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Undergraduate Studies

Letters from the Vice Provost

June 2, 2015

By Steven Dandaneau

 

Dear colleagues:

I offer the final quarterly update from the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies for the 2014-15 academic year.

K-State is making great strides to improve the tools available to advisors. Thanks to the collegial and highly productive partnership between the Information Systems Office, or ISO, and the advising community, K-State advisors now have access to a much-enhanced KSU Advisor Center in KSIS. Most recently, Diana Blake and her colleagues released phase three of their multiphase planned innovations, an online notes capability developed in close consultation with K-State advisors. When academic advisors share their notes, students who move from one degree program to another, and therefore from one advisor to another, clearly stand to benefit.

Phase four in this process is forthcoming in the fall. Thanks to the support of the provost, K-State will benefit from a three-year membership in the EAB Student Success Collaborative. This will provide our advisors with state-of-the-art predictive analytics and other tools, which more than 150 other universities, including the University of Kansas and Wichita State University, already use. We also will enjoy access to targeted research, dedicated consulting and, in about one year, the power of GradesFirst, which EAB recently acquired and they are working to fully integrate into the Student Success Collaborative. The last will provide advisors will much-enhanced early alert capabilities, among other tools.

But tools, even great tools, aren't everything. K-State and the National Academic Advising Association, known as NACADA, worked together again to host the third annual Summer Undergraduate Academic Advising Institute in mid-May. Some 150 participants were treated to a series of powerful and thought-provoking breakout sessions and presentations, including those by Ruth A. Darling, associate provost for student success at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and past president of NACADA; Shane J. Lopez, Gallup senior scientist; Don Saucier, the 2015-16 Coffman chair for university distinguished teaching scholars and associate professor of psychological sciences; and a large and dynamic team from K-State Salina led by Alysia Starkey, associate dean for undergraduate studies. With the support of the Suder Foundation, Lopez's talk was shared via Zoom with First Scholars Program colleagues at Washington State University, the University of Memphis, Northern Arizona University and Suder Foundation staff in Dallas.

Each undergraduate studies unit, of course, has its own end-of-year highlights. Pre-law advising, for example, is establishing an exciting partnership with the University of Kansas School of Law wherein K-State undergraduates will be able to benefit from regular interaction with KU Law faculty, law school scholarship support, and the opportunity to reverse transfer their first year law school coursework to complete their K-State bachelor's degree. Daralyn Gordon Arata, our pre-law advisor, also has been in discussion with Washburn University School of Law in hope of supporting our joint interest in preparing attorneys to meet the needs of rural communities.

We thank KU School of Law's Dean Stephen W. Mazza and Washburn School of Law's Dean Thomas J. Romig, Kansas State University, '70, for their abiding interest in, and support of, K-State undergraduate students. We thank them also for their unflagging collegiality. Indeed, both Dean Romig and Dean Mazza have agreed to join a new Pre-Law Advisory Council to help guide the further development of K-State's already terrifically successful Office of Pre-Law Advising.

Additional exciting news includes the collaboration between K-State First and the Department of Housing and Dining, who are working together to more than triple the number of Residential CAT Communities planned for 2015-16. These interdisciplinary CAT, or Connecting Across Topics, living/learning communities produced an astounding 2014-15 fall-to-spring retention rate of 98.8 percent.

One reason for this incredible success is the vital role played by residential learning assistants, trained undergraduate students who, as part of their compensation, receive year-long accommodations from housing and dining. That's a retention figure, and an investment on housing and dining's part, upon which it is hard to improve. Know also that K-State First director Gregory Eiselein delivered an invited lecture "First-Year/First-Generation: Pedagogies that Work" at Washington State University on April 8. Eiselein's nationally recognized expertise furthers K-State's national reputation in undergraduate education.

For his part, Justin Kastner, director of the University Honors Program, with Alyson McCall and Annie Cutlerm, presented "Leveraging Insights from Psychology for Curricular (Re)development and Culture Change" at the Second Biennial Meeting of Honors Education at Research Universities, or HERU, hosted by Oregon State University, May 18-19.

The body of theory and research upon which Kastner and his colleagues' drew for their presentation informs the curricular innovations that Kastner and Jim Hohenbary, associate director, have proposed for our own honors program and for which they have received the support of the K-State College Honors Coordinators. "Honors 2.0," as it were, is very much in the works, but the present ain't chopped liver either.

This past year alone, some 295 University Honors Program students — and 17 leadership studies ambassadors — received tickets to 30 separate McCain preforming arts events via the Cultural Passport Program, and 43 University Honors Program students from seven colleges participated in three separate Frontier Field Trips — to New Orleans, Dallas/Waco, and Washington, D.C./Virginia — each led by Kastner. The last, which occurred in April, including a special meeting with former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and K-State distinguished alumnus Gen. Richard B. Myers, as well as immersions at the U.S. Library of Congress, Royal Saudi Arabian Embassy, Monticello, and much more.

