Annual Address 2010
David C. Hodge
October 7, 2010
The scholar-teacher model has always been a part of the culture at Miami. We believe that our students are best served by a core faculty who have a deep passion for both teaching and scholarship. Today, more than ever, this combination is important to creating the engaged learning and discovery environment in which our students are immersed. Thus it is important that our faculty are able to engage in scholarship at the edge of knowledge and understanding, that they be recognized by their peers for their accomplishments, and, where appropriate, are competitive in receiving external funding. Finding the right balance between scholarship and teaching is always a challenge, but the more that we see these functions as inseparable, the more likely we are to have high quality results in both areas.
Finally, it is difficult to talk about getting better without addressing our status in rankings. The shortcomings of major rankings are well known. Unfortunately, they are widely used despite these shortcomings, and therefore we must seek to elevate our rankings, especially on those measures that reflect our core values. The recent number two ranking in the USNWR list of colleges most committed to undergraduate teaching is one of those measures, as is our inclusion in Parade Magazine’s A-list of top public universities as evaluated by high school counselors. We will probably always struggle with rankings that place a large emphasis on resources and inputs, but if we achieve our main goals, and if we are effective in communicating that with others, we will rise in most rankings.
Paths to Success
In order to achieve the goals that we have set out for ourselves, we must be even more focused on those qualities that matter most. Again, I can’t begin to offer a comprehensive list of those focal points in the time we have today, but I would like to explore two areas that are of critical importance to our future: continuing the transformation to engaged learning and increasing our retention and graduation rates. Significantly, success in both of these areas requires contributions from every part of Miami. Everyone at Miami has a role to play in setting the foundations for success in these areas, from creating a first-class physical and service environment that supports what we do, to helping our students develop personally, to engaging students in our classrooms.
Three years ago we introduced the Top 25 Initiative. The goal was to transform our largest introductory courses into student-centered, active, engaged learning environments. We fashioned the initiative to encourage not only the transformation of individual courses, but also, and more importantly, institutional change. We aspire to nothing less than the complete transformation of our curriculum to embrace the discovery paradigm of education.
The Top 25 Initiative has required a lot of hard work. Most faculty are finding that results are not immediate; that the benefits of the changes require three to four years to really accomplish the transformation for both faculty and students. The transformation includes the redesign of the courses, a change in culture, and a much greater emphasis on assessment. Articulating the outcomes we seek and then developing assessment techniques to provide feedback to the student, the course, and the department have proven to be absolutely essential to our success. So far, 27 courses have been brought into the program, and another two will soon join the others. Currently, these courses collectively provide about 30,000 student enrollments per year. Data collected from the students show that the program is beginning to have the impacts that we desire. Let me highlight three broad areas.
First, Top 25 courses show gains in class activities that move students toward accepting more responsibility for themselves in learning. Student evaluations in Top 25 courses show that there is:
Second, Top 25 courses are promoting active learning. Students are: