Reflections on the Fall, 2013 Convocation

Congratulations to graduate faculty Dr. Chris Crawford (President’s Distinguished Scholar), Dr. Jennifer Bonds-Raacke (Faculty Member of the Year), and Dr. Robert Moody (National Academic Advising Association’s Certificate of Merit) who won prestigious university awards this morning!  Also congratulations to Christa Weigel (Edmund Shearer Advising Award) and Mehran Shahidi (Internationalization of the Campus and Curriculum Award).   This morning we heard Dr. Hammond announce the university theme for the year – “The Power of One”.  I’d like to expound on that a bit and its application to graduate education, research, and internationalization in this post.

One can look at a unit such as the university faculty from the perspective of being “one” stakeholder group and I believe that was the argument Dr. Hammond made this morning in complimenting the group as a whole by extracting individual example data points to support this from various programs.  I believe the strategy was one of trying to draw a Gestalt analogy whereby the whole of the university is greater than the sum of all its parts.  With the exception of mentioning US News and World Report rankings data on three of our online graduate programs, the Graduate School did not have much on display this morning.  What’s the takeaway from this? I know the conclusion most would jump to, but I want to encourage you to “jump” the other way – to one of opportunity.

This morning is why collecting learner outcomes data is important.  If we cannot articulate what we do well in the Graduate School without resorting to rankings, we need to develop better ammunition.  We began last year to take some early steps in the learner outcomes direction and I am going to work on compiling these data over the next few months, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world considered educational success in terms other than comparison/competition?  I used to pose this question to my students in the Department of Music.  Competition is deeply embedded in the discipline of music…often for positive results such as bringing the overall level of performance to a higher standard, but also often for negative results which lead to emotional and psychological health issues and damage.  Where does the balance lie?  Unfortunately, I do not see comparison/competition going away because it is so deeply embedded in human nature.  We can, however, bring some different data forward that shows what the Graduate School does for our students in terms of adding value over time.

learneroutcome1graph2012-2013

Here is a summary chart of how the Graduate School added value to 500 students who sat for comprehensive examinations last year.  You can see that the mean of these 500 assessments was 3.91 (on a 5.0 scale) for the year with a standard deviation of 1.04.  A 4.0 value is defined as “mastering – the student displays advanced level disciplinary work in most examples”.  I was quite pleased to see these data as I believe it emphasizes the value we add to our students near the end of their program of study.  In future posts, I will share the data from last year reported for learner outcomes #2 and #3.  Assessing your students and reporting these data to the Graduate School is important.  Thank you for continuing to work on ways to do that efficiently and effectively within your program.

The only research item that made the presentation this morning was the handout of the Scholarly Environment Committee’s proposal for a system of reassigned time to support undergraduate research.  Please take a look at this and give feedback to the Provost.  Undergraduate research gets a lot of attention and funding these days, but let’s not forget that all of our graduate programs require a minimal amount of research training and activity and it is one of the learner outcomes we measure each semester.  Faculty research and creative activity is also one of the best kept secrets at FHSU…please challenge yourself to continue to be productive even after tenure.  An adage I learned in graduate school that I try to teach to my students is “the more you know about your discipline, the more you learn you really don’t know”.  Hopefully, you have similar anecdotes to keep your spirits up.  The Graduate School, Forsyth Library, your college, and department are going to continue to support research and creative activities even as budgets continue to decline .

Internationalization of the campus and curriculum was given a boost this morning with the first faculty/staff award for Internationalization of the Campus and Curriculum.  The establishment of this award was one of the objectives last year of the Internationalization Team.  Thank you to the Provost for recognizing its value and agreeing to fund the award.  Congratulations to Mehran Shahidi for the win today! The team is going to continue to work on three new projects this year: 1] establishing and supporting the Center for Learning, Literacy, Culture and Writing in Forsyth Library, 2] continuing to develop alumni chapters with our international students, and 3] promoting more education abroad activity.  Look for more news in these areas soon.

Finally, the Provost talked about the Red Balloon project and unveiled the Red Balloon web site (rbfhsu.org).  There are some good ideas here and I encourage you to continue to be creative in thinking of ways to apply these concepts to the Graduate School.  Keep up the good work as we head into the semester!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Reflections on the Fall, 2013 Convocation

  1. Robert Moody

    This is good stuff Tim. I appreciate your “thinking out loud.”

  2. Christine Hober, Jenny Manry, Janelle Harding, Lesley Ostrom, Tanya Smith, Doreen Kamoga, & Cyndi Ellis-Stoll

    The Nursing Department Graduate Committee has reviewed your site. We appreciate a site to be able to access. It appears forward thinking in that we can communicate more indepth. Thank-you!

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