a forum for presenting and discussing their work. It will be housed next year in Van Pelt. While it is expected to enhance an already strong commitment to independent scholarship among Van Pelt residents, its more ambitious goal is to reach outward to serve as a hub for student research generally at Penn. The idea is to see how students working on research projects can form a community and what sorts of activities such a community would support.

Finally the last project, Civic College House, will not be tested until fall 1997. This project is to serve as a resident core for a body of students who are interested enough in community and public service to make both a residential and curricular commitment to it.

Student Services Reengineering

The undergraduate deans in conjunction with the Office of the Executive Vice President and the Vice Provost for University Life are overseeing an effort to restructure and integrate student services into a streamlined system that should provide better services at less cost. This effort requires looking at the services needed by a student at each stage of his or her university career--from recruitment to graduation and beyond--and determining who should deliver them, when and where. Work teams are being established to assess the quality of the service given and to recommend its possible restructuring.

For example, the team on how we communicate with students from the marketing stage through recruitment, admissions and orientation is now underway. It will look at all the publications and other types of communication that are produced with a view to their effectiveness, need, and cost. There is a team looking at the way the Admissions Office processes applications and another at the various operations within Student Financial Services.

One of the major questions to be answered is: where are student services best offered? In some cases, it may be in the schools. In others, in the proposed collegiate communities. Some may still best be provided centrally. The undergraduate deans will be discussing this particular issue in a retreat at the end of this month.

Also from the Faculty Senate Annual Meeting:
Senate Chair's Report.
President's Report.
Senate Chair-Elect Report.
Senate Annual Meeting Synopsis.


Volume 42 Number 29
April 23, 1996

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