What does the Dean of Undergraduates actually do?

I am including this post, which was originally on the FYE blog (http://u.osu.edu/uofye/), because i recently got a similar question from a parent at Orientation, and several days later from a student that I introduced myself to.


I’ve heard the following many times over the six years I’ve been in my current position at Ohio State University: “So, I get what my Department Chair does… he or she coordinates the activities in the department, assigns faculty and teaching staff to classes that are taught each semester, evaluates the performance of the faculty and staff, and oversees the budget of the department.”

“And I get what the Dean of the College does… he or she sets the strategic short and long term goals for the college, supervises and oversees department chairs, does fundraising for the college, coordinates outreach and communications related to the college, and generally makes sure that the academic mission of the college is achieved.”

“But what do you, as the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduates, do?”

Well, let me answer that:

I have two titles: Vice Provost of Undergraduate Studies and Dean of Undergraduate Education. I report to the provost, who, as the chief academic officer of the university, is in charge of all educational affairs and activities, including research and academics. As one of the vice provosts in his office, my job is to coordinate all of the academic-focused units that report to me. These include the Military and Veterans Services Office and the ROTC, the Student Athlete Support Services, the Undergraduate Research Office, Honors and Scholars, including the Collegium and the Undergraduate Fellowship Office, the Service-Learning Initiative, and University Exploration, our office for undecided and re-deciding student advising.

This “business, or Vice Provost” side of my job also has me collaborating with external constituents, such as the Board of Regents and industry and community organizations interested in undergraduate education, as well as with internal groups, such as Student Life, Enrollment Services, and First Year Experience. I also coordinate the academic part of the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program, working closely with Student Life.

The “academic, or Dean” part of my job is more focused on the academic programming components associated with undergraduate education. This includes working with colleges on General Education expectations and curriculum, and with evaluating and assessing the learning outcomes that are necessarily part of this important curriculum.

I am responsible for overseeing and implementing policies related to undergraduate academic programming, working with colleges to propose and implement policies of the faculty with respect to the development of programming for challenging academic experiences, and working with colleges on curricula and requirements for baccalaureate programs and new and useful undergraduate programs.

One of the most important parts of the “Dean” job is to coordinate advising across the university. Academic advising, like many other functions at the university, is distributed throughout the colleges. For example, the College of Engineering employs its own advising staff, and they focus on the courses and curriculum required in each of its departments.

Arts and Sciences (ASC) has its own advising staff for its departments, and they are also very knowledgeable about courses and curriculum in the general education, most of which is in ASC. The same is true for every other college. But there are policies and processes related to advising that cross boundaries of the colleges… that’s where my office comes into play.

My office coordinates those advising activities related to university-wide interpretation. We also coordinate advisor training and develop technology tools used by the individual advising offices.

This year we are embarking on an effort to review and improve academic advising across the campus, and even across all of our regional campuses. We are conducting surveys and running focus groups of students, advisors, college reps, and the overall undergraduate community to determine where we are and what are the needs related to increasing the quality and efficiency of advising.

Our goals are fairly well defined, and will benefit students from the time they arrive at OSU:

  1. We will develop opportunities for better student-advisor engagement
  2. We will provide professional development for advisors
  3. We will define and assessing learning outcomes for advisors
  4. We will improve advising-related information availability and access
  5. We will look for opportunities for enhancing advisor collaboration

To get there we will need to

  1. Identify obstacles to these goals
  2. Build assessment criteria and processes
  3. Expand web and system services
  4. Enhance training for advisors
  5. Enhance communication to all of the campus, including to students, faculty, and administrators

These efforts are all part of what we call the “Quality Initiative,” which is a required part of the accreditation of the university by the Higher Learning Commission. But they are also an essential part of our long-term desire to meet the needs of our students, and to provide the kind of support that will help to achieve student success. All of our students, both continuing and incoming, will benefit immensely from this QI effort.

Expanding Academic Advisor Responsibilities

The Ohio State University recently convened a summit to discuss academic advising for undergraduate students. The Academic Advising Summit was proposed by President Michael Drake as part of his 2020 Vision, a setting of priorities for the University. The summit, held on March 23rd of this year, was attended by 150 members of the University community, including faculty, students. University leaders, advising administrators, academic resource personnel, and academic advisors. A summary of the summit organization and notes that were harvested in the various sessions of the convening can be viewed at http://ugeducation.osu.edu.

In preparation for the summit, session moderators were encouraged to gather and document “typical” responsibilities of an academic advisor. A conclusion from this documentation is that these responsibilities vary dramatically across academic units, and that in many (if not most) cases there has been a significant increase in “extra” responsibilities that advising staff have been asked by their departments, colleges, or advising units to attend to. Many of these additional responsibilities are outside of the regular expectations that usually accompany an advising position focused on contributing to the academic progress and success of the undergraduate student. In fact, many are responsibilities that are often given to department administrative or clerical staff.

I looked for examples of recent academic advisor position descriptions (one of the two below is from Education and Human Ecology, and the other from Business, and are fairly representative of the description for an entry level position), which I then follow with a list of responsibilities that many advisors have been asked to assume (thanks to JB and JL for gathering these… the names and affiliations have been changed to protect the innocent.) In some cases it could be argued that these responsibilities are all best satisfied by the academic advising staff in the unit. However, there are only so many hours in the day, and as the complexity of programs and completion objectives change, it is important to assure adequate time to fulfill the student-advisor interaction expectations, and to still provide time for professional development and training. Draw your own conclusions about the impact of what has come to be called “scope creep”. Please use the comment section to add your own observations to this list.

