Task force seeks to link academics with campus life

The new 17-member Task Force on the First-Year Experience will consider the nature and outcomes of a student’s first-year experience at the U-M and look for ways to improve the intellectual life of undergraduates.

In announcing the formation of the task force, President James J. Duderstadt and Provost Gilbert R. Whitaker Jr. said the group’s work will likely involve assessment of out-of-class experiences of first-year students, with the expectation that the University can make their out-of-class and in-class activities more complementary.

Whitaker notes that the group has been given “a very open charge. Students are valuable members of our community and we need their current perspective. We need to rethink what has become habit. What worked last year may not work next year. The [task force] members can range as widely as they choose.”

The task force also will seek to improve coordination of activities within the academic units and those of the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, and the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Michael Martin, LS&A associate dean for undergraduate education and task force co-chair, said the first goal of the task force is to understand the situation at the U-M, a goal he hopes will be accomplished this summer.

“I will be disappointed if we don’t have any recommendations by the end of the next academic year.” Martin said. It will take more than changing one or two courses, he added.

Martin noted that the task force members are a diverse group, representing students, faculty, the central administration, and staff involved in orientation, introductory courses, advising and residential activities.

Duderstadt said currently there is too much distinction between what happens in class and students’ residential experience. The task force will study what other institutions are doing and make a series of recommendations on what to do at the

U-M to improve campus intellectual life.

Maureen A. Hartford, vice president for student affairs, notes that the first year of college is a “tough transition.” Students may have gotten all As in high school, had their physical needs taken care of, had a room with privacy. A lot is expected of them that first year. What we do to help them through that period does much to shape their experience here and after graduation.”

Serving with Martin, Hartford and co-chair Michael Parsons, College of Engineering associate dean of undergraduate education, are LS&A students Devon L. Archer, Michelle Carpenter and David M. Garcia; College of Engineering student Maria Zamora; William Collins, director, Comprehensive Studies Program; Constance E. Cook, executive assistant to the president;

Pamela T. Horne, director of orientation and of the Campus Information Center; Adrianna Kezar, Mary Markley resident director; Sabine G. MacCormack, the Alice Freeman Professor of History and professor of classical studies;

Paul G. Rasmussen, professor of chemistry and macromolecular science and engineering; Jay L. Robinson, professor of English, English Composition Board; David Schoem, LS&A assistant dean for undergraduate education; Derrick E. Scott, director of the Minority Engineering Program Office, College of Engineering; and Mary Ann Swain, associate vice president for academic affairs.


Leave a comment

Commenting is closed for this article. Please read our comment guidelines for more information.