ACADEMIC PLANNING COUNCIL
Minutes of November 29, 2004
3 p.m., Holmes Student Center – HSC 505
Present: Bose, Cassidy, Johnson, Levin, Miller, Munroe, Pappanduros, Payvar, Prawitz, Reynolds, Schoenbachler, Seaver, Thompson, Waas, Williams
Guests: Robert Ard, Director, Public Opinion Laboratory; Donna Askins, Research Associate, Office of the Provost; Craig Barnard, Coordinator, Assessment Services; Barbara Burrell, Associate Director, Public Opinion Laboratory; Robert Gleeson, Director, Center for Governmental Studies; John Lewis, Associate Vice President, University Outreach; William Minor, Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Susan Russell, Director, Center for Southeast Asian Studies; Carol Zar, Assistant Director, Center for Governmental Studies
Payvar called the meeting to order at 3:10 p.m. He informed the APC members that Legg was unable to attend today’s meeting. Cassidy announced that this was the last APC meeting of the semester, and in January the Agenda Committee will set the spring schedule. Please hold the Monday 3:00-5:00 timeslot. It was moved and seconded to approve the minutes of November 8, 2004, and the motion passed unanimously.
Payvar introduced Robert Gleeson, Director, Center for Governmental Studies; Carol Zar, Assistant Director, Center for Governmental Studies; John Lewis, Associate Vice President, University Outreach; Susan Russell, Director, Center for Southeast Asian Studies; Robert Ard, Director, Public Opinion Laboratory; Barbara Burrell, Associate Director, Public Opinion Laboratory; and William Minor, Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Payvar turned the meeting over to Schoenbachler for the discussion of the subcommittee reports. Schoenbachler thanked the subcommittee for all their hard work. It was a pleasure to learn about these areas, and the center and laboratory are well managed and very productive. They fulfill NIU’s mission and goals.
Schoenbachler turned to the review of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. This center is only one of seven that has Title 6 recognition. Strengths of the center include its grant funding and outreach initiatives and the center’s strong focus on publications. There are three world-class Southeast Asian publication entities, and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University is one of these three. The K-16 teacher program is the best practice and outreach is a major strength of this center. Cassidy said that the rest of the group might benefit from hearing about the K-16 program and asked for an overview of the scope of the K-16 activities. Russell replied that the center has a full-time outreach coordinator whose salary is paid 60 percent from grant funds and 40 percent from a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences fund. The coordinator’s focus is getting in touch with K-12 schools to set up visits and find out what the schools need to be able to teach about Southeast Asia. The teachers we interact with are excited to learn how they can teach about Southeast Asia. These teachers are invited to a day- or week-long training institute to develop curricula for their classrooms, and they can become master teachers. The best curriculum projects that have been developed are put on the center’s Web site. We also provide this service to two- and four-year college teachers, and this helps us draw in transfer students who have knowledge of Southeast Asian studies. We have fellowships that we provide for transfer and graduate students. The teaching models for Southeast Asian studies are also placed on our Web site. Recently our coordinator was invited to address all outreach coordinators at similar centers at a meeting in Washington, D.C.
Schoenbachler stated that one of the areas for discussion was the low number of study abroad students. The travel warnings in Southeast Asia and students’ commitments to their majors make it difficult for students to take a semester to study abroad. There may also be better ways to communicate the minor to students. Cassidy asked how students find out about the minor. Russell replied that she goes to several classes each semester and talks about the minor, the center, and resources available to students. Students also find out about the minor through other departments, such as anthropology, political science, and history, and through the ILAS course on Southeast Asia. Williams asked about the number of students. Russell responded there are 80 students, mostly undergraduates, from a variety of disciplines. We have students from many disciplines and colleges, and it is hard to figure out what specific groups to target. Cassidy asked if there were any students from the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Russell replied yes, and there are a number of business majors. There are also engineering students in the minor, but there is no one area from which to draw students. Williams asked if focus groups have been used in the past. Russell replied that we talk to students all the time. Some of our students are Heritage students, and some take the minor because it is more fun than their major. Many NIU students don’t take minors; NIU does not encourage students to pursue a minor. Cassidy noted that when we work with undecided students, we could talk about the minor. Russell stated that this spring the center is doing a seminar for advisors. Seaver noted that the new academic advising center director should be included in this seminar. Schoenbachler said it would also be useful if the university would track minors to provide better data on alumni. Russell added that the center has to show where all of their graduates are employed, and the only way we can get this information is working one-on-one with Registration and Records. This is a time intensive process. Cassidy added that we could add a question on the alumni survey about completing a minor. The alumni office may not track students by minors, but it might be something that you could also pursue. Seaver added that Registration and Records could provide the names of students.
