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CHANCIER 2 Rethinking Undergraduate Professional Education for the T~venty-First Century: The University Vantage Point Nils Hasselmo In the recently published Carnegie Foundation report, Scholar- sh~p Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate, Ernest L. Coyer said that he is "beginning to believe that the 1990S may well come to be remembered as the decade of the undergraduate in American higher education" (Moyer, l990:Xi). This thoughtful report should be required reading, because in his usual manner, Foyer offers a rich array of sensible ideas to help fulfill his prophecy. The conference was extraordinarily consistent with those sen- sible ideas, and 1 take that as additional evidence and encourage- ment that improving undergraduate education has genuine momen- tum that will, in fact, make a real difference. I also sensed in the conference a spirit of openness tO educa- tional reform without parochialism. Clearly and refreshingly, the conference was not a circling of the academic wagons and a break- ing out of the disciplinary rifles. Despite its popularity, that maneu- ver has never been a good idea in higher education; we usually end up shooting ourselves or each other-in the foot. It is essen- tial that we look at education in a broader perspective. The Agenda What, then, is the agenda in undergraduate professional educa- tion from my perspective? What do I see from my vantage point as president of a land-grant university? I hear many voices that say the following: 29
AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE nary. . · Make undergraduate professional education more interdiscipli · Make agricultural sciences degrees more environmental. · Make health sciences degrees more social. · Make business degrees more ethical. · Make engineering degrees more humanistic. · Make professional degrees more liberal. · Make liberal degrees more professional. · Make professional education a masters-level enterprise. Make undergraduate education benefit more from the research and public service environments of land-grant universities. · Make undergraduate education more customer friendly, eco- nomical, and effective. Is this a cacophony of voices? It is certainly a formidable agenda, but it also presents an exciting set of challenges and opportuni- ties for constructive change. ~ would like to comment on four of the many possible topics: 1. The squeeze on undergraduate professional education. 2. The opportunity for undergraduate professional education. 3. The challenge to undergraduate professional education. 4. The model of undergraduate professional education. The Squeeze on Un~iergraduate Professional Education From my vantage point, it seems that undergraduate professional education is being squeezed from below, from above, and from all sides. From below, undergraduate professional education is being squeezed by the lack of preparation in elementary and secondary schools. HOW much remedial education can we continue to do and still do our real job7 From above, undergraduate professional education is being squeezed by an enormous expansion of programs at the master's level. AS president of the National Advisory Hoard for the National Study of Masters Degrees, commissioned by the Council of Gradu- ate Schools, I have caught a glimpse of this expansion. There are approximately 800 different master's degrees offered nationwide. At the University of Minnesota alone we offer some 180 different fields and options at the master's level. From the sides, undergraduate professional education is being squeezed by general undergraduate education in the arts and sci- ences. AS the demands of the professions have grown, the rate of obsolescence of knowledge and the need to teach students how to learn, communicate, and compute and quantify have grown. How 30
UNIVERSITY VANTAGE POINT liberal must undergraduate professional education be to meet this situation? The Opportunity for Undergraduate Professional Education 1 see considerable opportunities for undergraduate professional education. This is where the land-grant universities, with their broad spectrum of undergraduate (and graduate) professional programs, may have a special responsibility to exercise leadership. I believe those who argue that liberal education can be enriched by the content and the context of the professions and the professional curricula. I am as firm a believer as anybody in the need for students to understand the basic nature of science and something about the theory and methodology of at least one science. I believe, for example, that students need to study the principles of ethics and the need for social responsibility, that they need some familiarity with our diverse world and our diverse society, that they need historical perspective, and that they need at least some experience with a language other than their mother tongue. Many of the basic questions our students need to understand and try to answer are found in the professions and in properly constructed professional curricula. The skills in communication and computation that are basic to a liberal education are also practiced and taught in specific professional contexts. in other words, undergraduate professional education can offer content, context, and practice for undergraduate liberal study. Many have said so. We need to keep affirming the principle and steer curriculum development and teaching practice in that direction. The Challenge to Undergra~inate Professional Education We need to look at undergraduate education more as an inte- grated whole than as a group of separate disciplines. The future of undergraduate professional education may lie not in an emphasis on professional education but in one on undergraduate education. The future of liberal education may lie not in its avowed lack of professional content and context but in its role in laying a founda- tion for and creating an understanding of what professional life is all about. With this approach, undergraduate professional education faces all of the challenges that have been placed before undergraduate education in general and that 1 listed earlier. With this approach, 31
AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE however, undergraduate professional education can also better serve as a model for solving those problems, which brings me to my fourth topic. The Model of Undergraduate Professional Education I believe that we can learn from undergraduate professional edu- cation in solving the general problems of undergraduate education. We can learn to insist on proper preparation before college work is begun and in working with elementary and secondary schools to ensure such preparation. Professional programs have been better able to establish a distinct set of expectations for precollege stu- dents than liberal education programs have. Establishing more distinct expectations is clearly the key to better preparation, and direct collaboration with elementary and secondary schools in establishing the proper expectations is necessary. We can learn to define the specific content of the curriculum and to measure outcomes against established benchmarks. If we can- not define the outcomes of what we do, we are not likely to achieve what we should and will certainly continue to have trouble with our political leaders and the public. The best and only defense against simplistic assessment is thoughtful assessment. it is not easy, but it is necessary. Many professional programs are far ahead of liberal education in definition and measurement. We can learn to improve teaching and advising by structuring the interaction between faculty and students in a variety of ways and by properly using instructional technology. I believe that, in this regard, some undergraduate professional programs have set stan- dards that should be applied more generally. We can learn to provide an intellectual context for the learning and application of theory and methodology that are a central part of liberal as well as professional education. This includes drawing on the richness of the research and public service environment in the land-grant universities, which, 1 believe, is more common in under- graduate professional education than it is elsewhere. We can learn to provide a social context for learning by integrat- ing the undergraduates into a professional or disciplinary environ- ment. Again, this means drawing the students into a culture of research and public service, that is, a professional culture. Many professional programs do a better Job of this than many liberal arts disciplines do. We can learn to use, evaluate, and reward faculty on the basis of all of their contributions to a program and on the basis of specific objectives. Again, some undergraduate professional programs have been pioneers in establishing such systems. 32
UNIVERSITY VANTAGE POINT What Are We Doing at the University of Minnesota? Let me first disavow any suggestion that we have solved all of these problems at the University of Minnesota or that we have done all the things that I mentioned above. We have not, but we have begun to do so, as outlined below: · We have set new preparation requirements for English, math- ematics, science, social studies, and foreign language. The im- provement in our students" preparation has been substantial. · In what we simply call our Undergraduate Initiative, we have taken a look at the quality of undergraduate education in our re- search and land-grant universities. We have put significant resources into undergraduate education through internal reallocation. So far, we have implemented the transfer of almost SO million into under- graduate education. The plan for the next 3 to 5 years, which was adopted by the Board of Regents in March 1991, involves the real- location of 10 percent of our tax-funded base budget, with much of the funding going to the units that teach 84 percent of our under- graduates. · We have seen new, more interdisciplinary curricula, for ex- ample, in the Colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources, that represent distinctive movement in the directions 1 indicated above. Our general liberal education requirements for students at the Twin Cities campus are in the final stages of revision, with contributions from the professional programs being an important ingredient, with assessment of outcomes being a necessity, with articulation with the secondary schools being a matter of course, and with teaching across the curriculum being an indispensable mode of operation. · We are gearing up to take a broad look at learning methods and have several pockets of innovation to draw on, several of them in undergraduate professional programs. · We have developed sessions to determine what makes for a successful department. We are drawing on units that have had great success in national contexts, especially in research and graduate education. interestingly, but not surprisingly, very successful re- search and graduate departments also seem to take good care of their undergraduates. What constitutes a high-quality department that delivers high- quality undergraduate educations 1 suggest some characteristics below, but with the admonition that the most promising analysis can be had by looking carefully at real departments that seem tO have it all. A high-quality department that delivers high-quality education has 33
AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERG~UATE a sense of community that is strong and evident. The balance of the mission is understood, and the division of labor is both re- spected and rewarded. There is a coherent sense of purpose and direction, both for the department and for its individual members. There is a clear sense of quality. There is a clear sense of "cus- tomer," even if the term is not the preferred one. in one or more persons there is leadership that knows how to recognize the needs of individuals and that acts accordingly. There is an accountability ethic in which both individuals and the group expect to be judged fairly and rationally. Staff and students are full citizens, and they are treated that way. There is both the security and the strategy to seek out the best and the brightest without socioeconomic, racial or ethnic, or geographical barriers. There is the commitment and ability to develop their talent even more and to integrate them fully into the department and its value system. There is a willingness to target the investment of departmental resources toward clearly de- fined objectives. There is a sense of departmental community with- in larger communities. Finally, in terms of the land-grant university, there is special attention to offering the undergraduate the full ben- efit of the university's research and public-service culture. These characteristics are anything but the naive wish list of aca- demic reformers. They already exist in departments all over the country, and they reflect a strength in values that will reinforce not resist the restructuring and reform that will make a difference. The president who wants to rethink undergraduate education has many talented allies. Conclusion in the end, two factors are decisive: culture and economics. The culture of the university represents our values, the values that drive what we do. The culture determines how we implement those values. Faculty members and administrators are an impor- tant part of shaping that culture. The economics of the university determine in fundamental ways how much we can do and how fast we can do it. We face economic problems, no doubt, at the na- tional and state levels. if the culture is one of constructive change and accountability, however, I believe that our culture can over- come our economics rather than vice versa. Reference Foyer, E. L. 1990. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professori- ate. Princeton, N.J.: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 34