Council promotes better undergraduate experience
Navigation doesn't always mean finding your way by the stars.
For students, especially undergraduates, at a large university like U-M, it means finding your way to the resources that will bring you a world-class education.
According to its mission statement, the University's Undergraduate Council (UGC) aims to help students better navigate U-M's diverse and vibrant campus by promoting a culture of academic integrity and creating and enhancing opportunities for collaboration in both academic and extra-curricular activities.
The council was the brainchild of the President's Commission on the Undergraduate Experience, chaired by former Provost Nancy Cantor, and whose report included recommendations that the council is undertaking.
"The council is a vehicle to open dialogue around the campus with faculty, students, and staff," says Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs, and a member of the commission. "We on the commission recognized the excellence currently in place with regard to the undergraduate experience, but that much improvement could be made by getting input from our students. The council was charged with promoting a vigorous effort to promote further excellence in this area."
Ann Marie Sastry, associate professor in the College of Engineering, is the chairwoman of the council. She says that the council will bring together all of the existing programs that help undergraduates and create a forum for new ideas.
"We want to improve navigability of campus," she says "One of our prime objectives is to improve access to, and content of, Internet sites used by undergraduates. Incoming students see the Internet as the portal to the University and its offerings, and expect that information is clear, accessible and up-to-date."
"Earlier generations in the campus community are challenged to catch up with the students in this area," Sastry says.
Referring to the work done by the commission, Sastry explains, "Undergraduates have told us that they are instructed to 'go to the Web' for information, but we don't always provide it in an intuitive way for them to access. So, we'll be meeting with them to map ways to improve."
Constance Cook, director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, is chairwoman of a UGC subcommittee on academic integrity.
"The creation of the subcommittee grows out of a recognition that ethical issues are an important component of undergraduate education," Cook says. "And academic integrity is one aspect of that ethical education."
"The council has asked the subcommittee to consider how to promote a culture of academic integrity throughout the undergraduate experience at U-M, especially by finding ways to familiarize students with U-M values and policies," Cook says. "To help inform that effort, we plan to conduct focus groups with faculty to learn more about their experiences and needs as they promote academic integrity among the students they teach."
Sastry says that the council wants to keep up with current activities and be a sounding board for new ideas, wherever they come from.
"The themes of this year's work speak to our common values in both our research and teaching lives," Sastry says. "Navigation, learning the rules and expectations dovetails with our focus on academic integrity. We look forward to a productive year, and expanding our discussions within the council to faculty and students."