Position Descriptions

  1. Provide academic advising and career counseling to students enrolled in the College of Education and Human Ecology (EHE); convey curricular information and assist students in selecting courses consistent with their developing goals and interests; document and maintain notes of interactions with students; help students to understand university and college procedures; teach survey course as needed; participate in new student orientation sessions; assist with recruitment activities as needed; possess knowledge of all university and college offices related to student experience, from admissions to graduation, and make referrals as appropriate; attend staff meetings; participate on college and administrative committees as assigned. (occasional evening hours as needed)
  2. Provide academic counseling to undergraduate business students in Fisher College of Business; assist students in identifying academic and career goals commensurate with their aptitudes and interests; provide academic support services; teach business survey course; participate in orientation activities; provide academic counseling for students interested in the field of business; assist advisees in selection of courses consistent with their developing goals and interests; monitor academic progress and advise on matters affecting progress; refer advisees to other university offices as appropriate; assist students in transfer process of degree candidacy; refer students to other degree granting units where and when appropriate; participate in college administrative committees and manage and provide guidance to student organizations. (occasional evenings and weekends required)

Expanded Responsibility List

  • Conduct daily student academic advising sessions
  • Teach University Survey course
  • Recommend courses and schedule students
  • Make and manage referrals to other units or support resources
  • Input data to SIS and notes to AdvisingConnect
  • Conduct degree audits, and make corrections and adjustments
    • Expanded data requests and more complicated curricula have contributed to more time and effort needed for programming DARS and posting exceptions.
  • Petition and form review and input
    • Course enrollment
      • add a course
      • drop a course
      • special permission
      • over-capacity enrollment
      • audit a course
      • time conflict resolution
      • above 18 hours
      • Late add/drop
      • Section change
    • Freshman Forgiveness or Grade Foregiveness (huge increase in workload!)
    • EM credit test approval and paperwork
  • Course waitlist management
  • Process warning/probation/special action in SIS
  • Evaluate transfer credit, or coordinate the incoming credit review with faculty members.
    • some extra outreach for transfer students beyond the TCR (Transfer Credit Report)
    • evaluate which categories have been fulfilled
    • prioritize evaluation of general and special credits
    • discuss options to selective or closed majors
  • Review Gen Ed options, often across different majors
  • Create and distribute informational materials related to degree choices, career options, study habits, etc.
  • Participate in career-interest advising
  • Compliance checking for student athlete eligibility
  • Recruitment activities coordinated with UA/FYE
    • increased responsibility and presence/coordination at recruiting and admissions events
  • Complete various reports through eReports and the ODS
  • Commencement verification reports
    • track down grades for graduating seniors prior to Commencement
  • Manage new honors programs
    • New programs added
    • increase in honors and non-honors research advising support
  • Manage Scholars programs
    • Some Scholars programs have moved back into the colleges
    • coordinators and programs were previously housed/funded/partially funded through H&S
  • Build and manage the course schedule for all undergraduate department classes.
    • coordinating faculty preferences and restrictions
  • Serve on workgroups, such as EAB, QI, Retention and Success, …
  • Serve on faculty committees
    • often results in the advisor preparing any materials or data needed by the committee.
  • Conduct appointments that serve students who aren’t necessarily in the unit
  • Conduct and/or arrange workshops for students on probation
  • Manage department or college social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Youtube channel, …)
  • Advising website maintenance
  • Maintain undergrad email listserv
  • Student records cleanup (like the College Edits we get each term) and class and college ranking reports.
    • The class and college rank reports used to be produced in MARX, and the Registrar used to publish locator reports
      • generating the data
      • filtering it through a set of MS Excel operations
      • sorting out the results.
  • Drop for Non Payment warnings to students, and necessary follow-up
  • Professional admissions
  • Units survey their students and then ask advising personnel to compile the results (about classroom activities, curricula, advising, career experience)
  • Take incoming department phone calls
  • Accept and distribute all incoming mail (faculty, staff, grad students)
  • Accept, sign for, and notify recipients of incoming packages
  • Correspondence to undergraduate students
    • accept to major
    • scholarship awards
    • end-of-term academic status.
  • Maintain undergrad BuckID (LockAndKey) swipe access to building and computer labs
  • Manage applications to majors
  • Arrange information sessions for companies to meet with students for internships/careers
  • Organize senior exit interviews
  • Develop, send, and keep records of online exit questionnaire
  • Complete third-party surveys asking for data on students and demographics
  • Gather data as needed by department chair and faculty for presentations and reports, including accreditation
  • Advise student clubs
  • Award and oversee NFYS Scholarships
  • Organize Spring department banquet
  • Choose student award winners – plaques, programs, certificates
  • Organize department Open House
  • Organize college graduation events


Double Majors

A little over a year ago, I had the privilege of participating in a meeting at the Teagle Foundation in New York City (all decorated for Christmas!!) to discuss a pending report related to double majors. The report was based on research done by a team led by Steven Tepper and Richard Pitt out of Vanderbilt University’s Curb Center, using surveys, transcript analysis, interviews and focus groups conducted with students and faculty on various campuses, including Ohio State.

The report “Double Majors:  Influences, Identities and Impacts“, summarized findings of the study, which was funded by Teagle. The study involved approximately 1,760 undergraduate students at nine colleges and universities: two large comprehensive public universities (The Ohio State University and the University of Texas), three large comprehensive private universities (Duke University, Emory University, and Vanderbilt University), two medium-sized private universities (Dartmouth College and Trinity University), and two small liberal arts colleges (Knox College and The College of Wooster). The survey targeted students entering their seventh semester of college at each of the participating institutions. It’s focus was to analyze motivations, outcomes, and identities related to the growing trend toward multiple majors.

A number of OSU undergraduate students were surveyed, and participated in focus groups on campus. I then represented Ohio State in NYC to review the study and provide institutional perspectives. Below are several observations of the study.

