Academic Sub-Committee Meets Monday, Discusses SACS, Service-Learning and Course Numbering

The fourth meeting of the Academic Sub-Committee of the Transition Advisory Team took place on Monday, May 13, at the LSU AgCenter in Efferson Hall. The sub-committee is part of the LSU2015 process for the reorganization of LSU. The meeting was streamed live via the Internet for those who could not attend and meeting archives are available at www.lsu.edu/tat.

The meeting was opened with an update on SACSCOC and the upcoming reaffirmation process for several LSU campuses, given by Jim Firnberg, chair of the Research & Discovery Sub-Committee and member of the Legal & Regulatory Sub-Committee. Firnberg outlined several points that he and Shelby McKenzie, LSU System lead legal counsel, found relevant and important to the Transition Advisory Process and the Academic Sub-Committee in particular.

He highlighted the implications of reorganization on the SACS reaffirmation process and the general recommendation is to continue with current reaffirmation processes. This does not preclude all campuses in the system being involved in ways to implement the findings of the Transition Advisory Team process that would improve efficiencies but don’t affect reaffirmation.

As part of LSU2015, there can be more cross campus collaboration and common courses and curriculums, but other aspects such as having “one faculty” for the system wouldn’t be able to work with separate campus accreditations.

Firnberg said they would like to have SACS appoint a single point of contact for LSU as it goes through this process and that the appropriate substantive change documents would be filed with that assigned person.

While LSU can learn from others, Jenkins said, he wants “the LSU model.”

“I don’t want to mimic anyone; I want it to be ours,” Jenkins said.

“It’s got to be an LSU plan,” Firnberg added. “We can’t adopt someone else’s plan because we aren’t like anyone else.”

The sub-committee then reviewed their charter and discussions to date. They looked at an overview of the Academic Sub-Committee priority recommendations, which were taken from previous meeting discussions.

LSU Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope said that he was in agreement with the points, but that the set of suggestions lacked a certain degree of resolution and didn’t focus on the post-graduate process of a student going to graduate or professional school.

“What we really need is a sense of flow of students all the way through the graduate process,” said Cope, who added that he would like to see long term projections.

The group also discussed the concern of African American enrollment in medical school, the system’s need for a library system and the scholarly attainment of a degree from LSU.

“We do not believe that the primary metric of a degree from LSU is the type of job you get or the pay scale for that job,” said Dr. Lester W. Johnson, professor and chief of surgery, director of Surgical Services at LSU Health Sciences Center and sub-committee co-chair.
The sub-committee next engaged in a discussion on experiential education and service-learning.

Regarding experiential education, the sub-committee talked about how field experience could be accounted in a person’s academic credits. The group discussed how experiential education could be measured and provided examples of the types of experiences that could qualify.
While faculty will ultimately need to work through the merits of experiential education, Jenkins said that that it is an area worth exploring.
The group next discussed service-learning, including the objective of service-learning, what is currently being done, possibilities for the future and best practices.

Jenkins said that it is part of the student experience and it is such a beneficial part of the curriculum.

“It’s certainly helped me in my own training,” he said.

Some concerns brought up regarding service-learning included ensuring there are faculty who will teach it, the faculty workload, class sizes, oversight and providing adequate opportunities for students. The group discussed that a good model for how service-learning can be structured is the 4-H Program.

The Academic Sub-Committee ended their meeting with a discussion on common curricula and course numbering. Options for this effort included a common core curriculum for the first 30 hours in all curricula for students on all LSU campuses (excluding the Health Science Centers); a common course numbering system for all of these courses; common syllabi for these courses; more faculty collaboration among faculty teaching these courses; having faculty throughout LSU2015 develop online course material for some of these courses that can be taken by students at any location; minimum faculty requirements for teaching these courses; and common course numbering throughout LSU by 2015 (or before).

“We have to have a much easier and transparent transfer process, at least among the LSU campuses,” Firnberg said.

The sub-committee discussed these options and provided feedback and suggestions. One of the biggest areas discussed was the common syllabi suggestion and that it takes away creativity and flexibility.

Cope said that all of these options should be discussed and that there is merit in the proposals. He said to remember that control over the curriculum is a top issue for SACS.

“What makes us different … is that we offer a rich and complex and varied education,” Cope said.
“All of these alternatives need to be examined a little more carefully and at a greater length,” he added.
The Academic Sub-Committee met previously on Feb. 28 at LSU, on March 15 at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans and April 5 at the LSU AgCenter.

This sub-committee is focusing on inter- and intra-campus innovation and collaboration, academic standards and the strategic deployment of academic programs and leveraging technology for learning. It is co-chaired by Jenkins and Dr. Lester W. Johnson, professor and chief of surgery and director of Surgical Services at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.

Agendas for this and all LSU2015 sub-committee and task force group meetings can be found at http://sites01.lsu.edu/wp/lsu2015/events/. The names of Transition Advisory Sub-Committee members are available at http://sites01.lsu.edu/wp/lsu2015/transition-advisory-team-sub-committees/sub-committees/.

More information on LSU’s reorganization process can be found at http://www.lsu.edu/LSU2015. Information on the site includes meeting schedules, minutes and video and presentations from past meetings. Also, visit LSU’s reorganization Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/LSU2015transition.