A plan to immediately engage first-year students with UGA faculty in a small class setting moved through the university governance process in September as the University Council Curriculum Committee and the full council approved a new university-wide undergraduate requirement for First Year Odyssey Seminars.
The one-credit-hour seminars—with an FYOS 1001 course ID—will be offered beginning in fall 2011.
The plan to offer the seminars was developed by a committee that worked for more than two years on this aspect of the institutional process for seeking reaffirmation of UGA’s accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. SACS requires each institution to develop a Quality Enhancement Plan that will significantly improve student learning and the environment supporting student learning.
In a memo to the Curriculum Committee, Rodney Mauricio, a faculty member in the genetics department who has served as chair of the QEP committee, wrote: “We believe that the scale of engaging each of almost 5,000 first-year undergraduates in an academically, institutionally and personally rich experience has the potential to transform our campus….By introducing every incoming undergraduate to the core missions of our university, we believe that students will come to a deeper appreciation for the critical importance of the research, land-grant university.”
At the full council meeting, Mauricio stressed that the process of developing the First Year Seminar program as UGA’s QEP focus had been “bottom-up and inclusive.”
Josh Delaney, president of the Student Government Association, told the council that students are “100 percent behind this proposal” and read a resolution of support passed by SGA just prior to the council meeting.
Additional backing for the proposal came from the UGA Alumni Association. In a survey conducted last year, alumni strongly favored the idea of the first year seminars.
David Lee, vice president for research, led the QEP subcommittee that worked on details of the proposal.
“I believe this program has the potential to make a big difference in the lives of our students early on,” he told the council. “It will help them better understand the research university context in which they will do their learning. We talked about the challenges of such a program. We believe we owe it to our students to do this. They, we and the university will be better off.”
Several faculty at the meeting nonetheless raised questions about faculty participation and compensation, the existing Franklin College First Year Seminars and other issues. Provost Jere Morehead pointed out that SACS requires universities to commit sufficient funds to implement their QEP proposals and that funding from the tuition increase was set aside during budget development. Faculty who volunteer to teach the one-credit-hour seminars will be compensated for teaching overload with a $2,500 salary supplement or with equivalent funds to support travel and research.
Hugh Ruppersburg, senior associate dean in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, said he thinks there will be significant faculty interest in the seminars.
With passage of the FYOS requirement by the council, the QEP process moves on to several next steps. Vice President for Instruction Laura Jolly will work with a team on implementation of the requirement.
“Our group will work in a collaborative way and set up systems to engage students, faculty and other campus partners,” she said. Later this semester, a QEP document that includes detailed assessment and implementation plans will be reviewed by the Leadership Team—composed of UGA senior administrators, with faculty representation—for final approval before being submitted to SACS. In spring semester, a SACS visiting team will arrive to evaluate the plan and provide advice and feedback.
Other University Council action
At its Sept. 23 meeting, the University Council voted to change the spring Commencement dates for 2011 and 2012 to May 13 and May 11, respectively. Both of these dates are on Fridays.
It also amended the verbiage in the Pass/Fail Policy’s Pass/Fail Incentives to Explore Non-Major Course Work. The new language redefines satisfactory progress as “a student who was classified as full time during the preceding academic year and who maintains a cumulative grade point average of 2.0.”
The council also voted to terminate the master of plant protection and pest management degree offered by the department of horticulture (it will still be offered by the departments of entomology, crop and soil sciences, and plant pathology); to accept a new master’s program in biomanufacturing and bioprocessing; to accept a new major in veterinary and biomedical sciences (Ph.D.); to accept a new graduate certificate in water resources and global health; to change the broadcast news major to digital and broadcast journalism; to change the major in telecommunications from media arts to mass media arts; to combine the magazines, newspapers and publication management majors into one major called journalism; to terminate early childhood education (M.Ed.), special education (M.Ed.) and workforce education (M.Ed.) at the Gwinnett Campus; and to terminate the Coca-Cola Center for International Business.