Annual Address 2012
David C. Hodge
September 6, 2012
How Have We Done?
In 2008, we approved five major goals and 41 sub-goals. Some of these goals had specific measures attached to them, most did not. We don't have the time today to explore our progress on all of these goals, so I will offer a few highlights for some of the more visible or critical goals.
The first goal is to "Make the Miami undergraduate experience among the very best in the nation." The goal is first and foremost about academics, especially curriculum reform. The Top 25 initiative, in particular, has fundamentally changed how we view our approach to education. With its focus on active, engaged learning and discovery, students report that they spend more time on higher order activities and our research shows that their critical thinking skills have improved. Faculty also report that students collaborate better, take more risks, and yes, even spend more time on their classwork!
We continue to be at the forefront of other significant curricular reforms:
- Miami is one of only 32 universities chosen by AAC&U in the Shared Futures Initiative that is defining what it means to be prepared for a global century.
- Miami is one of a handful of universities chosen for a process of continuous evaluation for accreditation. The focus on outcomes and feedback is vital to improving student success.
- We are undertaking a full review and revision of the Miami Plan, once again strengthening our liberal education foundations.
We have energetically focused on increasing those high impact experiences that have been shown to make the most difference in student success:
- The Howe Writing Center has become a focal point for integrating writing excellence throughout the curriculum, including the new requirement in Arts and Science.
- We have increased study abroad on the Oxford campus from 36% to 47%.
- We have increased the percentage of students with a research experience with faculty or staff from 9.2 to 11.8, significant progress although a bit short of our 15% goal.
- The proportion of seniors reporting that they have had a service learning course has gone from 71 to 76%.
- The proportion of seniors who have had an internship dropped slightly between 2007 and 2011 from 70 to 67 percent, although the number of internships available to students through the Career Services Office has increased by 101 percent in the past two years.
- Between 2009 and 2011, the number of students involved in formal leadership programs increased 59%. The launch of the SEAS-Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute and the creation of the Leadership Collaborative are two recent initiatives that merit special attention.
We have made being a more diverse and more inclusive university a priority, recognizing that we cannot be among the very best universities without those qualities. Among the changes and accomplishments we have achieved are:
- Increasing the proportion of multi-cultural students from 8.5% to 11.1%, with this year's first-year class at 12.6%.
- Increasing the proportion of first-year international students from 1% to 4.8%.
- The proportion of students reporting that their Miami experience contributed to a better understanding of people of other racial/ethnic backgrounds increased from 75% to 84%.
- This past spring we celebrated 40 years of connecting to the Miami Tribe, 20 years of Miami Tribe students on campus, and 10 years of the Myaamia project.
The one critical measure that has proven most challenging to our academic ambitions is our goal to raise our six-year graduation rate from 81 to 85%. Even though there is an obvious delay between our actions and changes in that number, our annual retention rates would suggest that we have not made progress. In my view, this is one of those "signature" measures that reflect the sum effects of our collective efforts. Part of the challenge is developing the sense of urgency that is needed to advance. It is easy to be satisfied with our high ranking and to assume that we are doing well. This is one of those situations where "good is the enemy of great." We must not let our success limit our aspirations to be great. With our overwhelming emphasis on student success, we need a true sense of urgency to improve the academic success of our students.
For us to move the needle will require an "all hands on deck" attitude, much like we have achieved in our recruiting efforts. We must be relentless in our commitment to understanding what works in providing the mix of challenge and support that will encourage even more of our students to succeed. The Steering Committee for Retention and Graduation has created lists of best practices that target critical aspects of student experience. Among their suggestions are:
- Value graduation as a fundamental, achievable goal for all students.
- Provide strong and consistent academic advising, including interventions with selected populations.
- Encourage faculty and staff efforts to get to know students personally and make them feel welcome.
- Stress the importance for students to discover and connect with people, programs and activities.
- Integrate personal and career goals through engaged, experiential learning.