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Forum hears concerns for UNC’s tomorrow

Photo by Abbigail Overfelt
President of the UNC System Erskine Bowles, seated far right, visits UNCP as a part of the UNC Tomorrow initiative. Bowles gave UNCP faculty a chance to voice their concerns and issues.

By Abbigail Overfelt
Assistant Web Editor

President of the UNC system Erskine Bowles visited UNCP on Nov. 14 during a series of listening forums conducted as a part of the UNC Tomorrow initiative.

The initiative
The initiative was developed as a way to assess how the UNC system will address the needs of the Universities and their students in the next 20 years.

The listening forums allow faculty members the opportunity to communicate their ideas about how to address enrollment growth and students’ needs in the next 20 years and beyond.

Growth factors
According to the initiative, several growth factors will need to be addressed in North Carolina by at least 2014, including the need for 41,000 more nursing professionals, 34,000 more public school teachers, 23,000 more computer and technology professionals, 10,000 more accountants and auditors and 3,300 more social workers.

“We felt we better do something that the University has not been so good at,” Bowles said. “We’re really great at flapping our jaws, we’re just not that great at listening.”

Faculty ideas
Ideas from UNCP faculty were presented to President Bowles and the UNC Tomorrow Scholar’s Council, made up of faculty members from the UNC system schools. The council was devised to develop reports on issues that will affect the UNC system, to facilitate discussions with faculty and to assess the university needs as presented.

Scholar’s council
The Scholar’s Council included UNCP Assistant Professor in the School of Education Dr. David B. Oxendine, UNCW Professor of Social Welfare and Public Services Dr. Nelson Reid, NNCU Director of Biomedical and Biotechnology Research Dr. Ken Harewood, and ECU Professor of Business and Chair of Faculty Assembly Dr. Brenda Killingsworth.

Also present were Dr. Alan Mead, head of all academic affairs for the UNC system and Deputy Executive Director of the UNC Tomorrow initiative Tony Caravano.

UNCP faculty brought up issues such as funding, diversity, teacher education, communication, non-traditional students and student-faculty relations.

Funding
“There needs to be a commitment from UNC and the state to continue [funding for] application of methods once they are developed,” said Martin Farley, assistant professor and chair of Geology and Geography.

“Going overseas is beyond student’s imaginations,” said James Robinson, assistant professor of Sociology.

Particularly in terms of cost any program system wide that could help these students both here and at other universities would be greatly appreciated, Dr. Robinson continued.

Assistant Professor of Geology and Geography Lee Phillips said that he was “concerned that restrictions on [coeducational travel] funds inhibit or reduce our ability to promote educational opportunities for our students, as well as restrict our ability to promote undergraduate research and creative efforts.”

Diversity
“We don’t have a curriculum that mandates that students learn about diversity at some point in their education here at UNCP,” said Mary Ann Jacobs, chair of American Indian Studies.

“I’d like to see that happen. Not just learning about people that are different from themselves, but also learning about racism, stereotyping, other types of prejudice… and how to address it in their everyday lives,” Dr. Jacobs continued.

Dr. Jacobs also mentioned that the problem of retention for Native Americans at other universities in the UNC system needs to be addressed.

Teacher education
Director of Auxiliary and Business Services Denise Carroll said that the administrative staff of the university needs to be exposed to other environments as much as students.

“It is difficult with the resources that are available to be able to educate and inspire [administrative staff] to be able to deliver the services that our students and faculty will need in the future,” Carroll said.

Patricia Valenti, professor of English, Theatre, and Languages, suggested that we have listening tours for teachers because “too often, we entirely ignore their input.”

Dr. Valenti added that the UNC system needs to know why teachers are leaving the schools so they can address the problems they might be having.

Students want to teach
Associate Professor of Art Tulla Lightfoot said that it is “heartbreaking” for her when she gets students who want to be teachers who cannot pass the basic competency exams.

