Team Dew Notes Summary:
Interview with Deans on October 7, 2009 (Larry DeBrock and Ruth Watkins)
At the beginning of the interview, the Deans gave a brief description of their responsibilities. Dean DeBrock stated that the primary responsibility of his position as Dean of the College of Business is to advance the best interests of the college and work with a limited budget. Ruth Watkins stated that her responsibilities involved four components: people, programs, finance, and facilities. She also stated that it is her responsibility to have strong and creative programs for students.
The Deans were asked how the business model for the university has changed over time. Dean DeBrock informed us of his experience with a high enrollment (1,685 students) of Econ 102 in the past. The large enrollment existed due to the widespread requirement for the course. Dean DeBrock believed that the model worked, and he added that technology has had a huge impact in instruction. He gave examples of using technology to have access to information out of the classroom, the ability to prepare and supply information, and the increase of the overall educational experience. Dean Watkins commented that there are ways that the model has cost effective ways. She believes that smaller classes are possible due to larger lectures. She also commented on the increase use of technology and systems like Aleks to assess the skill of mathematics for students. The idea of mentoring has been used in the Mathematics major with upper classmen honor students acting as mentors to younger students.
When the Disengagement Pact was mentioned to the deans, they stated that it is harder to engage students when the class is larger. Dean Watkins showed dislike for the idea of the Disengagement Pact, and she did not view it as a problem from the standpoint of the professors. Deans also mentioned the importance of the attitude of the professors and how the students perceive the class. When looking at the instructors, the Deans believe that the passion for the subject matter is there. If the instructor is not able to communicate well, then there is a discouragement cycle that occurs in the instruction. Regarding tenure and non-tenure track faculty, the Deans believed that non-tenure faculty could be better instructors because their sole focus is on teaching. With the tenure track, there is the additional pressure of research.
The Deans were asked if they believed disengagement in the larger class during earlier years affected later years. Dean DeBrock responded that students do not like large classes in exit interviews. Professor Arvan asked Dean Debrock to elaborate on the Business 101 mentoring objectives. This class combines traditional with experiential learning. Dean Watkins asked the students about different experiences on campus like study abroad, discovery courses, and research. There were many that raised hands, and she made the point that there are aggregate opportunities. Kim pointed out that we are not a good sample of students, but Dean Watkins gave statistics that interactions in these activities are high. Lastly, Dean Watkins stated that the school is making efforts to ensure that students are not taking all large lecture classes in the beginning.
The challenges of large lectures was brought up. Dean DeBrock commented that there are a few people that are prone to not attending class. Also, the faculty does not want to teach large classes, and it is the call of the department to place better teachers in those courses. There are other problems like the removal of discussion sessions and the overall comfort of the facilities. A student brought up the idea of requiring attendance and tying it to grades. Dean DeBrock stated that he never required attendance. There was the question of how smaller classes are chosen versus larger classes. Dean Watkins stated that there are classes like rhetoric that have to be taught in smaller sections because research shows that students learn better this way. This is a lot more costly. There are also some language classes that are smaller. One of the variables to how many people can be enrolled in the class are the number of seats that are available. LAS has experimented with online-blended courses and that students have given positive feedback about this model.
The Deans suggested that a student mentor program might be a tool that could attract the better faculty to teach large classes. They believed that putting the best teachers in large classes is in the best interest of the university. They believed that the idea of a mentoring program is one worth pursuing and encouraged us to do so.