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Liberal education reform pilot program
to offer first course bundles this fall

RELEASED: June 30, 2010

Patricia Turner
David Shih
UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff in UW-Eau Claire's first course bundle development cohort participated in an orientation session June 22. At top, Patricia Turner, professor of history, and Kate Lang, associate professor of history were among the session participants. Bottom: David Shih, outgoing Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Fellow, discussed infusing multicultural pedagogy into the course bundles. (UW-Eau Claire photos by Rick Mickelson)

EAU CLAIRE — The first course bundles in a project to enhance undergraduates' experience at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will be available to 140
first-year students this fall.

Twenty-four UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff members (see listing below) were selected to participate in the first course bundle development cohort.

"This first cohort will offer prototypes for bundled course work to interested freshmen this fall," said implementation workgroup member Dr. Stephen Drucker, professor of chemistry. "The aim is to help students address a 'big question' by integrating perspectives from various disciplines. We hope this will be the first step toward building a more coherent liberal education core at UW-Eau Claire."

The course bundles are a pilot program of a multifaceted liberal education reform project supported in part by a federal Title III grant of nearly $1.75 million received in October 2009 through the Strengthening Institutions program of the Office of Postsecondary Education in the U.S. Department of Education. Laurel Kieffer is UW-Eau Claire's Title III grant activities coordinator.

Additional funding is provided as part of Provost Patricia A. Kleine's Blugold Commitment initiatives, designed to improve student retention and timely graduation. The course bundle project is a cornerstone to reforming UW-Eau Claire's liberal education core, Kleine said. (Other provost initiatives include improving course availability for students and academic advising.) Each course bundle has been allocated $10,000 to support faculty development and curriculum redesign.

In May, faculty and staff submitted proposals for themed, linked courses to offer for student enrollment during the 2010-11 academic year. First-year students can enroll in one of the six groupings of courses; each grouping consists of four to six courses linked by inquiry surrounding a "big question." Students will take two or three of the courses in the fall and the remaining courses during the spring semester.

Each themed bundle will address one of the following questions:

  • How does consumerism shape our world?
  • How are human rights and animal rights similar, and how do they differ?
  • Why is the climate changing and what should we do about it?
  • Who are we? How do we define ourselves?
  • How do humans make decisions about risk?
  • What is or should be our relationship with the planet?

Liberal education reform at UW-Eau Claire was identified as a goal in the university's strategic plan, and a strategic planning work group on curriculum design proposed that UW-Eau Claire revise its liberal education (formerly called general education) core. Subsequently, the General Education Review Workgroup worked for three years, releasing a position paper to the campus community in fall 2009. Among the workgroup's recommendations was that students complete a combination of thematic course bundles as well as individual elective courses to fulfill their liberal education requirement.

"The course bundle pilot program is intended to begin moving UW-Eau Claire's liberal education courses from a distributive model, in which students take an array of unrelated courses, to a model focused on intentionally integrating learning outcomes across courses and improving students' ability to make connections between course theory and content," Kleine said. "I commend the many campus leaders who are participating, and I look forward to even greater faculty and staff involvement in the near future. This is a wonderful opportunity for professional development for faculty and staff, and an exciting way to enhance learning for our students."

During an orientation session June 22, faculty and staff began work on understanding and implementing integrated-learning curriculum design, identifying learning outcomes and infusing multicultural pedagogy into the course bundles, Kieffer said. Experts from campus and other institutions provided instruction and coaching. Those presenting were Dr. Scott Oates, UW-Eau Claire's director of assessment; Dr. Robert Eierman, interim director of the UW-Eau Claire Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning; Dr. David Shih, UW-Eau Claire's outgoing Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Fellow; and Drs. Lauren Chism and Michelle Hansen from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

"I am particularly excited to be participating in the opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration made possible by the course bundle pilot program," said Dr. Jeffrey Goodman, assistant professor of psychology, who participated in the recent orientation session. "In my courses, I attempt to make connections across disciplines, but the bundles promise to build connections between subjects, instructors and students in a very tangible way. As an adviser and career counselor, I have heard many students ask, 'Why do I need to take this course?' or 'How does this class relate to my major or career?' The pilot bundles should make these concerns a thing of the past."

Faculty development efforts will continue throughout the summer, with opportunities for current bundle participants and other interested faculty and staff to participate in seminars on integrative learning, embedding assessment and more, Kieffer said. In addition, the first cohort of "bundled" faculty and staff will present their initial work to the campus community in September and March. Additional bundle development work will begin this summer, with the intent of soliciting proposals for academic year 2011-12 courses both for incoming freshmen and returning students, she said.

The following faculty and staff members have been involved in UW-Eau Claire's liberal education reform efforts leading to the course bundle pilot program:

Bundle Implementation Workgroup

  • Dr. Lori Bica, associate professor, psychology
  • Dr. Stephen Drucker, professor, chemistry
  • Dr. Douglas Faulkner, associate professor, geography and anthropology
  • Dr. Mary Hoffman, associate professor, communication and journalism
  • Dr. Anthony Keys, associate professor, information systems
  • Dr. David Lewis, professor, chemistry
  • Dr. Alexander Smith, professor, mathematics

Title III Advisory Committee

  • Dr. Lori Bica, associate professor, psychology
  • Dr. Charlene Burns, associate professor, philosophy and religious studies
  • Quincy Chapman, assistant director for leadership and education, Housing and Residence Life
  • Dr. Robert Eierman, interim director, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and professor, chemistry
  • Dr. Deborah Gough, director, Advising and New Student Initiatives
  • Laurel Kieffer, Title III grant activity director
  • Dr. Robert Knight, professor, music
  • Dr. Scott Oates, director, University Assessment, and associate professor, English
  • Dr. Susan C. Turell, interim associate vice chancellor and dean of undergraduate studies, and professor, psychology

2010-11 Bundle Pilot Faculty and Staff Cohort

  • Dr. Ari Anand, assistant professor, geography and anthropology
  • Jacqueline Bailey, associate lecturer, English
  • Dr. Edward Beach, professor, philosophy and religious studies
  • Dr. Laura Berlinghieri, assistant professor, economics
  • Julie Eklund, lecturer, English and communication and journalism
  • Dr. Jeffrey Goodman, assistant professor, psychology
  • Valerie Guyant, lecturer, English
  • Dr. Scott Hartsel, professor, chemistry
  • Dr. Mary Hoffman, associate professor, communication and journalism
  • Dr. Daniel Holt, assistant professor, psychology
  • Dr. Eric Jamelske, associate professor, economics
  • Kathryn Kennedy, senior lecturer, philosophy and religious studies
  • Dr. Paula Kleintjes Neff, professor, biology
  • Dr. Fredric Kolb, professor, economics
  • Dr. Katherine Lang, associate professor, history
  • Dr. Sean McAleer, associate professor, philosophy and religious studies
  • Dr. Cheryl Muller, associate professor, chemistry
  • Dr. James Phillips, professor, chemistry
  • Dr. Crispin Pierce, associate professor, public health professions
  • Dr. Louisa Rice, assistant professor, history
  • Dr. Manda Riehl, assistant professor, mathematics
  • Dr. Garry Running, professor, geography and anthropology
  • Dr. Patricia Turner, professor, history
  • Dr. Stephanie Turner, assistant professor, English
  • Dr. Ryan Weichelt, assistant professor, geography and anthropology

-30-

JP/DW

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