November 11, 2010 — Coral Gables — “The Reinvention Center, hosted by the University of Miami, heads into its national conference with a new director and ambitious goals.
Ten years after the creation of the national center aimed at improving undergraduate education at leading research universities around the country, a growing number of those institutions have initiated programs to enhance the freshman experience while also ramping up opportunities for baccalaureate students to conduct laboratory research alongside top scientists.
Still, colleges and universities must do a better job of offering those students more research opportunities in the humanities and performing arts and in making sure that they are educated as global citizens, said Patricia A. Turner, a leading scholar in African and African-American studies and the newly named director of the Reinvention Center, a consortium of 65 public and private schools hosted by the University of Miami.
“We’ve done a lot more in the past ten years of actually getting students into laboratories working with faculty and in some instances being listed as co-authors on faculty publications,” said Turner, vice provost of undergraduate studies at the University of California, Davis. “But we’ve still got some work to do to improve that experience for students who mix humanities with research.”
The Reinvention Center’s two-day national conference begins this week in Crystal City, Virginia. University faculty, provosts, deans, and department chairs will attend, as will the center’s executive board members, including William Scott Green, senior vice provost and dean of undergraduate education at UM. Sanjeev Chatterjee, vice dean and executive director of the Knight Center for International Media at UM’s School of Communication, will give a talk on visual storytelling.
Turner says that some of the improvements in undergraduate education over the past decade can be linked directly to the Boyer Commission, which in 1998 issued a report calling for sweeping reforms in baccalaureate education—among them, a greater emphasis on research-based learning, the removal of barriers to interdisciplinary education, and the creative use of information technology.
The creation of academic positions like Turner’s and Green’s that are charged with addressing undergraduate education is one result of the commission’s recommendations, Turner explained. But the baccalaureate experience still needs to improve in other areas. Keeping global education programs like foreign-language classes afloat, for example, is critical, she said.
An African American who was the first in her family to go to college, Turner said she is committed to increasing the percentage of first-generation and underrepresented minority students in higher education. She wants the Reinvention Center to be the source to which media and public policy officials turn for matters related to undergraduate education.
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