Trustees discuss transdisciplinary schools after Arizona State University visit

April 19, 2010 | News, UToday
By Meghan Cunningham

Dr. Rosemary Haggett, Main Campus provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, last week shared her impressions of Arizona State’s “A New American University” with members of the Board of Trustees Academic and Student Affairs Committee, saying the institution could provide a constructive model for transformative change at The University of Toledo.

Haggett and a group of UT faculty and staff recently visited the campus to learn how Arizona State moved from the traditional department structure to transdisciplinary schools and faculties.

“Their reasons for making these changes are similar to what we are looking for to effect positive change here at The University of Toledo,” Haggett said. “It’s worked for them very well.”

Arizona State has seen enrollment and diversity of students grow, quality faculty members have flocked to the institution, rankings have improved, and research funding has increased.

Arizona State’s format produces “creative disorder,” Haggett said, and might not be exactly what UT is looking for, but the message of organization based on outcomes and bold change is something the University could embrace.

Arizona State has exchanged traditional departments for schools and created collaborative faculties that identify a challenge and bring people together to work on solutions both for the community and the globe.

President Lloyd Jacobs said the Arizona State experiment is designed to break down barriers between disciplines and that is what should be the focus when UT looks to it as an example.
Haggett and the UT representatives were directed by the board to visit other universities engaged with similar cross-disciplinary activity and report back to help UT identify an approach consistent with University goals, priorities and values.

Also at the committee meeting, trustees forwarded to the full board for consideration:

• An honorary degree for Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, chief executive officer of the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co., in recognition of his achievements in the support and promotion of renewable energy in the United Arab Emirates and globally.

• Promotions and tenure for a total of 24 faculty members on Main Campus, 13 of whom were approved for tenure. There are still several pending. Jacobs commented that his interviews of the faculty members up for tenure were a pleasure, and the process was good for the institution. “These are astonishingly accomplished, committed, intelligent people,” Jacobs said.

• The provosts’ recommendations for five new Distinguished University Professors.

• A new College of Adult and Lifelong Learning that would begin in the fall to better address the needs of adult learners, which is a growing segment of college students.

The committee also heard an update from Dr. Jeffrey P. Gold, Health Science Campus provost, executive vice president for health affairs and dean of the College of Medicine, on graduate medical education.

And trustees and administrators discussed, but took no action on, the idea of a smoke-free campus, which has been an ongoing dialogue on campus with a student debate, petition drive and campus-wide vote on the issue. The current policy on Main Campus prohibits tobacco use indoors and restricts it outdoors to 30 feet from buildings. Several trustees expressed skepticism that a policy change on Main Campus was needed. The Health Science Campus is tobacco-free.

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