The Undergraduate Studies Newsletter
Dean of Undergraduate Studies Search Underway
The University of North Florida is currently in the process of conducting a search for a Dean of Undergraduate Studies. The Dean of Undergraduate Studies will advance the university's strategic goal to "cultivate a learning environment that supports intellectual curiosity, academic achievement, and personal growth." Towards these objectives, the dean will be responsible for overseeing undergraduate programs including the first-year experience; advising to non-declared majors as well as all undergraduate academic support; specific aspects of the undergraduate curriculum; and retention and transition programs. In addition, the dean will participate in academic program reviews and collaborate with the five college advising units. Primary areas of responsibility include: Office of Faculty Enhancement, Center for Instruction and Research Technology, Honors and Undergraduate Academic Enrichment Programs, Academic Center for Excellence The Dean will also chair the following committees/groups: Transfer Student Advisory Council, Undergraduate Studies Council, Faculty Contact Programs. The Dean will report directly to the Provost and will be a member of the Council of Deans.
New Training Course on Paying for Student Travel
The Office of Undergraduate Studies is offering a new training session called “Awarding Scholarships for Student Travel” through the Center for Professional Development and Training. Departments or faculty that sponsor trips for students using departmental or Foundation funds should consider attending this training session. With the rise of transformational learning opportunities that involve student travel at UNF, departments must be equipped with knowledge on awarding scholarships to students so that they can properly pay for student travel. The goal of this interactive course is to provide guidance to the learner on awarding scholarships from E&G indexes and Foundation accounts, and working with the various departments that are involved in this process. The course provides learners with the knowledge and skills necessary to make appropriate decisions concerning the method to use to award the scholarships, and it will reinforce established processes for travel.
Employees who are responsible for travel and the management of departmental accounts, as well as any faculty or staff who are interested in learning the procedures for paying student travel are welcome to attend. To register for this training course please visit the CPDT webpage at http://www.unf.edu/cpdt/ and click "Register."
Two UG Studies Reporting Units Have Moved
In Summer 2010, the Center for Instruction & Research Technology expanded its facilities and moved to a larger space in J.J. Daniel Hall, Building 1, Room 1801. The new facility includes expanded video editing capabilities, a meeting room, an equipment work room, and offices for all staff members.
The Honors Program has also recently moved its office to Building 1, Room 1700. One significant benefit the new office affords is a Honors Students’ Community Room, which is connected to the main office area. Since it’s opening in August 2010, many students have been taking advantage of this common area as a great place to study, rest between classes, or use the computer. According to Laura Ache, having the Honors Students’ Community Room, so close to the Honors main office has increased her ability to inform students about upcoming events and get students integrated into the things that are going on in the Honors office.
Items of Interest
Inaugural New Student Convocation
In an effort to improve retention and graduation rates, UNF administrators hosted an inaugural new student convocation Aug. 22 as part of the university’s annual Week of Welcome activities for incoming freshmen. During a welcoming ceremony featuring remarks by the institution’s president, provost and student body president, new Class of 2014 students were each given a lapel pin and card detailing the UNF values from the university’s mission and vision statement, and encouraged to become good UNF citizens.
“We hope it is one component in a series of opportunities for students to really connect with the university,” said Dr. Marnie Jones, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UNF. “All of the evidence and data about retention suggests that students are more inclined to stay at a university if they feel a part of it.” Jones said ceremonial efforts to give students early connections to the university were clearly tied to the end-goal of graduation. “Up until this year, the weekend part of Week of Welcome had primarily – and importantly – been focused on social interaction between the new students,” Jones said. “We wanted to mark their entrance into this next stage of their lives with an event that would book-end graduation.”
According to Jones, the idea for a freshman convocation ceremony originated with a UNF student. Chris Arsenault, who graduated from UNF with a dual bachelor’s degree in 2009, said the implementation of a pinning ceremony was suggested at a Week of Welcome planning meeting he attended as a student employee. After the meeting, Arsenault said he decided to research what other universities had done, and create a new event that would be welcoming and meaningful for incoming students. He later presented a freshman convocation proposal to UNF administrators and committees. “This whole convocation program was sort of a familiarization process,” Arsenault said, “so that new students could feel comfortable accessing the resources that we have on campus. That’s something that I felt we were lacking severely beforehand.”
