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Northwestern University

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Undergraduate Research

University-sponsored funds for undergraduate student research this year will surpass $1 million for the first time, having grown from about $300,000 a decade ago. The University awarded summer research grants to 214 students, nearly doubling the number of students who received such grants five years ago. Additionally, the Alumnae of Northwestern University have established the “Alumnae Centennial Endowment for Undergraduate Research” with a goal of raising $1 million, and funds for undergraduate language grants, which the Task Force also specifically cited, have more than doubled to $50,000 from $20,000.

Graduation Requirements

The School of Communication (SoC) faculty in May unanimously approved a proposal to reduce the number of credits undergraduates need to accumulate from 45 units to 42 units, while at the same time standardizing major and elective requirements across the school. The SoC faculty cited Task Force recommendations regarding establishing reasonable academic workloads as a means of improving students’ academic experience. Revised requirements for each major will be developed this summer and reviewed at the first faculty meeting in the fall. Additionally, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (WCAS) has convened an ad hoc committee on degree requirements that is using the Task Force report as a framework for starting its work, which will continue into the 2016-17 academic year. Members of the Undergraduate Council have begun to examine AP credits and language requirements across schools.

Academic Calendar

Stakeholders across the University have examined the Task Force recommendation, identifying potential concerns, benefits, and challenges with the 10-5-5-10 proposal. Campus dialogue has been robust and has included feedback from the deans of the six undergraduate schools, based on faculty input, engagement by the Faculty Senate, and input from numerous other schools, departments, units, and individuals, including submissions to undergradtaskforce@northwestern.edu. The core issues the Task Force attempted to solve with the calendar proposal also have been further explored along with solutions to those problems.

Concurrently, a group of administrative leaders are identifying initial milestones and decision points that would need to be addressed, if there is a decision to modify the calendar. Next steps on this complex proposal for transformative change will include additional engagement of the campus community.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Two new counselor positions are open and will be filled. In addition to performing clinical work, one counselor will focus on outreach to the Black community and the other on supporting student-led peer programs such as NU Listens. The University announced plans to remove its 12-session limit in the fall, following the recommendation of a student and staff group that reviewed that policy. CAPS is exploring increased online outreach to expand access points for students seeking services.  

Advising

The undergraduate schools have explored mechanisms for coordinating interactions across student advisers and identified a potential shared advising platform. In parallel the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education will be establishing a working group to examine advising processes. The six undergraduate schools participated in identifying the potential solution that would provide scheduling and note-sharing functionality. The University plans to pilot the software as soon as the 2016-17 school year.

Assessment

The Assessment/Accreditation Council has drafted a planning framework that articulates a long‐term vision for broadening student learning outcomes and assessment over the next decade and is gathering feedback from faculty and schools. The Council also is updating the Learning Assessment website to include more information and tools for individual faculty members, staff, and programs/schools. It also is in the process of conducting an inventory of assessment activities across the University.

Course and Teacher Evaluations (CTECs)

The new platform for student evaluation of courses and teaching, Blue, will launch this spring for undergraduates. The new system presents the opportunity to refine questions to include a standard set of core questions and to add new questions. A question on the cost of course materials — a step toward addressing Task Force findings on course costs — is slated to become a core question and the potential to add one on cultural competence is being explored.

Classrooms

More classroom spaces that are structured to adapt for a variety of forms of learning are available. With the opening of Kresge Hall in fall 2016, the number of classrooms that easily can reconfigure to support blended and active learning will increase. In Kresge, 33 classrooms will feature mobile networks that allow projectors to be controlled by any computer in the class, for enhanced content sharing, and 16 seminar rooms will possess web-based video conferencing capabilities.

An experimental classroom will be developed in the Jacobs Center when its transformation begins after Kellogg moves to its Global Hub in 2017. The space will allow faculty to explore new teaching and learning technologies and methods in a flexible classroom space.

Student Groups

The Student Organizations and Activities Office has announced the goal of opening admissions policies for most student groups. Implementation plans for the new policy will be developed this summer with the aim of creating greater access to such student groups next year.

Placement

The Faculty Distance Learning Workgroup has begun planning to examine placement tests and support in alignment with the Task Force recommendation to ensure students are properly placed in classes that begin from their level of knowledge, and continue to support data collection and analysis regarding placement. 

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