Schoenbachler said that the last area for discussion and also a recommendation for the future is to consider whether the center should consider offering a B.A. or M.A. in Southeast Asian studies and asked if other presently cooperative departments might become less cooperative. Payvar asked if there were other B.A. programs in the United States. Russell replied yes. Payvar stated that having a degree would open up opportunities for students to learn about the third world. Russell added that visibility is a number one problem and the lack of encouragement that students receive about pursuing a minor. A B.A. in Asian studies or Southeast Asian studies would probably not directly compete with other departments at NIU. We have a graduate concentration now and we support other departments’ students, and an M.A. in Southeast Asian studies might be viewed as competitive. We are the only undergraduate center in the United States with Title 6 status, and in seeking grants we often beat out universities that have graduate programs. Cassidy asked how large other undergraduate programs are. Russell replied that she didn’t think any of them had large numbers of students, and I don’t know how many programs there are total. Levin asked if there were contract students in the program. Russell replied that there have been a few, but the program requirements are over 50 hours of course work. Williams asked how close the center is in being able to offer a major in terms of curriculum and faculty. Russell responded that it would be feasible right now. This would solve the visibility problem too. Cassidy asked which degree is more important to pursue first. Russell replied the B.A.; master’s students get trained in a specific discipline and then they add a language. The government will hire you, but who else will hire these graduates. Schoenbachler stated that recommendations for the future, which have already been discussed, are to continue grant efforts; to market programs more on campus to students, faculty, and staff; and to consider a B.A. or M.A. program.
Schoenbachler turned to the review of the Public Opinion Laboratory (POL). Strengths include the varied type of studies/projects and the diverse experiences provided to students. Graduate students work on planning and projects, and undergraduate and graduate students do research. The service to the university on projects is strong. Professors use the POL for class projects. The POL funding has been increasingly self-generated, and there are strong client satisfaction ratings. Thompson asked if NIU units use the POL facility at no cost. Ard replied there is a nominal cost to recoup some expenses incurred that is not as high as costs charged to outside clients.
Cassidy asked if Ard could give an overview on the breadth of projects that the POL operates. Ard responded the POL does academic research both for NIU clients and non-university clients. There is a wide rage of subject matter. In the past year we did research on the war in Iraq, minority patterns of election behavior, and a long-term follow-up study for Head Start in Chicago. The POL does research in community planning too, especially for clients up and down the Fox River Valley. Library and park district issues are common projects. The POL has a good reputation, and word of mouth spreads. Research is also done in public policy areas. We have done large-scale projects with the State of Illinois and the federal government to collect data for employment security and the status of public health. This is the only way many agencies can collected these data. Finally, business and organizations constitute a growing segment of project sponsorship.
Askins asked how the POL ensures unbiased samples. Ard replied that this is done by talking to the client about who they want to survey. The POL professional staff is trained in social science methodology. Random-digit-dial surveys are done, which include listed and unlisted phone numbers to provide a representative sample, and the sample is checked to make sure it is weighted properly. A great deal of work goes on before the first phone call is made, and you have to keep calling to increase your response rate. Williams asked if the “do not call list” affected the POL. Ard responded yes and no. Laboratories like the POL are exempt from the “do not call list” because we are doing scientific research, although there are other barriers now to getting through to people. The use of cell phones and the number of people without land-line phones are increasing. Bose added that the POL does an excellent job and asked how the laboratory can help NIU faculty. Burrell replied that the POL is currently working with individuals in economics. Also, the POL works with a number of faculty, and often we are part of their grant submission. Bose stated that in his previous position there was a sociology lab that generated over $1 million. There is room to grow in forming the right questions and research. Ard added that the POL has helped design some surveys, and the laboratory donated its time.
Schoenbachler turned to the discussion points. The best practice presentation could be revamped, and she encouraged the lab to take a look at this section. You may want to use the diversity of projects or the involvement of students as specific best practices. The program review needs to define and describe the role of students. The review would be stronger if the role that students play and the value they receive from this experience were added to the review. The facility upgrade is on track and will likely pay for itself in approximately two years.
The recommendations for the future are to manage client expectations better in order to ensure strong satisfaction, to continue to build on involving students in the POL experience, and to continue to build self-funding efforts. Ard stated that the issue of client satisfaction is more an issue of managing client expectations. The upfront communication with clients was the problem, and we need to be really clear with the clients about what the final product will be. Ard said that the POL group is encouraged to be proactive in working with NIU units and needs to do a better job of making its presence known on campus. Liberal arts and sciences units know about the POL, but other units need to know about us too. To become financially independent, the POL will need to look outside the university. Burrell added that the POL worked with physics in terms of the connection between Fermi and the Department of Physics and what the community thought about this initiative. Munroe stated that the libraries have had wonderful results in working with the POL on library projects. Cassidy said that some specific ideas about the role of students could be expanded. Ard replied that there is no section in the review to report student involvement, but it is integrated throughout the review. Assistantships for graduate students are offered every year to help with research activities. There are approximately 100 or so students working part-time in the POL. The rate of pay is above minimum wage, and 20 percent more NIU students are interviewers this year that in past years. Burrell added that in class projects students are informed that communication technology skills are developed and public policy research is beneficial to the development of their skills. Students want to do internships or independent study, and we are working on this. Cassidy said that in our program review guidelines we need to look at this and probably add a question about student involvement. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
Thompson turned to the review of the Center for Governmental Studies, and thanked
the subcommittee members for all their hard work. The subcommittee very much
enjoyed working with this review. Learning about the center was refreshing.