“I’m wondering if we can do something with the high schools so we can better prepare our students to enter college,” she said.
Professor in English,

Theatre and Languages Department Virginia K. McClanahan said that because of time-consuming assessment and bureaucratic systems, faculties “are stretched thin in their attempt to educate our future educators.”

According to Faculty Senate Chair David Zeigler, there are many ways to improve communication.

“We need to do a better job of communicating what all the campuses are doing for their region and the state,” Dr. Zeigler said.

“I don’t know that we’re really getting the word out as to what programs we have, what kinds of aid we have for students….we’re always talking about retention, but quite frankly we have a lot of students here that never seek out the help that is available... We need to communicate not only with our students, but with the community.”

Education is a team effort, according to Associate Professor in the English, Theatre, and Languages Department Mark Canada.
“I think we need to listen to the community, but we also need to make our words heard to the communities out there that these people need to help us bring students in to this university that are prepared to succeed,” Dr. Canada said.

Lecturer of Chemistry and Physics Nathan Phillipi said that a program for student’s children would bring more non-traditional students to the university.

“I know locally, there has been a study for bringing that onto this campus and for some reason it was not deemed feasible,” he said.

“I find [that] very surprising when often many of my non-traditional students miss their classes because they have no one to watch their children,” Phillipi continued.

According to Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Administration Michael Hawthorne, a key problem is the model of education.

“We have a structure built around an old model of education…the idea that students will be able to go full-time and be well supported. That model doesn’t work anymore,” Dr. Hawthorne said. According to Dr. Valjeaner Ford, assistant professor in the School of Education, the blame game is also a problem.

When we get students at the university, we say that the high school didn’t prepare them. When they enter high school, we say that the middle school didn’t prepare them, down until when they came to school we say the parents didn’t prepare them. If we can do something to come together collaboratively not to blame everyone else for what didn’t take place but to train or to educate our students to be productive students, I think we can do something to make a difference, Dr. Ford said.

For some, the difference between preparing a worker and an individual is also key.

“Sometimes I’m a little bit troubled when we talk about preparing a workforce. I think that is probably what we are doing to a degree, but when I’m in my classroom each day I’m not thinking that I’m preparing a worker,” said Honors College Dean Jesse Peters.

“I’m thinking that I’m preparing an individual. To be a steward of the world, to be a responsible citizen, to make good decisions, to be adaptable to change…we need to resist departmentalizing how we treat people and how we teach,” Dr. Peters continued.

Dr. Zeigler made a final point that it “seems that over the years, faculty are being asked to do more and more and more jobs that have absolutely nothing to do with our roles as scholars and teachers. The red tape, the assessment, and all the committees that seem to multiply endlessly…are getting to be a burden on a number of faculty.

“We need to be left enough time to do what we were hired to do, and that is to be educators and scholars,” Dr. Ziegler added.

Bowles closed by addressing a few faculty comments. He said the UNC system does need more ways to accommodate non-traditional students, and that, as suggested, the UNC system has been providing listening tours for teachers.

Bowles also said that the university has tried to take responsibility.

“The University is only going to be as good as the product we receive from public schools. We are going to rise and fall with public education,” Bowles said.

According to the initiative’s website, after hearing ideas from faculty at the listening forums, the scholar’s council will “synthesize previous studies, research relevant issues and trends, develop focused 'framing' questions for regional and sector public meetings, attend meetings and assist the [UNC Tomorrow] Commission in developing its recommendations.”

The UNC Tomorrow Commission will then present its findings to the Board of Governors, who from February to May 2008 will “develop a response to identified needs…as well as systemic changes to internal processes to ensure continued focus in future years.”

From June 2008 to January 2012, an “implementation” will occur when a response team made up of representatives from the Scholars Council, the UNC Tomorrow Commission, and the Board of Governors will develop a clear plan for responding to and implementing recommendations.

Bowles encouraged faculty to contact him.

“If the faculty doesn’t have ownership out of UNC Tomorrow, it won’t work,” he said.

 

 

 


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