First, as you can imagine, the differences in institutions were reflected in the results – students at different universities had different goals and reasons for pursuing a double major. Second, the number of students double majoring is definitely on the rise at most institutions, with white and asian students choosing to do it at higher rates than other minorities, and males and females doing at at about the same rate.

Students report that their double major combination helps them think differently, solve intellectual puzzles, and approach assignments more creatively. The report showed that these gains are greatest when students major in two disparate domains of knowledge, especially combining science with art and humanities. There are a large number of students who choose foreign language as their second major. Finally, double majoring doesn’t seem to impact a college student’s curricular and non-curricular life in negative ways: time to degree is almost exactly the same as single majors; double majoring, when one major is a foreign language, facilitates study abroad; double majors are more likely to work on independent research with faculty or take honors courses; and double majors generally feel more creative because of their combination of majors.

About one-third of the students double majored in the same domain of knowledge: two arts disciplines, humanities, physical sciences, or social sciences, for example. These students were labeled “deepeners” by the research team because their two majors allowed them to hyper-specialize in one domain.

About 10% of the students took their second major in quite different disciplines from their first, for example, one natural or physical science and one arts or humanities discipline. They were labeled by the team as “spanners” or “Renaissance students.” Their choices allowed them to bridge the furthest intellectual distance between the majors.

Dr. George Kuh, famous for his research on “High Impact Practices” of successful college students, stated in the foreword to this study:

Pitt and Tepper’s formidable analysis of the complex relationships between the desired outcomes of college and the various combinations of double majors raises as many questions as it answers. For example, many combinations of majors don’t seem to matter much in terms of patterns or magnitude of outcomes. Is this, as I suggested, primarily a function of faculty and advisors not requiring students to make connections between what they have learned in their classes and other experiences across their two major fields? Or are the theorized differences between disciplines that Biglan and others posited no longer meaningful in the learning environments and experiences of undergraduates today?

Will the hypo and super doubles described by Pitt and Tepper be even more creative and better integrators and synthesizers a year or more after college than they are now? In other words, perhaps the double major experience will have greater impact a year or more after graduation, when students are better able to reflect on, integrate, and apply their knowledge from those fields—the very conditions that might help them gain more from a double major in the first place.

Pitt and Tepper propose several recommendations for institutions to follow related to double majors, to help their students get the most out of this emerging approach to undergraduate education.

  1. Institutions should proactively consider ways to help students integrate and synthesize across majors. Schools should consider supporting (and possibly requiring) senior capstone projects – theses or independent studies – that force students to integrate across disciplines.
  2. In addition to a senior capstone or honors project, faculty across the university should be aware that a growing proportion of their students will have expertise in more than one domain of knowledge. Faculty should explicitly encourage students in class to provide the perspective of their other major.
  3.  If universities want to encourage creativity, they should promote hypo (spanning) rather than hyper (specialization) double majors. In particular, universities should ecnourage their science students to consider a second major or minor in an art or humanities area.
  4.  If the universities want students to synthesize knowledge across majors, they need to prime them to want to achieve this outcome.
  5. The benefits of double majoring – whether in terms of curricular advantages or post-baccalaureate outcomes – seem intimately related to the student’s own “story” for choosing their two majors.  Institutions could enlist their career services offices to help students write personal narratives about their choices of majors and how often seemingly different areas are actually part of a single educational story that matches a student’s identity and aspirations.
  6. Consider and mitigate the negative effects of the over-scheduled student. While most of our respondents indicated that they were up to the task of juggling the demands of two majors, many acknowledged the frantic lives they were living.
  7.  Institutions should consider the relative advantages and disadvantages of the “minor” verses the “major.”

At Ohio State, many students are choosing to engage with either a double major or a double degree. Each college in the University “owns” its degrees, and the major associated with that degree. Students who want a double major within the same college, for example Arts and Sciences or FAES, can in many cases overlap courses on either major with course work required for the General Education program, and in some cases can overlap courses required for each major. However, students who want to complete majors offered by separate colleges (for example, Business and Arts and Sciences) must generally complete two degrees, including the Gen Ed for both degrees, and completing a second degree often adds hours and degree requirements that extend well beyond the requirements for the major.

OSU is currently considering a proposal that would simplify these dual college requirements for completing two majors. To complete the second major, students would need to complete the requirements of both majors, but the breadth required by the Gen Ed could be satisfied with the second major, allowing a foregiveness of the need to complete  Gen Ed requirements of both degrees.

The entire report, Double Majors:  Influences, Identities and Impacts, can be downloaded from the Curb Center website at http://www.vanderbilt.edu/curbcenter/?page_id=2853

The Difficult Issue of College Affordability

No single issue related to higher education is receiving as much attention today as the issue of college affordability. Universities across the country (Ohio State included) are listing affordability as one of the primary priorities that need to be wrestled with. States (including Ohio) are issuing directives that will address the shortcomings of current pricing structures, academic programs, and financial aid approaches.  Student groups (including Ohio State’s USG) are debating how they can request (or demand) some relief from overwhelming costs associated with the pursuit of a degree. On January 16th President Obama held a summit at the White House for more than a hundred “college and university presidents and leaders from non-profits, foundations, state governments and the private sector.” The goal was to address the issues and discuss best practices for access and affordability, particularly for needy students.

I applaud all of these concerns, and I express a significant amount of hope that these efforts will result in meaningful solutions that all of us in higher ed can look to for resolving our current situation. But while I have that hope, I refer to the following excerpt, which very clearly reflects the current state of access and affordability:

The impressive record compiled by a dedicated educational community stands in contrast to some grave shortcomings in our post-secondary educational system in general and to the Federal share of it in particular.