Thompson asked Gleeson if he would like to provide an overview of the Center
for Governmental Studies.
Gleeson provided an overview for the center. Gleeson stated that he has been learning about the center during the past year. He has been the director of the center for a year and a couple of months. The scale of the Center for Government Studies reflects the university’s high level of commitment to reaching out to the community. The center takes the information that people learn and make it available to the community. This is a group of people who have the ability to do very high-quality social science research and make certain the connection is made as well to the local community. The center provides technological assistance and analyzes the effects of public policy changes. Thompson added that previously the center was housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and it is now housed in the Division of Administration and Outreach. Gleeson added that this allows the center to work more broadly.
Thompson turned to the strengths of the center. The center has wide visibility to the region and nationally, the team approach to problem solving emphasizes and enhances interdisciplinary resources and expertise, and the deep commitment to the outreach mission is evident. The diversity of funding has allowed creditable survival and commitment to outreach in a time of deep budget cuts, and the active mentoring process is documented between junior and senior members. Another strength of the center is the commitment to regional goals that is clearly articulated and guiding administrative actions.
Discussion points include the implications of the decrease in graduate student participation in center projects. Gleeson said that in the past graduate students were funded on general revenue money. As the general revenue funding has been reduced, the center now funds graduate students with project revenue. The center’s ability to commit long-term has changed. Many of the best students get hired by other areas, and many of the graduate students who come to us seeking employment are in programs that have subspecialties within a discipline, and in some cases the client work that we do is not the right training for them. Levin stated that many graduate students in the women’s studies program have worked in the Center for Government Studies, and it is a good fit. Some of these experiences have been very valuable. Gleeson added that graduate students are a great pool of research analysts, and more ties to graduate students are a real plus. Bose said there are faculty who are devoted to interdisciplinary research. If you can identify a number of faculty interested in providing interdisciplinary research opportunities to graduate students, this could increase the center’s employment of quality graduate students. Grant organizations are asking employees to define a problem beyond their discipline, and the center can help the community by providing this opportunity. Gleeson said that as he gets to know the university, he will follow-up on these issues. Cassidy said that the start and end time for projects has to do with the client’s timetable, and that one of the goals is to have repeat clients; how do these factors fit into the process of hiring graduate students? Gleeson replied that moving students to soft money was challenging. Now we might be able to use some of our working money to make more extensive commitments to graduate students. Gleeson added that the center is run like a business. Cassidy asked if students were hired for a semester or an academic year. Gleeson responded that in the past the center has hired students for both a semester or for the entire academic year. It depends on what the students need. Thompson said that the relationship of the center to the university mission could be clarified in the review, and the discussion on the progress in developing interactions and resources outside the College of Liberal Arts and Science should be in the review. The unit now has a university-wide focus. Gleeson noted that the center has had many discussions with units in the College of Health and Human Sciences during the last several months. There is a strong tie with the Division of Public Administration, and now a tie is developing with the Department of Communication. There are two traditional partnerships in place this coming year.
Thompson stated that the baselines of indicators and the discussion of the regional activity in the context of national impact should be added to the review. She asked if it is a detriment or a positive to focus on regional goals. Gleeson noted that in looking at social and regional dynamics the center is fortunate. The center is sitting at the edge of one of the regions in America that is part of the global economy. If you are looking for national trends, you look at a few places in the United States, and Chicago is one of those places. If it doesn’t play in Chicago, it doesn’t play nationally. If something is discussed in Chicago, it probably is part of the global economy. We have a very fortunate location, and much of what we do has national implications. Cassidy asked if the center seeks out clients or if clients seek out the center. Gleeson said it occurs both ways. Clients come to us because they don’t have an answer to their issue. We are a broad interdisciplinary group that can look at questions brought to us. The value we can add is in looking at studies on the physical impact of growth in small suburbs. In a year we will be able to digitize our analyses for the entire northwest region. We can start looking at the forest instead of the trees, but we must be careful when we do this. We want the center’s clients to know that they can bring a problem to us, and we will let them know there are other issues too. Cassidy asked if the center representatives could talk a little bit about technical assistance projects. Zar responded that when the center works with a specific elected board, the board calls it strategic planning, but the center calls it technical assistance. We facilitate where they are and where they want to be in two to three years. We have people who will work with the clients on what the likely school population will be in the future, and we engage the community in this activity. We also prepare planning maps. Gleeson added another example is producing a salary study. We look at how competitive the clients’ salaries are.
Thompson said that a report on the progress in developing campus interdisciplinary connections, on restructuring, and its outcome in supporting the commitment to regional outreach and programming in different research goals and projects are recommendations for the future. Focusing on the region is a strength, and the region is also part of the global environment, which is a strength too. Talk about whether this commitment will continue.
The meeting adjourned at 4:20 p.m.
Carolyn A. Cradduck