Forums seek to define education objectives

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA faculty members can either help shape the future of higher education or sit back and allow the direction of the university to be shaped by budgetary constraints.

It was with this notion in mind that one professor began organizing a four-part discussion series focusing on the future of the University of Arizona.

"These issues are being discussed and decided so our only choice is to be active and help shape them," said Marvin Waterstone, a geography professor. "If we don't take the initiative other people will decide for us."

When Provost Paul Sypherd began planning the core curriculum last semester, Waterstone said he and a group of faculty members felt that the goals and objectives of the university were not clearly defined. And necessary discussions to clarify these goals were only surfacing in small groups and not in a systematic university-wide way, he said.

In weekly forums beginning Wednesday, faculty, staff and students will be asked to envision their ideal goal of what students should be able to do by the time they graduate, focusing on desired outcomes rather than desired processes. After the end goal is determined, the discussion members will be asked to design a course of action to accomplish these goals.

"We want the forums to be a starting point, not an ending point," Waterstone said. "We want to use what we decide in the forums in a more focused discussion with the administration, with faculty as an equal participant.

"A lot of people see the faculty as kind of an obstructionist, so we want to mobilize the competence and expertise of the various people on campus and move on in a more productive way."

J.D. Garcia, physics professor and chair of the Faculty Senate, said the Senate will work with Waterstone to translate the ideas generated in the forum to policy recommendations.

Tomorrow's forum will focus on the desired outcomes and will set the framework for later discussions.

The following week will focus on the UA's "distinctive role as a research university," Waterstone said. "We want to be able to talk

about '60 Minutes'-type myths about the tension between research and teaching. We want to dispel that notion that an inevitable, unresolvable tension exists."

The last two discussions will focus on what procedures to implement to reach these goals.

The schedule of the forums is:

April 5 What should students be able to do when they graduate from the university?

April 12 What is the distinctive mission of the research university in achieving these objectives?

April 19 How should the UA organize internally to meet these objectives?

April 26 How should the UA advance these objectives effectively to external constituencies?

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