UHD Receives Sub-Grant from Association of American Colleges & Universities
By Sheryl E. Taylor
The Association of American College & Universities (AAC&U) named the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) as one of four universities sharing a $300,000 grant from The Teagle Foundation.
UHD, Winston-Salem State University, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and Community College of Philadelphia are partnering on the project, "Purposeful Pathways: Faculty Planning for Curricular Coherence." Of the $300,000—UHD will receive a sub-grant of $46,000 over the next three years—to complement each of the participating universities' respective campus plans.
According to AAC&U, Purposeful Pathways: Faculty Planning for Curricular Coherence will re-envision curricular change as a scalable, faculty-led process that engages stakeholders from across an institution to enhance quality in educational design and timely degree completion. Through this initiative and with the generous support of the Teagle Foundation, AAC&U seeks to help educate, prepare, and inspire the next generation of leaders by engaging faculty in the process of curricular change that will enhance quality in educational design and timely degree completion.
For the past year, a UHD team—comprised of faculty from the College of Humanities & Social Sciences (CHSS) and the College of Sciences & Technology—worked diligently developing a proposal to apply for the now awarded sub-grant for the curricular coherence project. The team includes: Dr. Michelle Moosally, associate professor and chair of the Department of English; Dr. Jeffrey Jackson, associate professor of philosophy and chair of Social Sciences; Adriana Visbal, lecturer of biology; Dr. Kit Cho, assistant professor of psychology; and Dr. Lucas Logan, assistant professor of communication studies.
"We're proud of the team for their interdisciplinary approach to securing external funding associated with the AAC&U," said Dr. Jerry Johnson, UHD associate professor and assistant vice president for Research & Sponsored Programs. "This demonstrates the University's dedication to meeting its vision of providing our students with high-impact educational experiences."
According to Jackson, this initiative—focused on the 14 degree programs in CHSS—fits into many of the University's priorities related to retention, marketable skills, advising and many others.
"What we're trying to do is to create opportunities for faculty to communicate with one another—along with advising, enrollment management, student success—through a series of meetings and activities to examine all of our degree plans to make them more coherent," said Jackson. "We want to find ways to improve our processes and degree requirements so that our students can matriculate quickly and succeed."
Jackson notes that this 'conversation' is not only related to CHSS' degree programs. It also aligns with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's 60x30TX—by 2030 at least 60 percent of a Texans, between the ages of 25-34, will have a certificate or degree. The Curricular Coherence project will ensure that CHSS' degree plans are in line with UHD's articulation agreements with Houston Community College and Lone Star College.
Through conversations with CHSS faculty, leadership and advisors, the College will perform the following tasks related to its undergraduate degree programs:
- Identify types of courses that are most frequently brought in from community colleges and where they apply in UHD's degree plans.
- Involve faculty in a shared process of review of course inventories, especially electives, to determine whether all are needed to meet program goals—to better address current disciplinary market needs.
- Seek data on typical student registration patterns in terms of when and how they take courses; the data will be supplemented with survey data from students regarding UHD degree plans, course offerings and registration process.
- Examine best practices in curricular design—e.g., prerequisite use of "tracks," sequencing of courses, number of required courses vs. electives, etc.
- Consider ways to use resources and courses across disciplines, particularly in areas of resources shortages.
- Identify ways to package/design UHD curriculum to make more apparent to students and external audiences how students are prepared for the many employment paths available for CHSS majors.
- Highlight the role of outcomes in defining the scope of various courses and increasing curricular coherency and minimizing overlap among courses offered.
"We hope this will enhance everything we're doing to promote retention; increase our six-year graduation rate; and better prepare our students for succeeding in the real world," said Jackson. "We want to make sure our curriculum is providing them with the skills they need to succeed and that they understand the importance of the skills that we teach, especially in the College of Humanities & Social Sciences where we teach more of the core curriculum and its fundamental skills than other colleges.
"We want our students to believe that they are being equipped with the skills to change the world. It's not simply about job training; it's about receiving broad skills to succeed in anything you do."