  • Federal student loan programs have helped millions to finance higher education; yet the available resources have never been focused on the neediest students.
  • The rapidly rising cost of higher education has created serious financial problems for colleges, and especially threatens the stability of private institutions.
  • Too many people have fallen prey to the myth that a four-year liberal arts diploma is essential to a full and rewarding life, whereas in fact other forms of post-secondary education-such as a two-year community college or technical training course–are far better suited to the interests of many young people.
  • The turmoil on the nation’s campuses is a symbol of the urgent need for reform in curriculum, teaching, student participation, discipline and governance in our post-secondary institutions.
  • The workings of the credit markets, particularly in periods of tight money, have hampered the ability of students to borrow for their education, even when those loans are guaranteed by the Federal government.
  • The Federal involvement in higher education has grown in a random and haphazard manner, failing to produce an agency that can support innovation and reform.

We are entering an era when concern for the quality of American life requires that we organize our programs and our policies in ways that enhance that quality and open opportunities for all.

No element of our national life is more worthy of our attention, our support and our concern than higher education. For no element has greater impact on the careers, the personal growth and the happiness of so many of our citizens. And no element is of greater importance in providing the knowledge and leadership on which the vitality of our democracy and the strength of our economy depends.

This Administration’s program for higher education springs from several deep convictions:

  • Equal educational opportunity, which has long been a goal, must now become a reality for every young person in the United States, whatever his economic circumstances.
  • Institutional autonomy and academic freedom should be strengthened by Federal support, never threatened with Federal domination.
  • Individual student aid should be given in ways that fulfill each person’s capacity to choose the kind of quality education most suited to him, thereby making institutions more responsive to student needs.
  • Support should complement rather than supplant additional and continuing help from all other sources.
  • Diversity must be encouraged, both between institutions and within each institution.
  • Basic reforms in institutional organization, business management, governance, instruction, and academic programs are long overdue.

This excerpt, while seeming to describe this nation’s current situation, was taken from a statement by President Nixon on March 19, 1970, on the eve of his submission of the Higher Education Opportunity Act. The New York Times noted the barbell distribution of financial aid in a 1972 editorial: “The rising cost of going to college makes it increasingly difficult for all but the affluent or the completely subsidized poor to attend the expensive campuses.”

There have been several very important milestones in our history that have shaped the way higher education serves our country. The Morrill Act of 1862 changed American’s perception of college, and was very instrumental in the way the citizens of the United States could get access to post-secondary education through the establishment of land-grant institutions. In 1890, Morrill II had an impact on access for minorities, and established HBCUs. 1901 saw the first of what we now call the junior or community college. The 1944 GI Bill had a huge impact on accessibility of college for our returning veterans, and literally changed the face of higher education. The National Defense Education Act of 1958 made available low-interest loans for students who were pursuing degrees that were  important to the nation’s security. (I personally took advantage of the National Defense Student loan program to help finance my own education.) 1965 saw the creation of the Federal College Work Study program and the Basic Education Opportunity Grant as part of the Higher Education Act, which changed the nature of “federal financial aid” and provided the means necessary for low-income, low socioeconomic students to attend college (Title IV funds). This Act was reauthorized in 1972, and many blame this reauthorization for contributing to a dependence on federal funds (Pell grants soon followed in 1973) and forcing students into increased reliance on college loans – putting us into the situation we’re in now.

Nixon closed his 1970 submission to congress with the following statement:

The time has come for a renewed national commitment to post-secondary education and especially to its reform and revitalization. We must join with our creative and demanding young people to build a system of higher education worthy of the ideals of the people in it.

I want to echo that statement, now nearly 44 years later. But, for reasons we all know too well, colleges and universities have been complacent, and unwilling to change. But we have to. We have the ability and creativity and intellect in our institutions to bring to bear on this serious issue. However, it can’t necessarily be done in the ways that our politicians and legislators and regulatory commissions are dictating it be done. We have to raise our higher ed voices so that they are not drowned out by legislative edicts. It’s now time for another “milestone” in our history, that will provide real relief from the escalating cost of college and the impact it is having on our country, and will at the same time insure the integrity of the educational foundations we embrace.

Matson Cartoon


President Richard Nixon’s Special Message to the Congress on Higher Education, March 19, 1970.

Stratifying the Campuses, New York Times April 23, 1972.

Cartoon: ©R.J. Matson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch


A Commitment to Attainment at Ohio State

Syllabification: (at·tain·ment)
Pronunciation: /əˈtānmənt/
the action or fact of achieving a goal toward which one has worked

In higher education, the term attainment is often associated with degree completion. When discussing attainment, several other terms also often rise in the conversation: completion rate, persistence, retention, affordability, and time-to-degree. None of these related issues can be ignored if progress toward increased degree completion rates are to be achieved.

There has recently been increased attention focused on the issues related to attainment, and a National Commission on Higher Education Attainment was created in 2011, with participation from the American Council on Education (ACE), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (A۰P۰L۰U), and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). The Commission was chaired by OSU’s former president, E. Gordon Gee. After meeting from October in 2011 until late in 2012, the Commission released a report in January, 2013.


The report credited universities for the efforts to increase attainment, but also noted that much more could be done. According to a letter from the Commisssion announcing the report:

“We need to do more … We believe every institution must pay as much attention to the number of degrees it grants—completion—as it does to success in admissions and recruitment. It is now time for all colleges and universities to marshal the resources needed to make completion our strategic priority.”

Among the strategies called for by the commission were: “…clearly and unambiguously assigning responsibility to specific senior administrators for improving retention and graduation rates; considering expanded use of assessments that measure learning acquired outside the traditional classroom; improving remedial services; pinpointing weaknesses in preparation; and harnessing information technology to identify at-risk students.”

