We are midway through the fall semester, and as always, we wonder how it has gone so quickly. This has been a particularly challenging semester as we have faced and dealt with many social challenges at the local, state, and national level. I’ve been pleased to see how our students, faculty, and staff have embraced these challenges with constructive dialogue and meaningful actions. It is a process that is never finished, but we are stronger and better for regular reaffirmation of our core values and principles.
I offer a few updates on select initiatives that we are working on during this academic year:
The Silver Core
The Silver Core originated from the deliberations of the General Education Task Force, which then-Provost Johnson created in Fall 2010. In Spring 2012, the GETF proposed two alternative general education programs (Silver and Blue). Those were refined in Fall 2012 under the direction of Provost Hardy. In Spring 2013, following two votes of the faculty, the University chose to change its general education program and selected the Silver Core proposal. Then the hard work began to make it happen. Elliott Parker came in as Core Director in summer 2013, and he oversaw the Core through the transitional period leading to the launch of the Silver Core in Fall 2016. The Silver Core includes 14 “Core Objectives” that describe the attributes and competencies that all University of Nevada, Reno graduates should possess when they graduate.
At President Johnson’s President's Council retreat this past August, we reviewed the Silver Core and discussed its value and significance. Everyone came away impressed and inspired by the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of the Silver Core. This enthusiasm prompted us to feature the Silver Core in the Opening Ceremony for new freshmen. Students, faculty, and regents took turns reading aloud each of the core objectives. It was wonderful way of communicating to new students and to the entire University community our commitment to comprehensive liberal-arts education.
When the Silver Core was drafted, it included an explicit understanding that it would be a living document, one that could and should be updated and modified as appropriate to remain relevant to evolving societal and economic conditions. Core Objective 10 specifies that “Students will demonstrate an understanding of diversity through courses that focus on topics such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, physical ability, language, and/or social class with an emphasis on the analysis of equity.” Largely in response to ongoing dialogue with students, we have come to appreciate that meeting CO-10 doesn’t necessarily assure that students are exposed to issues that address contemporary issues of diversity. Further, many CO-10 courses that addresses contemporary diversity issues are 300- or 400-level courses that have prerequisites and are thus not readily available to all students. Accordingly, the Core Board – currently chaired by Dr. Sarah Cummings – is addressing this issue.
This fall, we commissioned a special Core Diversity Task Force to develop Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) that articulate “Contemporary and US-focused Diversity and Equity. he task force (Ed Keppelmann, Jen Hill, Albert Lee, Deborah Boehm, and ASUN representative Precious Gbenjo) has completed its work, and its recommendations will be used as criteria to evaluate course proposals for mini-grants for faculty who wish to modify existing courses, or create new courses, that address current diversity topics. The expectation is that these courses will be taught during the 2018-19 academic year and going forward. The goal is to provide opportunities for all students to satisfy CO-10 requirements with courses that address contemporary topics of diversity and equity. Further, we are also in the process of hiring four new faculty who will have appointments with the Gender, Race, and Identify (GRI) Program
The Core Board is also reviewing our policies for meeting the Quantitative Reasoning (CO-2) requirement. This discussion is in line with a national dialogue, led be the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas, Austin, which advocates that colleges and universities should more closely align mathematics and quantitative skills with a student’s chosen field of study. For most STEM disciplines, college algebra leading to calculus is appropriate. However, social sciences, humanities and some professional disciplines may be better served by other quantitative competencies, such as statistical analysis.
Finally, the Core Board is exploring potential options for elevating the status of and rebranding the Silver Core into a comprehensive “contract” that describes a University of Nevada, Reno graduate. It could be a useful document for engaging with employers and stakeholders to facilitate ongoing dialogue of how our curriculum can and should continuously evolve to meet the needs of rapidly changing socio-economic conditions and career opportunities. To assist in this endeavor, Reynolds School of Journalism’s Bob Felton’s Marketing class will use the Silver Core as a case study in the spring semester. We look forward to seeing what his students come up with!
On July 1, 2017, new accessibility compliance policy and procedures went into effect. The policy and procedures are designed to ensure our information and communication technology (ICT) is accessible for all individuals. ICT broadly applies to all equipment and technology, from websites to PDFs, software to instructional content. Every division and college is responsible for monitoring, maintaining and resolving accessibility issues.
Please be on the lookout in the next few weeks for more detailed information that will be shared campus-wide, as well as informational forums that will be scheduled to explain the support and resources available, as well as provide a forum to ask questions.
After a thorough process of exploring potential options for expanding child-care capacity on campus, it has become clear that partnering with a third-party provider is not a viable option. Such a partnership would not be financially viable and it would not be conducive to expansion of capacity by the Child and Family Research Center. I would like to thank Tom Judy, Ron Zurek, Sheri Waugh and Melissa Burnham for their investment of time in energy in helping us explore possibilities. We remain committed to finding a way to expand child-care capacity for our campus community and will be considering other options to achieve this goal.
Contrary to persistent rumors, it’s important to reemphasize the University has never considered or intended to close or negatively impact the CFRC. There are no changes intended for the program, as we truly understand and recognize how vital this program is to our campus and the community.
The University community values all of its students, faculty, staff, and their families. We know that some of them face chronic or transient challenges with simply having sufficient food and other necessities. In the response to this need, the ASUN Center for Student Engagement has established and runs the Pack Provisions program, which seeks to support all members of this learning community and their families. The program offers short-term assistance with food, daily hygiene items and school supplies free of charge so that no one has to go without.
However, some feel uncomfortable, ashamed or afraid of coming in to request assistance. Since people must self-identify and request assistance from Pack Provisions, many instead end up skipping meals or going without daily essentials. In fact, the 2016 Wolf Pack Civic Community Assessment found that while 26% of University of Nevada, Reno students experience food insecurity sometimes or often, only 14% of respondents answered affirmatively that they would be the type of student to accept assistance. We hope to eliminate this stigma.
Please encourage any University students, faculty, or staff who are experiencing challenges related to food, clothing, school supplies or other everyday items to contact Pack Provision at email@example.com or visit Pack Provisions in the ASUN Center for Student Engagement, 3rd floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union. For more information on Pack Provisions including hours and how to get involved, visit the Student Engagement website.
We are engaged with active discussions with INTO (an independent organization focused on expanding higher education opportunities for students worldwide) as a partner to enhance enrollment of international students in undergraduate and graduate programs. This is a complex, long-term relationship that involves virtually every segment of the University. We are making good progress and are hopeful bring the contract to the Board of Regents for approval in February 2018.