Associate Dean Jones teamed up with Dr. Lucy Croft, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, to carry forward Arsenault’s idea to implementation for the Fall 2010 semester. Croft said the university’s revamped retention efforts began when students attended orientation during the summer. Small groups of new students were asked to each make an illustration on a small square of fabric to represent the UNF values, some of which include ethical conduct, community engagement, diversity, and civility. The fabric illustrations were sewn into a large banner, and raised as a culminating event at the Aug. 22 freshman convocation. “We feel it’s vitally important that students know what the university stands for and represents. And now that they are members of the community, they need to aspire to uphold these values,” Croft said.
Croft said the university plans to make freshman convocation an annual event, and to enhance other retention-driven efforts on campus. UNF administrators say they hope members of the Class of 2014 will feel a strong enough connection with the institution to stick around and complete their undergraduate degrees. “With some luck and considerable effort,” said Jones, “four years from now they’ll enter that same space with degrees in hand.”
New Faculty-Student Contacts Chosen
In an effort to increase faculty-student out-of-classroom contact, the Faculty Student Contacts Program (formerly called the Undergraduate Coordinators Program) has been implemented for a second year. Faculty-student contacts serve as liaisons for students and their major programs and provide undergraduates with the tools and information necessary to make informed decisions related to courses, careers, and overall student life on the UNF campus. The following is a list of the current Faculty Contacts:
UNF Reads Incorporated into the Week of Welcome
UNF’s Week of Welcome (WOW) for new students is a program organized by Student Affairs in an effort to introduce students to the university and facilitate their transition to college life. In addition to events focused on getting students acclimated to the social life of campus, in Fall 2010 students were given a taste of the academic as well during WOW as they engaged in small group discussions centered on the UNF Reads book "Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life" by Len Fischer. The book discussions were led by the WOW leaders, student volunteers whose function was to serve as guides to the new students during WOW and establish a welcoming environment. This gave freshmen an opportunity to discuss the book, which they had received during Freshman Orientation.
The WOW leaders were given free copies of the UNF Reads book at the beginning of the summer. They also participated in a training session on facilitating an effective discussion on the text, which was led by faculty from the English department, Dr. Jeanette Kashou and Ms. Linda Howell. Then during WOW the WOW leaders had an opportunity to lead their students in discussing the book by not only talking about Fischer's main points, but also by playing a game based on the various game theories introduced in the book.
By incorporating UNF Reads into the Week of Welcome, there was a unique blending of the social with the academic in the Week of Welcome this year. For more information about the UNF Reads Program, please visit the Undergraduate Studies website.
Additionally, the Office of Student Affairs is now in the process of selecting the WOW 2011 leaders. Any students who might be interested in serving as a WOW leader should visit the WOW website for more information and to obtain an application. Applications are due November 19, 2010.
"Talk of the Times" Brings Students and Faculty Together to Discuss National Issues
The atrium of the Osprey Crossings “S” student housing building was filled with conversation the night of Oct. 6 – but this time instead of the usual social exchange, students could be heard discussing the heavy ethical and academic implications of plagiarism with UNF professors. The discussion was a part of the “Talk of the Times,” a new initiative of the UNF chapter of the American Democracy Project, which aims to promote dialogue between professors and students about relevant issues and current events covered in the New York Times.
Marcia Ladendorff, co-chair of the university’s chapter of the ADP, said faculty members from various disciplines are asked to select a recent article from the New York Times to be discussed, and then students are given the article in advance and asked to participate in a conversation centered on the issues being addressed in the news story. "The goal of the project is to create a space where people can come together in a non-threatening environment to share ideas that are important enough to have been in the New York Times,” Ladendorff said.
The Oct. 6 discussion, facilitated by UNF English faculty member Linda Howell, was centered on an Aug. 6 opinion piece written by nationally renowned legal scholar Stanley Fish, which asserts in the very first line that “plagiarism is not a big moral deal.” Fish’s provocative piece was discussed by Howell and a group of about 20 students and faculty members, who sought to find deeper meaning in the article’s argument and discussed their own thoughts on the ethical implications of plagiarism.