Ohio State has a commitment to the goals expressed in the national conversation around attainment and to the challenges posed in the Commission report. The University has for many years developed programs with this in mind (e.g., FYE, the Young Scholars Program, STEP, Learning Communities, the Scholars Program, as well as many related support services across campus.) The Office of Undergraduate Education, along with others on our campus, have an opportunity (and obligation) to advocate for the benefits of post-secondary education, and to participate in the partnership between educational institutions (including P-12, community colleges, and other public and private four year institutions), business and policymakers as we strive to achieve the national and statewide goals of increasing the number of college graduates.

Ohio State has been working with other parties in the region toward a “Central Ohio Compact”, which came out of a Regional Summit on College Access and Success that I and other OSU representatives attended. This summit brought together P-12 leaders, two year and four year institutions, business and community organizations, and educational service providers to discuss how we might achieve the “Big Goal” of 60% of Americans with a college certificate or degree by 2025. The Compact states four strategic principles that will help achieve this goal: aspiration and access; alignment and academic preparation; pathways for adult learners; and affordability. All of these goals are in alignment with those stated in the national conversations of attainment.

OSU has agreed to work with the Board of Regents on a grant to look at the efficacy of what is called “reverse transfer”. This program, called “Credit When it is Due” allows students that have transferred to a four year institution before completing requirements for their Associate degree at a two year school to transfer the appropriate credits back to the two year school and receive the Associates diploma.

Several of us in the Office of Academic Affairs are working on other issues related to attainment, specifically: dual enrollment; institutional partnerships related to early college and college access; working to identify and meet the needs of students arriving with large numbers of pre-college credits, including engaging advising staff, to assure timely graduation; participation in discussions at the state level regarding the “completion agenda”; working with the Board of Regents and the Chamber of Commerce and other groups on internship opportunities for undergraduates; and the role of high impact practices as a way of engaging students and raising retention rates, and reducing time-to-degree.

I have been working closely with our new Military and Veterans Services Office on issues related to military experience credit, CLEP exam credit assignment, and student engagement and retention. We have participated in Board of Regents discussions that would expand the use of examination and experiential credit assignment for military and veteran students, as well as other prior learning assessment strategies for all students.

Affordability is one of the barriers to attainment. Problems of reduced state and local support, rising tuition, reduced financial aid, and tightening credit status for students and families has created a crisis for higher education, including Ohio State. We are working with the Board of Regents to define three year pathways to certain degrees, we are expanding our distance learning opportunities, we are enhancing our advising training and expertise, and we are participating in discussions with partner institutions around college readiness, all with a goal of minimizing the impact caused by affordability. We are starting conversations with businesses around providing employee opportunities to complete a degree, encouraging tuition reimbursement policies, flexible schedules, the use of distance courses and onsite classes, and providing internships for our students.

I attended the Forum on the Future of Higher Education in Aspen the past several years, discussing the general topics of attainment and affordability, and while there participated in a discussion with 17 of our peer institutions related to the establishment of a “Flagship Universities Network” to advance discussions and potential partnerships related to attainment, among other issues. Ohio State has signed a letter of participation intent with this Network. We will work through and with this group, with the various affiliated organizations focused on attainment, including the Lumina Foundation, the Gates Foundation, Complete College America, the National Governors Association, the College Board and the Brookings Institution.

We will continue to work with our campus partners, specifically ODI, Undergraduate Admissions and FYE, Economic Access, and others in our quest to achieve the “Big Goal” while meeting the needs of special groups, particularly first generation, low-income, and diversity students, as well as adult learners and other non-traditional students from all over the world.

The Changing Face of Higher Education

Higher education is undergoing considerable scrutiny lately, and the promise is that this scrutiny will continue, and more than likely increase in intensity. Several recent authors have written books (some that have generated considerable controversy) making a case for the need to change the way we conduct ourselves as institutions devoted to educating our citizens.

One book summarized a study that our students were “drifting through college without a clear sense of purpose” and “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over two and four years in school (1); one advocated that perhaps the traditional college of today could be refocused, as the “disruptive innovation” of online learning forces us to reevaluate the structure of the university today (2); another questions the goal of a college degree for all, stating  “the most fundamental reform that should be made is abandoning the idea that a four-year college education is the appropriate or even necessary choice for everyone” (3); the author of one of the more recent publications (who signs on to the disruptive innovation premise, and the online education solution) states “More than ever, American colleges and universities seem to be in every business but education. They are in the entertainment business, the housing business, the restaurant business, the recreation business, and on some campuses, they operate what are essentially professional sports franchises.” (4)

Generally, these books have been a bit unsatisfying, as they tend to pigeonhole the problems, claiming that much of the issue is that “Higher Education” is inflexible and unwilling to change. Although the authors are correct in proclaiming that we need some immediate focus on the contributing issues, I think that the problems are much more diverse, and the causes much more expansive than these authors have stated, often naively, IMHO. In fact, the books are a good read, and I would never advocate that we should dismiss them or their message. We are facing significant issues in higher ed, and we need to face these issues head-on; these authors have presented some compelling data and arguments.

A 2006 study, from the Council of Higher Education Management Associations (CHEMA), identified the forces of change that are having an influence on higher education. The study queried thought leaders in the area, and listed the drivers (summarized below) that were seen by the leaders as most influential (with percentage responses):

Top Change Drivers in Higher Education

  • Insufficient financial resources    60.5
  • Technological change    32.6
  • Changing student demographics    23.7
  • Aging and expanding plant    21.1
  • The demand to demonstrate outcomes    20.5
  • Rising consumer expectations    18.9
  • Increased regulation    17.4
  • Expectation of 24X7 service    16.3
  • Rising student expectations    15.3
  • Global marketplace    14.7
  • Increased competition    14.2
  • Workforce demographics    12.6
  • Pressure to reduce tuition    8.4
  • Privatization    6.3
  • Decline in enrollment    3.7
  • Managing IP rights    2.6
  • Lack of skilled workforce    2.1
  • Declining student retention    1.6

Although, depending on the university or college, and the students who attend these schools, one could conclude that these drivers might be more or less significant. Also, new innovations, such as MOOCs, could change the order of importance of the responses. Having said that, I do believe that they are all relevant contributors to the situations that we are facing.

