State of the University Address 2013 - Accountability Measures

Delivered September 17, 2013

Harvey Perlman, Chancellor

Accountability Measures

Universities face increasing pressures to hold themselves accountable to the students and the public they serve. We can no longer shoot first and call whatever we hit our target. Our priorities are consistent with what our constituents expect and need. By announcing our growth goals two years ago we adopted metrics for the institution against which we can be measured.

In adopting the Achievement Centered Education program for undergraduate education we announced our understanding of the general purpose of a degree at a university like ours: To give students intellectual and practical skills, including communications and computational competence in order to stimulate critical and creative thinking, to build knowledge across a range of disciplines and methodologies to help solve problems, to infuse ethical principles and global awareness to stimulate their social responsibilities, and to help them learn to integrate these abilities and adapt them to new settings. We are properly held accountable for our General Education Program within the accreditation process. As the individual costs of higher education increase, students, parents and the public at large also increasingly want to hold us accountable for the employment experience of our graduates. This was certainly reflected in President Obama's recent proposals for higher education reform.

While our role is to prepare students for a lifetime of success and not for their first job, we have not been unmindful of their career aspirations and attainment. I propose that our activities here should become more visible and more systematic and that we should embrace public scrutiny of our accomplishments. We should become more proactive on two fronts: First, every discipline should provide students with realistic information about how education in that discipline relates to career opportunities, and, second, we should more systematically monitor the level of career success achieved by our graduates. Focusing students on career potential will, for some, give a context to the pursuit of the degree and may lead to better retention and graduation. Measuring the career success of our graduates will provide a better understanding of how our students take advantage of the education we provide.

We should begin to develop a measurement of the career assistance available to students within the departments and colleges. Bill Watts, who was recently named our Director for Career Services, will work with the deans to conduct an audit of the programming we currently provide in the academic units. For example, we should look at the website of the Psychology Department, which provides extensive career information for psychology graduates and the work of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which has had consistently high career placement rates. We might then design a menu of best practices for career assistance and suggest outcome measures against which each undergraduate major could evaluate its progress. Over the course of the next three years we should be positioned to collect and report career assistance outcome data. We should follow the same schedule to ask the Office of Career Services to design and report outcome measures of our success with regard to career goal attainment.

As I announced earlier, the increasing responsibility of academic units to provide career assistance has led me to move our career services office to Academic Affairs. While a centralized career service office is critical as a service to both employers and students, we need more engagement and more integration of career activities with individual colleges, departments and majors. Senior Vice Chancellor Weissinger and I will work with the deans to identify resources that can allow us to add additional college-imbedded professionals and programs that enhance the scope and effectiveness of our career development efforts. In addition to reporting our progress toward our goals on a university-wide basis, we should do so by department or major. We should be sensitive to avoid incentives for destructive internal competition, because collaboration among our colleges and departments is one of our most important differentiators from our peers. We will engage the deans to help us design the departmental metrics and a website to display the information.

Disciplines and individuals have different strengths that often evolve over time. At the same time, every discipline and every individual should find a way to make a significant contribution to one or more of our priorities and be appropriately recognized.

Every department or program should have a conversation to determine where it can make the greatest contribution and be judged accordingly. These conversations would normally result in the department making changes in student recruitment, curriculum design and delivery, research activity or other activities. Similarly, through the faculty apportionment process I am specifically asking that this year every department chair or dean have a serious conversation with each faculty member to judge whether adjustments to their responsibilities could maximize their contribution to our priorities. I would expect these conversations to produce greater connection between faculty time and talent the aspirations of the university. The intent of these apportionment conversations is not to ask faculty to work ever harder, but rather to allow each of us to connect our most valuable passions to the campuses' most important needs. I will ask every dean to specifically report back to their respective vice chancellor about the effect of these conversations on altering faculty assignments and therefore expanding capacity for important contributions to our goals. I will ask the vice chancellors to share this information with me. This will no doubt be the first of a series of such conversations needed to maximize faculty talents and contributions toward our goals.

We do not intend, at this point, to adopt an explicit set of incentives or disincentives tied to these metrics. However, it should be commonly understood that we have no choice but to make investments in those areas that can help us achieve the ambitious goals we have for this university.

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