One of the University of Connecticut's strategic goals is to
be the university of first choice for undergraduates by providing
a comprehensive educational experience second to none. As
President Austin wrote in the Advance of August 31, the University
takes seriously the importance of undergraduate education in
a public research university. He underlined this seriousness
of purpose by stating that we must never lose sight of "our
fundamental mission as an educator of young people."
In 1995, a blueprint for the undergraduate experience was offered
to the University community by the Strategic Planning Implementation
Task Force on the Undergraduate Experience. Based on the concept
of mileposts, this blueprint suggested that we measure the effectivenes
s of the undergraduate experience by the performance of our
students at three points in their academic careers: (1) After
three weeks, students should have begun to establish a personal
support network of faculty, staff, and students. (2) Between
the third and fourth semesters, students should have developed
mastery of all foundational skills and an integrated understanding
of their general education course work; they should also have
clear goals for their education in their major and understand
the relationship of the curriculum to the world of work. (3)
At commencement, students should be well prepared for their
next stage of life and learning and they should have the faculty
connections to support this transition.
The past few years have, therefore, witnessed sustained attention
to undergraduate education. Our early efforts concentrated on
the transition from high school to university and on the First
Year Experience. We have made real progress.
- Throughout recruitment and orientation, the emphasis has shifted
to assure a focus on academics. This year, for example, we instituted
the freshman reading project in which incoming students read
the novel Amistad by David Pesci and participated in
discussion groups during their first days on campus.
- We made changes in the Weeks of Welcome (WOW), redesigning
them around the needs of first-year students and including a
strong academic component. We inaugurated freshmen-only move-in.
We held a Convocation for new students and their families, that
was attended by more than 5,000. In sum, we made a serious effort
to make students welcome and to give them a sense of academic
- The establishment of an Academic Center for Exploratory Students
(ACES) is helping students reach their full potential. ACES
is the academic home for
students who are undecided about their academic major and for
students who are working to gain admission to one of the University's
schools or colleges. ACES, in collaboration with all of the
University's academic resources, provides academic advising
and related services designed to guide students toward appropriate
- UConn 2000 is transforming the physical environment. A new
South Campus complex, the creation of an academic core, and
the continuing classroom renovation program are all exciting
manifestations of the impact the UConn 2000 initiative is having
on all our lives.
- The number of faculty members incorporating technology and
multimedia in their classes is steadily increasing through the
efforts of the Institute for Teaching and Learning and such
entities as the Faculty Resource Laboratory.
- Many more faculty members are offering seminars to first-year
students, and other faculty are involved in enhancing the research
experience for more advanced students. Students, therefore,
have better access to faculty and have more opportunity to benefit
from more direct educational experiences than ever before.
- One-third of our first-year students are being taught learning
skills by individuals from across the campus under the First
Year Experience program.
- One of the new South Campus residence halls has been designated
as an honors hall. The goal is to build an environment for honors
students that blends together their academic and living experiences.
This merging of living and learning is similarly true in residential
grouping by academic interest.
We have come a long way; we have a way yet to go.
- We can offer even more seminar-sized courses.
- We must continue to increase research opportunities.
- We must build on the enhancements and progress made in Babbidge
Library in order to assure students access to information in
all its forms, via all media.
- We can create a highly articulated advising and counseling
structure which ensures that students are appropriately placed
upon entry to the University, that makes the transitions and
junctures clear, and which catches students before they falter.
- We can increase the excitement of the first-year experience
by including blocks of integrated courses - for example, linked
composition and Western civilization courses tied together with
a one-unit faculty seminar - and well-developed links between
academic and co-curricular experiences.
- We must construct a general education structure that is sensitive
to the fact that many students change majors and colleges in
the course of their academic careers; an.
- We must make sure that the final academic year involves focused
preparation for the student's next life-step, including an intensive
research, or other capstone, experience.
To restate, we have accomplished a great deal, especially given
that change in a university is often best measured in geologic
time, or at best by historical epoch. The changes that have
been made accrue not only to the benefit of the University,
but most importantly, to the benefit of its students. We shall
continue to progress.