MENOMONIE – The University of Wisconsin-Stout is using an innovative strategy to help freshmen get the tools and resources they need to successfully complete math coursework, the Board of Regents learned Friday (May 6) during a full Board meeting at the UW-Stout campus.
Calling it a “real success story,” UW-Stout Chancellor Charles Sorensen introduced a presentation on a new campus-funded Math Teaching and Learning Center, or Math TLC, which allows UW-Stout students to take a hybrid online/classroom approach to two first-year math classes.
Jeanne Foley, director of the Math Teaching and Learning Center, said the single-best predictor of whether students will have academic success in college is taking and passing a math class during their first semester of college.
Until this year, she said, instructors taught introductory math courses using traditional classroom lectures, daily homework, and paper tests and quizzes. Attendance and homework completion rates were often low under this approach, Foley said.
But with the introduction of the Math Teaching and Learning Center, “student results for these two classes are better than they’ve ever been before,” Foley said.
The program is unique in that it allows students to complete homework using web-based software that grades homework, administers tests and quizzes, offers real-time feedback, and provides online help options for students. In addition, each UW-Stout freshman is issued a laptop computer, which they can use to watch video lectures, or quickly e-mail their instructor, Foley said.
UW-Stout was inspired to create the center based on success of a similar program at the University of Alabama, Foley said. Now, UW-Stout is helping UW-River Falls pilot this kind of program, and may do the same with UW-Parkside. UW-Barron County has also expressed interest in the center, she said.
“As long as students have access to computers, the same concepts and principles should be able to be adapted,” she said.
The program differs from online-only classes because it includes extensive one-on-one, in-person instruction. Foley told the Board that after the opening of the Teaching and Learning Center, student academic performance is improving significantly, and instructors are able to more closely track student progress.
Student John Henry Freeman III told the board that the center has helped him get on track to earn a B in his current course.
“It’s really a compliment to the teachers who work so hard,” Freeman said. “You get what you put in. I have gained more confidence, and I really don’t have to go to tutoring because the math lab is always open. It’s been positive for me.”
Nontraditional student Carolyn Anderson, who said she recently returned to school after 18 years, said she was “scared to death” of the math classes she would need to take for her major.
“After a few weeks, it had become a lot easier,” Anderson said. “I was able to pass Math 110 last year with an A. I have had to put a lot of time and effort into it, but there is a lot of help available.”
Foley said the center’s next goals include tracking the program’s effect on retention rates, developing a summer program, and possibly extending the Math TLC approach to other classes.
“We may not have much of a choice,” she said. “Students are clamoring for it.”
UW System President Kevin P. Reilly said he was looking forward to seeing more results of the program.
“Building understanding is so important to so many disciplines,” Reilly said. This approach seems to hold great promise.”
Reilly praises UW-Fox Valley, FVTC initiative; Highlights “Good News” from UW-Stout
An impressive new initiative in the Fox Valley is expanding the reach of higher education, UW System President Kevin P. Reilly reported to the Board on Friday.
Reilly outlined the plans of UW-Fox Valley and Fox Valley Technical College to collaborate in offering general education courses. The program will enable students to take UW-Fox and FVTC courses at the technical college’s Chilton and Clintonville regional centers, via the Internet, or over interactive television networks. The courses will apply toward a UW Colleges Associate of Arts and Science degree, or an Associate of Applied Science degree from a Wisconsin technical college.
“I believe this collaboration represents great news for Wisconsin citizens and communities,” Reilly said. “It is a perfect match to our strategic goals to help increase the percentage of Wisconsin residents who have baccalaureate degrees, which will help raise per capita incomes and the state’s tax base. It is a cost-effective way to increase access to higher education, while fully leveraging the very limited resources these campuses do have.”
Reilly said the program is a model of innovation and an example of what the UW System can do in cooperation with sister institutions.
“We hear Wisconsin residents and employers when they tell us what they want and need from higher education in Wisconsin,” Reilly said. “There’s abundant proof that we are responding directly.”
In addition, Reilly also highlighted the work of UW-Stout faculty members Kristina Gorbatenko-Roth and Lynn Merel, who have integrated their work on abnormal cholesterol levels into a variety of teaching, research and public service efforts.
Reilly said their research team plans to present their first project on cholesterol norms among college students next month at the American College Health Association annual meeting.