Enrichment, such as provided in the above, is part of what prepares our students for the most rare and sought-after honors. In this regard, the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships, directed by Jim Hohenbary, had another banner year advising some of K-State's most-accomplished undergraduate and graduate students. At the annual recognition ceremony on May 4, President Schulz and Provost Mason celebrated Goldwater, Fulbright, Pickering, Boren, Gilman and Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting recipients and honorees. Provost Mason was especially delighted by the last, in the thought that it must be pretty cool to win a free trip to Germany to interact with a group of Nobel Laureates in one's field of study. Amen to that.

Superlative scholarly achievement rests on a foundation of academic integrity and, thankfully, the Honor and Integrity System enjoyed a dip in business this year. Perhaps the many efforts we all make to educate one another about K-State's Honor Code are beginning to pay off. Any reader of The Chronicle of Higher Education knows that with every new technology and every succeeding generation of students, academic integrity issues — often already complex and sensitive — seem only to metamorphous. That's one reason why it is so helpful that Steve Starrett, who was reappointed this past semester for a second three-year term as director, is engaged in scholarly research in this area. Indeed, he and Camila Roberts, associate director, along with James Teagarden, Adrianna Gonzalez and Emily Mesker, have just submitted "Professional and Ethical Impacts from Serving on an Honor Council" to the Journal of College and Character, a publication of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and both Starrett and Roberts have recently or are soon planning to present papers at international ethics and integrity conferences.

Thinking of honor reminds me that it is certainly an honor, and a pleasure as well, to participate in various celebrations of student achievement leading up to spring commencement ceremonies. I was delighted, for example, to offer the keynote address at the McNair Scholars Recognition Reception as well as the commencement address at K-State Salina. Among the most inspiring celebrations were the annual Developing Scholars Symposium and an ad hoc report by the members of the Edgerley-Franklin Urban Leadership Program on their spring break immersion in Boston. At the former, I encountered a first-year student who I mistook for a fifth-year senior, in part, because he had already published a research paper. At the latter, I was struck by how domestic immersion experiences, much like their international equivalents, can provide for truly transformational learning even over the course of a relatively brief amount of time. Both of these overlapping groups, Developing Scholars and Edgerely-Franklin Urban Leadership Scholars, are among the most high-achieving and also the most admirable I have ever encountered in my career in higher education. I find myself exclaiming "wow!" all the time, and more so than usual toward the end of each spring semester.

The Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry, in which Developing Scholars and Edgerley-Franklin Urban Leadership Scholars are located, is looking forward to its second full year of innovative programming. This past year, the Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry Advisory Committee awarded $40,000 in research and research travel grants to K-State undergraduate students. Next year, the office plans to repeat this process — and then some. For example, 2015-2016 will serve as the benchmark year for measuring the "percentage of undergraduates involved in formalized research experience" per K-State 2025, and new programs are under development, per the Undergraduate Research Task Force recommendations, to orient undergraduate students to K-State's many diverse research undertakings and opportunities.

There is more. The K-State 8 Council finished its first year by reviewing a wealth of wonderfully presented Office of Assessment research and by engaging ISO and the Office of Registrar in discussion about how we might collaborate to produce additional in-depth self-study in this vital area of the curriculum. So, too, did the Undergraduate Council conclude its inaugural year, with progress made in a number of areas, including discussion of student success, new technologies, and proposed changes to the University Honors Program. Whether it is via the University Advising Committee, the Committee on Academic Policies and Procedures and its KSIS Subcommittee, the new Summer School Committee or others, I am privileged and excited to see K-State making progress steadily and deliberatively toward achieving K-State 2025-driven student success goals.

Looking ahead, know that planning is well underway for the 2015 New Student Convocation, where Zelia Wiley of the College of Agriculture will offer this year's charge. I also anticipate summer months filed with planning for the roll-out of phase four of the KSIS road map — the integration of the Student Success Collaborative — as well as work on various development and grant-writing efforts, the last including a K-State-led First Scholars Affiliate proposal for a U.S. Department of Education First in the World grant. I also look forward to representing K-State at a meeting of the Reinvention Center June 4-6 at the University of Pittsburgh and at a meeting of the First Scholars Program Professional Development group June 15-17 in Dallas.

Please let me know if I can answer any questions or if I can be of any help in your work on behalf of K-State undergraduate student success.

Very best,

Steven P. Dandaneau, Ph.D.
Vice provost for undergraduate studies