Provost Suzanne Ortega is looking closely at University College, one of UNM's 14 schools and colleges and the institution's "kitchen sink" of academic programs. University College is most freshmen's first academic home, and as such offers Freshmen Academic Choices designed to immerse students in classes and present opportunities for friendships with others with similar interests. The idea is to get freshmen so involved in the campus environment – academically and socially – that they will want to stay and complete their degree.
University College also houses interdisciplinary programs – University Honors, Native American Studies, Chicano/Hispano/Mexicano Studies, and Water Resources – and is the academic home to sophomores, juniors and seniors who haven't completed coursework needed for admission to one of the degree granting colleges. It is also home to those earning a Bachelor of University Studies.
Ortega thinks it probably shouldn't try to be all things to all students. What should University College do? Deputy Provost for Academic Affairs Richard Holder and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Wynn Goering are charged to administer the college while the answers to that question are worked out.
Holder will lead academic programs in the college, while Goering supervises Freshmen Academic Choices, Research Service Learning and other programs. They expect to handle the added workload for at least the next two years while they rework administrative functions and reconsider the best way to organize the college so it has a clear function and an organization structured to accomplish a specific goal.
"We will be considering a number of options with respect to structure and expect to take some ideas to the Faculty Senate and the Deans' Council at some point," Holder said. "This effort will require faculty input and cooperation among the deans to find a workable solution."
Goering wrote a report two years ago examining some of the fundamental questions that need to be answered to make University College more effective. He said, "The Freshman Academic Choice programs are very effective, but only part of our freshman class is enrolled in those programs." UNM data shows that participating in the FACs makes it more likely a student will continue in school and graduate, but making participation mandatory would require financial resources UNM doesn't have.
The puzzle of University College can be pieced together, but the trick is to identify and create a combination best for UNM's diverse student body.