He noted the direct implications of their research at UW-Stout, which has launched a public health mass communication campaign to increase awareness of high cholesterol risk among UW-Stout’s college-aged males.
“Most exciting was the process — exchanging ideas, being able to propose research, and having something to put on the ground in a matter of months,” Merel said.
Gorbatenko-Roth said they intend to expand their work with other UW System campuses.
Reilly also highlighted UW-Stout’s bioinformatics programs, and the Board saw a demonstration of the ADApt lectern, an ADA-compliant device developed with the expertise of UW-Stout professors Jeff Annis and Dave Swan that makes presentation technology adaptable to people with a variety of needs, including persons with disabilities.
Board honors Nylander for service as interim chancellor
The Board on Friday recognized the dedication of Virgil Nylander at the close of his term as interim chancellor at UW-River Falls.
Regent Chuck Pruitt of Milwaukee, who presented the resolution on behalf of the board, said he and other Regents who were appointed to the search-and-screen committee to seek Ann Lydecker’s successor were confronted with a daunting task.
He recalled that Nylander had only recently retired after 34 years of service when Lydecker died in a traffic accident. Shortly after, then-President Katharine Lyall called and asked the former vice chancellor for administration and finance if he would step into the position for a year while a search was being conducted.
“It was an extremely difficult job for myself and my Regent colleagues because we knew that we needed to fill some very big shoes-those of Ann Lydecker. This was at one of the most difficult and heart-breaking times in the history of River Falls,” Pruitt said. “For that and all kinds of other reasons, Virgil Nylander could have said no. But people like Virgil Nylander don’t do that.”
Regent President Toby E. Marcovich of Superior also expressed his appreciation. He noted he had an opportunity to become more closely acquainted with Nylander when both of them served on the committee that selected Lydecker. Marcovich said he talked regularly with Nylander about educational issues and that he had “been absolutely great.”
Nylander, in thanking the Regents, reported that “It’s been a very, very interesting year and rewarding year. I love UW-River Falls and I love everyone that I work with there.”
As a humorous afterthought, Nylander added that he did not plan to come out of retirement again and that it would be his last Regents meeting.
Regents clarify fleet audit, letters to state
As part of committee reports on Friday, which included an update on the recent audit of the state’s vehicle fleet management, Regent President Toby E. Marcovich clarified the Board’s role in creating and enforcing employment contracts for UW System chancellors.
“The UW System President negotiates the employment contract when we hire chancellors,” Marcovich said. “The Board of Regents does not micro-manage that process.”
Marcovich said the Board must offer competitive contracts to get and keep effective leadership for UW institutions.
“All of you are aware how difficult this is, and I have been arguing for years about how inadequate our compensation packages are,” Marcovich said. “Most chancellor contracts around the country include access to a vehicle, and our Chancellor contracts are no different. Chancellors do a great deal of travel for fundraising, and have alumni group in every part of the state, and country.
“After the president negotiates the contracts, the Board approves them,” Marcovich continued. “When a contract is agreed to, all parties are obliged to honor the contract. The decision to honor the Chancellors’ original contracts with regard to vehicles was made last summer.”
Marcovich said he would direct President Reilly to bring any future changes to such employment contracts to the Board for approval.
The full Board also discussed transmittal letters prepared to accompany the submission of two statutorily required reports, the Annual Minority & Disadvantaged Student Report and the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Report.
Burmaster said the reports show that “diminished state support for the UW System has a very real impact on students.” She added that committee members “sincerely hope our letter will be carefully read.
“We would be remiss if we didn’t send a cover letter that commented on the need for resources,” she said.
Regent Gerard Randall Jr. of Milwaukee expressed his frustration with the implications for students of color, and businesses owned by women or minorities. He said the state could end up being “penny-wise and pound foolish” by failing to fund minority programs, and also by consolidating state purchasing contracts that hurt small businesses.
“I’m hopeful that when the letter goes out to the Department of Administration that it be so strongly worded that it will do more than just get their attention,” Randall said.
Marcovich cited his agreement with Randall’s statement, adding that “the letter should be stated in the strongest language, and I guarantee that will be done.”
Marcovich also agreed with the assertion of Regent Vice President David Walsh of Madison that the letter provides facts that will support the System’s contention for greater funding as well as purchasing flexibility.