We are planning to convene some of the best thinkers in our institution to address the changing face of higher education, whether the issues are the result of the emphasis from some of these drivers (or others), or whether they are as the authors of many recent books have portrayed. If any of you out there have ideas sat to what are areas we should focus on, or your own ideas of how higher education needs to change, I’d appreciate your comments.


1. Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa

2. The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out, by Clayton M. Christensen and Henry J. Eyring

3. Is College Worth It?: A Former United States Secretary of Education and a Liberal Arts Graduate Expose Expose the Broken Promise of Higher Education, by Dr. William J. Bennett and David Wilezol

4. College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students, by Jeffrey J. Selingo

NACUBO: The Future of Higher Education: A View from CHEMA

The Value of Internships

A goal of every student attending Ohio State is to parlay the theoretical study usually associated with an undergraduate education into a rewarding and fulfilling professional experience. Many students do this after graduating, while others take advantage of an internship to combine some of that “real-world” experience with the classroom experience while still a student.

Many programs have understood the values associated with internships for their students, and either require or otherwise connect students with professional opportunities. Other programs, not so much. Allied medicine, business, engineering, social work and others have tradition of engagement through internships that give students the chance to learn first-hand what it means to work in that discipline, to network with professionals who are actively working, and to “test the waters” of a particular career, company or organization, or professional interest area. Not to mention that it gives the company a chance to look at the student, and perhaps offer him or her a job after graduation. (One publication recently observed that 73% of interns were ultimately offered a job by the company that they interned for.)

The Ohio Board of Regents understands the value of internships, not only to the students in their member schools, but to companies in Ohio and to the Ohio economy overall. They recently set aside $11M from licensing fees from the various casinos that have been built across the state to fund a program they call OMIC – Ohio Means Internships and Co-ops. This program provides grants to universities that develop partnerships with Ohio companies to support paid internships for their students.

Ohio State received one of these grants, to the tune of over $1.5M, to fund a program we call “JobReady: Interns and Co-Ops for Ohio Industry”. This program connects over 80 employers with nearly 440 students from many different disciplines and majors, and provides paid internships that are funded from the state allocation, matched by the company. JobReady is a partnership with the Office of Undergraduate Education, the Office of Research, Student Life, the Digital Union, and several Career Services offices across several colleges. It also connects with Columbus State Community College and North Central State College in Mansfield. The internships are in many different targeted industries, including automotive, energy, financial services, and food processing.

The program allows businesses to receive cost share of wages on a sliding size scale and students to receive credit and wages for internships, plus stipends to offset other costs such as transportation and housing. One unique aspect of JobReady are the JobReady modules – self-contained instructional resources offered both online and face-to-face that address employer-identified gaps between the classroom and the workplace. These modules are focused on many different areas that employers want to see their interns get more experience with, including ethical behavior, experimental design, financial planning, workplace effectiveness, critical thinking, interpersonal communication, and business intelligence. Each employer will select 2-4 of these modules, which are identified as required for the intern to complete while working.

The benefits of this program are clear: higher student graduation rates and stronger workplace preparation (supported by research) for students who participate in such programs, the ability to earn stipends while attending school – contributing to college completion, and for industry, engagement in achieving a JobReady workforce.

If you have an interest in the program or want to find out more about the kinds of internships that are available, go to http://careers.osu.edu/students/jobready

A Short History of the Office of Undergraduate Education

In the late 1960s, Ohio State developed an innovative program, called University College, or UVC as it was commonly known, as a common entry point to the University for all incoming freshmen. All students enrolled in UVC, and took their Basic Education Requirements, or BER courses (these are now called General Education courses.) When they were ready, after at least one full year in UVC, undergrads executed an IUT, or IntraUniversity Transfer, to the major of their choice, assuming they were admitted to that major. If not, they remained in UVC until selecting another major.

In 1986 the Board of Trustees determined that OSU should move to a selective admission model, which was fully actualized in 2002 (OSU had been an open admission campus since 1914.) At the same time, there was much discussion about the way academic advising was organized – this was one of the major functions of UVC. There was a palpable tension between UVC and the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Board of Trustees insisted that there be an effort to reform advising, creating a closer relationship with faculty in the departments and their student majors and pre-majors.  They sent a message to the provost that there needed to be a new university-wide policy that would set the standard for academic advising.

This was the beginning of the end of UVC. In 1988 it moved from its location on West Campus to the central campus, and was ultimately (around 2001) reorganized out of existence, with most of the UVC advisors moving to the central Arts and Sciences college (ASC). The predecessor of the current Dean of Undergraduate Education was appointed out of this reorganization. The position was defined as the Vice Provost of Arts and Sciences and Dean of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Studies, and Robert Arkin was hired from the University of Missouri to take on the responsibilities of the new position. He primarily served as the head of campus-wide advising, overseeing the ASC advising unit.