Student beliefs were challenged as the definition of plagiarism was stretched beyond the assumed meaning of stealing another’s intellectual property, especially in the evolving digital age. Though most students initially said they viewed plagiarism as a clear-cut moral offense, by the end of the hour-long conversation, some conceded that perhaps it could be more of an academic or procedural issue than an ethical one in some circumstances. “It was really interesting,” said Glory Quintas, a student who participated in the Oct. 6 discussion, which was the second of its kind during the fall semester. “There were a variety of views, and I would definitely attend again.” Senior criminal justice major Erika Weaver agreed. “It was an authentic conversation on a great topic that should be addressed more often,” she said.
Ladendorff said building dialogue and rapport between students and faculty members is a critical component in every undergraduate career, because it teaches students to become civically-engaged adults. “Civil discourse is central to a healthy democracy. If you don’t have civil discourse, you don’t have an informed citizenry. If you don’t have an informed citizenry, you don’t have a democracy,” she said.
The UNF version of “Talk of the Times” is modeled after similar programs at ADP-affiliated universities across the nation. Created in 2003 by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in collaboration with the New York Times, the ADP was designed to help promote student civic engagement.
Future “Talk of the Times” events are being planned by the UNF ADP Steering Committee, and more details can be found on the UNF ADP web page at www.unf.edu/adp.
Students Conduct Optical Research at UNF and Abroad
In Summer 2009 Physics students were given the opportunity to engage in research in optical spectroscopy at UNF with Dr. Lev Gasparov, Associate Professor in the department of Chemistry and Physics. The students spent that semester working on the spectroscopic studies of magnetite and novel layered Co-based Chalcogenides. Then in Summer 2010 they travelled with Dr. Gasparov to Germany where students were able to spend time at Aachen Technical University where students explored advanced experimental techniques not available at UNF.
The main objective of this TLO was to expose students to a broad variety of the subfields in Physics. According to Zhanna Shirshicova, one of the students who participated in the TLO, “I can say for myself, it was definitely transformational learning experience where I transformed my knowledge of what I learned at UNF in the Physics program to actual applications that are being done in the industry today.” In addition to the expansion of the students’ knowledge of experimental techniques in Physics, students also benefited from the transformative effect of international travel and interaction with peoples of cultures that differ from their own. William Olsen, another student who participated in the TLO, stated, “The TLO taught me how to communicate with people who don’t speak my language, navigate unfamiliar territory, and how to acclimate to a new environment. Lessons of this nature are valuable and yet unattainable in the normal classroom setting.”
This project was supported by an undergraduate TLO award and a National Science Foundation grant for international collaborative research programs.
Students Get a First-Hand Look at Gullah/Geechee Heritage in South Carolina
Students in Dr. Melissa Hargrove’s Spring 2010 Anthropology of Gullah/Geechee course participated in a transformational learning opportunity designed to connect course material to people, places, and phenomena across the broader local and regional context. Throughout the course of the semester, students participated in a day trip to Charleston, South Carolina; a three-day camping trip to St. Helena Island, South Carolina; and a trip to the Kingsley Plantation in Jacksonville, FL. In Charleston students were able to study first-hand the politics of heritage tourism by visiting the Middleton Place Plantation and taking the Gullah Tour in downtown Charleston. During their camping trip to St. Helena, students participated in workshops on Gullah/Geechee cultural preservation efforts. The trip to the Kingsley Plantation provided students with the opportunity to attend the 2010 Heritage Celebration. In addition to these off-campus events, community leaders were brought on campus t o discuss community development and the recent Gullah/ Geechee Cultural Heritage Act, H.R. 694.
Many student products came about as a result of this TLO. Students participated in a symposium as a part of the Deconstructing Race in the 21st Century series. At the symposium students were able to show a 15-minute short film titled “Looking Back,” which detailed how the TLO was transformational for the students. Other students were able to link the course content to Jacksonville by conducting research on urban issues. Another group of students created a story quilt related to their TLO experience, while others worked on designing a gallery exhibit using material from the TLO experience. These students also wrote a grant for financial support from the Clinton Global Initiatives program to continue research projects that they began during the course. According to feedback that Dr. Hargrove received from one of her student surveys at the end of the TLO, “This course has been one of the best experiences I have had in college. It offered me the chance to apply much of the theory and knowledge that I have gained in school in the analysis of several representations of Gullah heritage. It engaged my understandings of race, representation, and the African Diaspora.”