Board meets new United Council leaders; Outgoing president reflects on term
The Board was introduced on Friday to the new leaders of the United Council of UW Students, a statewide advocacy organization that represents 24 UW campuses.
New United Council president Beau Stafford, a UW-Rock County student transferring to UW-Madison this fall, and Guillermo Cuautle, Jr., new United Council vice president and student at UW-Milwaukee, joined outgoing president Stephanie Hilton in reviewing several recent changes to the organization.
They explained that United Council elected to shift from a full-time staff president to the student presidents, which will be guided by a representative Board of Directors and professional staff. The changes stemmed from a 2004 strategic plan that aimed to improve the overall effectiveness of the organization.
“We, as students, are going to be out in the field with the public to address the issues at hand,” Stafford said.
United Council plans to emphasize efforts to bring in grants, work with alumni, and engage non-member campuses in the hopes of gaining their membership.
“It’s hard to be ‘united’ without being united across the state,” Stafford said. “It’s a really exciting time for us to see where we can take this organization for the next 45 years.”
Hilton thanked the Board for their work with students, and urged them to continue to be accessible.
“I sincerely appreciate your willingness to hear student concerns,” she said.
Hilton, who upon leaving office will begin a position as a legislative aide, said that United Council had accomplished some significant victories in recent years. She cited passage of a state law that requires funding for Wisconsin Higher Education Grants for the neediest students to keep pace with tuition increases.
But Hilton also urged Regents to work to improve several issues, including disbanding a group of Student Ambassadors who advise system administrators, which she said should operate through the student governance process; ensuring that the climate on campuses remains safe to students; avoiding differential tuition fees to underwrite activities that were previously provided to students by the state; and continue to emphasize student access and press the state to provide resources so enrollments are not curbed to protect quality.
“They have to come as a package,” Hilton said. “There is no magic tuition policy. The truth is that we need a real investment from the state to keep college open to all Wisconsin citizens.”
Board thanks UW-Stout for serving as gracious host
The Regents on Friday thanked UW-Stout for hosting the Board’s May meeting. Regent Salas noted UW-Stout’s position as a nationally recognized leader in promoting innovations in education, collaborative leadership, and quality enhancement, and thanked the campus for the chance to become more acquainted with the challenges and opportunities of campus-community partnerships in west-central Wisconsin.
In other business, the full Board:
- Approved the annual report for the Wisconsin Partnership Fund for a Healthy Future,created following the 2000 conversion of Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin to a for-profit stock corporation. At that time, proceeds from the sale of stock were distributed to the UW Medical School and the Medical College of Wisconsin to improve the health of the public. Thirty-five percent of the funds were allocated for public health initiatives and sixty-five percent for medical education and research initiatives.
- Approved a resolution to “place on file” a move to eliminate the College of Education, Exercise Science, Health & Recreation at UW-La Crosse. Regent Elizabeth Burmaster reiterated her concerns about the impact of the proposed elimination on teacher education and licensure but noted that the committee intends to settle the matter quickly. The motion will be addressed by the committee at the discretion of the chair. Burmaster said she hoped to have the resolution before the Regents at their June meeting.
- Approved the proffer from the Trustees of the William F. Vilas Trust Estate for support of scholarships, fellowships, professorships, and special programs in arts and humanities, social sciences and music.
- Approved revisions to Board of Regents Health Policy (RPD 78-9), which outlines health-care services that must be made available to students at four-year UW campuses.
- Approved renaming the UW-Madison Social Science Building the “William S. Sewell Social Science Hall” in honor of the former UW-Madison chancellor and long-time educator.
- Approved acquisition by UW-Platteville of two parcels of land in the city. The land contains a hotel and convention center needed by the university for student housing and to replace an existing convention center which is being remodeled. Approval of the project by the Physical Planning and Funding Committee on Thursday came with a number of contingencies, including resolution of environmental concerns.
- Heard a report from Regent Eileen Connolly-Keesler on the work of the Regent Meeting Improvement Committee, which is creating a survey to examine time, content, and efficiencies related to the Board’s monthly meetings. Connolly-Keesler reported that the committee is interested in addressing the Board’s strategy for Charting a New Course for the UW System; the Committee on Baccalaureate Expansion, meeting efficiencies, and accountability measures.
The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will hold its next meeting Thursday and Friday, June 9-10, on the UW-Milwaukee campus.
Related: Read May 5 (day 1) news summary