In 1994, Provost Richard Sisson and Vice President for Student Affairs David Williams charged a new committee to investigate the environment at the University related to undergraduate students and to “refocus attention on quality undergraduate education.” The Committee on the Undergraduate Experience included 23 faculty and staff and 23 undergraduate students, and was chaired by Martha Garland from the College of Humanities and Eric Busch from Student Affairs. Their report, called the CUE report, was issued in May of 1995 and recommended sweeping changes to the University that would have significant impact on the life of undergraduates on campus. General recommendations were made in three categories: (1) basic needs (social involvement, safety and security, transportation, and financial issues), (2) academic experience (first-year experience, advising, curriculum, and quality of instruction), and (3) reducing red tape and valuing the individual. Some of the specific recommended changes included:

  • the establishment of Campus Partners to deal with east of High Street issues
  • increased safety escort, emergency phones, and student safety services, and improved crime reporting
  • upgrades to the campus, including lighting and bike racks
  • parking enhancements and bus services
  • First Year Experience (FYE), enhanced orientation, and Welcome Week
  • enhanced support for transfer students
  • a review of the General Education Curriculum, or GEC
  • closed course solutions
  • student advocacy services
  • the University Scholars program
  • a recommendation for a Learning Management System
  • academic advising restructuring and advising technology support
  • financial awareness education and services and on-campus job database
  • improved disability services

As a result of this new focus on undergraduates, and a continued frustration with the ASC advising and organizational structure, in 1996 the Vice Provost and Dean position was moved from ASC to report to the Provost, and was retitled the Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Studies. Former Associate Provost for Instruction and Curriculum, and Vice Provost for Academic Programs Robert Arnold was hired to take on these revamped responsibilities. A year later, Martha Garland, who co-chaired the CUE efforts, replaced Arnold as the VP and Dean.

At this time, Garland oversaw all of enrollment services and undergraduate education, including admissions, FYE, financial aid, the Registrar, and all units of Undergraduate Education. In about 2008, the Board of Trustees wanted a more strategic planning process for enrollment at the University that would result in a more plan-ful and predictable approach to the demographic of the student body. As Garland was ready to retire, the office was divided, with the Undergraduate Education academic units remaining with the VP and Dean, and the admissions and enrollment related units reporting to a new Vice President of Strategic Enrollment Services. In 2009, Dolan Evanovich was hired from UConn to take on the Enrollment Services effort, and Wayne Carlson (yours truly) was brought over from his position as Chair of Design to be the Vice Provost and Dean, and the current Office of Undergraduate Education was established.

I am often asked what are the different responsibilities assigned to each title of VP and Dean. Here is an outline:

• Dean of Undergraduate Education (according to Faculty Rule 3335-3-30.1)

  • oversee and implement policies related to UG academic programming
  • promote, direct, and support UG educational activities of OSU, and encourage learning
  • work with colleges to propose and implement policies of the faculty with respect to the development of programming for challenging academic experiences
  • work with colleges on curricula and requirements for baccalaureate programs and new and useful UG programs
  • work with colleges on GE requirements
  • oversee a general University Honors program
  • oversee rigorous interdisciplinary programming
  • coordinate University advising and curricular counseling
  • achieve consistency in advising across the University

• Vice Provost of Undergraduate Studies (according to the Office of Academic Affairs guidelines)

  • supervise and have budgetary authority for academic support units
  • collaborate with Student Life to enhance intellectual experience
  • collaborate with enrollment services to develop admissions and FYE programming and experiences
  • oversee and collaborate with units to assure that all students have the opportunity to be educated for citizenship
  • establish and maintain a financial and operational environment that meets compliance expectations
  • work with external constituent groups, including academic, governmental, community, and industry on programming impacting UG students

Note: much of the historical information herein was culled from a KnowledgeBank entry representing an interview with Martha Garland by archivist Raimund Goerler.

The Value of Undergraduate Research

The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) defines undergraduate research as “an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate that makes an intellectual or creative contribution to a discipline or disciplines.” It is important to glean from this definition that it is not restricted to STEM fields, but embraces the arts and humanities.

We intrinsically know that undergraduate research is one of those so-called “high impact practices” that more fully engage students in their own education, and we also know that it ensures the kind of experience that adds to the value of a college education at large. But this is more than mere speculation.

For example, educational psychologist David Lopatto of Grinnell College has done extensive research around the hypothesis that undergraduate research activities have significant positive benefits to the overall quality of a student’s education, and has a positive impact not only on the subject area in which the research experience is grounded but on all other subject areas that the student is engaged in, as well as on the faculty mentor(s) and the university in general.

Some of these benefits to the student include:

  • Enhanced knowledge of research techniques
  • Better understanding of the relevance of coursework
  • Understanding of the value and usage of disciplinary literature
  • Appreciation for and understanding of the process of building on the base of existing scholarship
  • Understanding of how scholars do their work
  • Independence as well as collaboration
  • Toleration of challenges and obstacles, and how to learn from and advance from them
  • How to handle uncertainty
  • Preparation for future academic pursuits, including graduate study

Some of these benefits to the faculty include:

  • Intellectual invigoration, enthusiasm, and impact on teaching
  • Peer relationships and satisfaction
  • Advances in research program
  • Out of classroom interaction
  • Learning communities
  • Undergraduates push us to stay current

Some of these benefits to the university include:

  • Intellectual vitality and diversity
  • Enhanced recruiting of students and faculty
  • External funding
  • Curricular inovation, particularly related to interdisciplinary curriculum
  • Increased opportunity for national engagement

I have my own list of specific advantages to an undergraduate that participates in undergraduate research:

  • Increased self-confidence
  • Better time management skills, and better work balancing skills
  • Enhanced leadership abilities
  • Mentorship opportunities
  • Understanding of teamwork value and enhanced skills
  • Information literacy
  • Understanding of data collection techniques and processes
  • Data analysis techniques developed
  • Research design processes learned
  • Communication skills
  • Ethics
  • Portability of gains in knowledge to other areas

I really like Lopatto’s observation, from his monograph “Science in Solution: The Impact of Undergraduate Research on Student Learning”, published in 2009 by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement:

The challenge of naming the benefits of undergraduate research stems from the complexity of the experience. Undergraduate research, done well, engages multiple dimensions of a student’s cognitive, behavioral, and attitudinal skills. Task-specific learning about instruments and methods cascades into active hypothesizing and procedural troubleshooting that result in the accumulation of self-confidence and independence that help shape the student’s vision of her future. The whirlpool of outcomes mixes value added with value expressed, that is, mixes the guided acquisition of expertise with the discarding of the fear of expressing ideas and hypotheses.

