The Fall Conference symposia outlined important issues for the university in the 2011-12 academic year. Faculty, staff and administrators discussed topics such as the Graduation Initiative, technology and reducing textbook costs.
John McGuthry, Chief Information Officer
I&IT has a larger role beyond simply supporting the campus¿ core technologies, which include troubleshooting computer problems, providing wireless internet and managing the email system, CIO John McGuthry said Monday. Technology can be a key partner in the improvement of student services and the evolution of higher education.
With technology, some student services can become ¿invisible.¿ Basic tasks can be automated, exceptions can be built into the rules to allow for flexibility, and processes can be streamlined for students.
McGuthry opened the possibility for technology to play a wider role at the university. He invited the campus community to begin a forward-looking dialogue on networking, the cloud, student services, student data, the university website, social networking, IT support and many other topics.
The statistics are jolting: Less than 60 percent of Cal Poly Pomona students graduate within six years, and traditionally underrepresented groups struggle the most to reach their academic goals.
¿If we had a grade for graduating less than 60 percent, we would be failing,¿ President Michael Ortiz said in his convocation message. ¿Many states have gone to performance budgeting in higher education. We need to avoid this by demonstrating our ability to be efficient and successful.¿
The university is focusing on an ambitious, multipronged strategy to turn the tide: the Graduation Initiative. Ortiz calls it ¿our highest priority, now and in the foreseeable future.¿ It was the focal point of two workshops during Fall Conference: a general overview of the initiative and the critical role of advising.
The goal of the initiative is to improve six-year graduation rates and decrease the gap between the rates of the general undergraduate student population and underrepresented groups.
¿Student success is at the heart of our mission,¿ Provost Marten denBoer said during the overview session. ¿They are the future workforce in California, so their success is our success.¿
Underpinning the effort is the Student Success Dashboard, a website that will simplify analysis of the many indicators of student performance, such as persistence and graduation rates, GPA, academic standing and average unit loads. The dashboard features an array of student characteristics, including gender, ethnicity, residency, college, major and academic standing. The project, under the direction of Data Warehouse administrator Diane Carter, has received funding from The Kellogg Legacy Project Endowment. The dashboard is scheduled to debut in late October.
Manufacturing engineering Professor Victor Okhuysen is serving as the Graduation Initiative Steering Committee co-chair and faculty coordinator. He encouraged his colleagues to get involved and have a voice in how the university should enhance education and improve graduation rates.
¿We have a great opportunity to help a lot of people,¿ he said. ¿For example, if we impact 250 people, we can improve the graduation rate by 5 percentage points. In turn, their impact on the community will be significant. These are people who contribute to society and pay taxes.¿
The steering committee needs volunteers to contribute ideas and help shape policy in five areas:
* Learning Communities: Learning communities improve student success, particularly among underrepresented students, by increasing student engagement and improving students¿ understanding of academic expectations. For more information, contact Okhuysen at email@example.com or (909) 869-2698.
* An Early Warning System to Address At-Risk Student Behavior: The committee¿s objectives include determining the leading indicators of undergraduates¿ success and establishing a way to measure and track these indicators. The information will be shared with students, faculty and academic advisors. Best practices will be developed to flag potential problems. For more information, contact Kathy Street at firstname.lastname@example.org or (909) 869-2572.
* Enriching Courses to Improve Student Success: The objective is to first identify ¿bottleneck¿ courses in which a significant number of registered students do not meet the learning outcomes and then to boost students¿ performance. For more information, contact Okhuysen at email@example.com or (909) 869-2698.
* Bronco Activity Record (MyBAR) for Student Engagement: MyBAR is a system that records co-curricular student activities. Students will be able to look at their record and learn about every campus organization, and the impact of their activities on their academic performance can be assessed. For more information, contact Dora Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or (909) 869-3601.
* Advising: Faculty and staff shared their ideas about what works, what doesn¿t, and what the university should do ensure that the process works to everyone¿s benefit.
The Role of Advising
Faculty and staff offered suggestions on how to improve advising. Among the greatest challenges they cited were time constraints and caseload, and an inability to be proactive. ¿Some students who could do really well don¿t get the attention they deserve,¿ one participant noted.
Others said degree progress reports often do not paint an accurate picture of the classes needed for graduation, especially when a student contends that information contained on the report is not accurate. Another problem involves students who enter the university in one major with the intent of changing into an impacted major, which inevitably delays the student¿s progress toward graduation even if he/she is among the minority to make the change.
Participants were asked to describe an ideal model for advising. One suggested that students be given a four-year class-by-class schedule that they could shape to meet their needs. When class availability did not conform to demand, colleges would receive an alert.
The session ended as intended ¿ the beginning of a yearlong dialogue and exchange of ideas on how to improve advising. Faculty and staff are encouraged to play an active role in that dialogue. For more information, contact Claudia Pinter-Lucke at email@example.com or at (909) 869-3328.
Affordable Learning Initiative
The Affordable Learning Initiative, a CSU-wide effort, is an attempt to show faculty and students that less expensive ¿ in some cases free ¿ textbook alternatives exist. Digital textbooks, open courseware resources, publishers’ repositories, ebooks, the book rental program at the bookstore, and textbooks on reserve in the library are all more financially feasible.
The ALI website has information for faculty and students, as well as a video introduction from denBoer and links to testimonials from professors Sandra Emerson and Renford Reese.
Emerson highlights her use of Powermutt, ¿a cross between an introductory political science research methods textbook and an online resource for teaching and learning such methods,¿ which provides flexibility, interactivity and affordability.
Typically, CSU students pay more than $800 per year for books, denBoer says. Faculty, who make the final decision about which texts and course materials to use, have the power to help cut those costs.
For those who are digitally challenged and therefore reluctant to embrace change, the eLearning team can provide training and guidance, says April McKettrick, the administrator in charge. ¿The eLearning staff can help show the faculty how to engage students electronically,¿ she says. ¿We¿re here to help.¿
Advance Grant Roundtable Discussion
Faculty discussed best practices they learned from the Advance grant, which aims to promote faculty diversity in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, as well as increase leadership opportunities. Discussion topics included recruitment, mentoring, retention, the speaker series, improving department climate, and family friendly policies. Results of the STEM Faculty Climate survey were also presented.
State budget cuts and the recession limited faculty hiring on campus over the past few years. As a result, the Advance grant shifted its focus from faculty recruitment to a speaker series that identified potential candidates for future openings. As an indirect recruiting tool, the speaker series acquainted the university to doctoral and postdoctoral students who otherwise would not have considered teaching at Cal Poly Pomona.
The five-year, $3.3 million Advance grant was awarded in 2006 from the National Science Foundation.
(Top photo: John W. McGuthry, chief information officer, talks about the role of technology at a Fall Conference workshop Sept. 19. Second photo: Claudia Pinter-Lucke speaks at the Graduation Initiative discussion. Third photo: Professor Lisa Alex speaks during the Graduation Initiative discussion. Bottom photo: Faculty members share their experiences in faculty mentoring at the Advance grant roundtable discussion.)