Symposium focuses on undergraduate learning

Symposium focuses on undergraduate learning
Panelists speak during the University of Colorado Denver Undergraduate Experiences Symposium. From left, Mark Gelernter, Laura Goodwin,Rebecca Kantor, Raul Cardenas and John Lanning.

Panelists speak during the University of Colorado Denver Undergraduate Experiences Symposium. From left, Mark Gelernter, Laura Goodwin,Rebecca Kantor, Raul Cardenas and John Lanning.

The University of Colorado Denver 8th Annual Undergraduate Experiences Symposium took an internal focus this year, asking faculty and administrators to "Reflect, Plan and Act on Student Learning and Success."

About 120 members of the university community convened Friday at the Curtis Hotel for wide-ranging and big-picture discussions about improving undergraduate education. After introductory remarks by Chancellor Don Elliman and Provost Rod Nairn, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Experience John Lanning moderated a panel discussion involving all of the Denver campus deans as well as Carolyn North, assistant vice chancellor of international affairs, and Raul Cardenas, associate vice chancellor of student affairs.

Discussion topics included experiential learning, collaboration, community awareness and connection, international programs, brand recognition and university identity.

Lanning said feedback from last year's symposium clearly directed an internal and reflective format rather than outside speakers. He said it was his idea to include a dean's panel this year to facilitate audience-generated questions to the deans.

Lanning said the symposium's goal is to provide cross-discipline discussions about undergraduate success and learning and generate recommendations on ways to improve them. He said about a third of the 70 recommendations made in the event's seven-year history have been implemented, including an expanded Experiential Learning Center, a student peer mentor program and a first-year philosophy statement.

Ideally, he noted, the university will move toward addressing structural and systemic changes. One such possibility would be a "University College" where all freshmen start their university experience before moving into individual schools and colleges. Another big-ticket item would be creating a structure for better communications between academic affairs, student affairs and finance and budget.

The topic of promoting the unique identity of the university, through both internal and external channels, as well as bettering communication between the units of academic affairs and student affairs prompted lively discussion.

"In the economic development community, 'eds and meds' is a huge term and we are 'eds and meds,' here and at Anschutz," said Paul Teske, dean of the School of Public Affairs. "... We don't send our jobs overseas; we're not going to move out of Colorado. I think it is the repetition, the telling of these stories, and I feel like we've really just started that and I think it takes time. I think we will make headway there."

Laura Goodwin, interim dean of the College of Arts and Media, pointed to recent successes of improved collaboration, including the annual Undergraduate Experiences Symposium, First-Year Seminar Program, the Early Alert program, the Honors and Leadership Program, and the Office of Undergraduate Experiences.

"Certainly, there's tons more we can be doing," she said, "but I think a lot of the success is because of the goodwill of people on sort of both sides of this fence -- if there is a fence -- between academic and student affairs."

Brainstorming sessions took place at tables, each with a mix of faculty members, staff and administrators from different departments. The recommendations will be incorporated into a written summary produced by the Office of Undergraduate Experiences.

Nairn said he looked forward to seeing the recommendations.

"We need to worry about all kinds of things, but today we're only focused on this," the subjects of undergraduate learning and success, Nairn said. "If everybody set their affiliation aside and just thinks about what is going to be better for this campus -- what's going to be better for the students as a whole -- I think we'll have a much better discussion."

Archives of reports about each previous Undergraduate Experiences Symposium can be found at this website. Click the "Quick Links" section for individual symposium archives.