Military and Veterans Services Office

Ohio State recently opened a new administrative unit focused on serving the needs of our students who are in the military or who are veterans of military service. With input from Col. Mike Carrell, our new director, I wrote an editorial column for a military veteran focused publication out of Cleveland, called the DD 214 Chronicle, that described our new effort and the Office of Military and Veterans Services, which reports to the Office of Undergraduate Education. The article, titled “Ohio State Responds to Needs of Student Veterans” is excerpted starting in the following paragraph below, or a PDF version of it can be read online at http://go.osu.edu/dd214

I have been on the faculty at Ohio State for quite a number of years, teaching both at the graduate and undergraduate level. I started in administration in 1991, first as a director of a research center on campus, and then as a department chair. In that capacity, I encountered several military and veterans issues, including student deployments and activations as well as military personnel returning to campus. A little over 3 years ago I was tagged to be the Dean of Undergraduate students, with responsibilities that spanned both the academic and the student life of all undergrads on campus (nearly 50,000). Included in my direct reports were the ROTC programs and student advising, both with a strong military student commitment.

As soon as I took office, I was made keenly aware that the support for our military and veteran students was good in some areas, and not so much in others. We had launched a “veteran’s only general education course program”, that allowed the cohort of students to attend, study and interact with like-experienced students in writing and narrative courses. We had an excellent counseling and consultation program, our student health program was good, we had a veterans learning program, and we were just launching a “veteran’s house” living environment, a transitional residence for several dozen returning vets. But all of these services and programs were uncoordinated and spread over several different areas of our campus.

Additionally, our previous veterans service office was established in 1991, when we served only a couple of hundred students. We had 1.75 people in the office processing the GI Bill benefits applications, but also overseeing the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action functions for all veteran employees of the University. They fielded calls, connected with the VA and other services, responded to student complaints, etc. As the number of veterans returning to campus increased (we had 1776 vet students last year, and nearly 2000 this year) and as we see more dependents coming as a result of Post-911 financial benefits, these 2 people were overwhelmed.

As “luck” would have it, the commander of our AF-ROTC detachment (Col. Michael Carrell), which reported to me, retired, and I was able to set aside some funds to hire him on a part time basis to do a thorough analysis of our situation and to bring forward a plan to establish a Veteran Resource Center that would coordinate all of our efforts for vets, and to provide a single “gateway” for students and families of vets as they returned to student life.

He assessed the programs of all of our peer institutions, looked at all the services we offered, connected with our Vets4Vets student organization, participated in a Veterans Services Task Force that we established, comprised of reps from all of our vet services groups, met with VA and representatives from both the military and the government. He looked at the impact of programs such as the Post-911 GI Bill, the Yellow Ribbon program, and the State’s GI Promise, and made predictions of the increasing need for focused services.

As a result of his report, I recommended to our Provost and President that we establish a Military and Veterans Services Office. This recommendation included several “must-haves”:

  • The Office should be located on campus proper
  • The Office would not need to own all resources, but should definitely be representative of and coordinate resources across OSU
  • We needed to integrate the existing veteran services personnel, but expand the numbers
  • There is a need for some former military members/veterans to be part of this office
  • The Office’s leaders should ideally have backgrounds in military/veterans issues, higher education, and strategic planning with the most important skill being able to coordinate across departments/colleges at a high level

From this recommendation, we identified six fundamental responsibilities of the Office:

  1. Seamless integration of VA & Military benefits & pay and processes
  2. Academic Success (our guiding focus!) – this encompasses academic guidance, counseling, and assistance, as well as academic support mechanisms throughout OSU, including, but not limited to Academic Affairs, University Exploration, Service Learning, The Colleges themselves, Student Life, Enrollment Services, and The Medical Center.
  3. Positive Transition to both Civilian Life and College – includes Military & Veterans Orientation and First Year Experience (FYE), Student Advocacy, The Office of Disability Services, and Career Counseling, but also necessitates partnership with national, state, and local agencies in and around Columbus such as the VA.
  4. Internal Liaison to the University – includes education and training on military and veterans’ issues to faculty and staff; building collaboration in areas like the current Veterans Task Force, and future opportunities such as partnering for a faculty conference, building a faculty & staff mentoring group both for students and our over 1000 university employees who are veterans, and reporting to University officials, the campus press, and all constituents
  5. External Liaison and University representation – includes the VA in Columbus, the State Department of Veterans, Columbus city veterans efforts, the Board of Regents in both providing knowledge/expertise as well as supporting the Government Affairs, Public Relations, and Institutional Research and Planning offices, among others, that routinely are tasked with military and veterans issues and questions.
  6. Senior Leadership Advice and Consultation – including fundraising and development offices

We are locating the office in our Student Services Building, a centrally located facility where all of our student financial aid, admissions, registrar, bursar, and first year experience offices are located. It will be on the first floor, with excellent handicap accessibility. It will be fully staffed, and also integrate over a dozen student work-study veteran students, funded by the VA. It will not house all of the disparate services, but will be a central access point for referrals to our counseling, health services, student learning centers, etc. We have built in space for reps from the VA and for a dedicated academic advisor in addition to the expanded benefits processing staff. The office will maintain the same access as all of our other student services offices. In addition, we are planning for a veteran’s lounge at a different space on campus, which will include a space for vets to congregate, study and socialize, with expanded access hours.

Visit the Military and Veterans Services website at